I Thessalonians 3:1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
In II Timothy 1:7 Paul was directed to write:
II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
In our text we know that Paul had to leave Thessalonica before he wanted to. However, we also know that Paul was not running in fear for his life. We know that Paul was led by the Holy Spirit and while he did not understand all that was taking place, he was willing to trust God for direction. God had directed Paul to leave this place at that time. God has a work for each of His servants to do. He directs each one so that they can finish the work that God has for them. Sometimes one of His servants does not listen to Him and gets himself into trouble that was not necessary. Paul had faced various persecutions already in the past. He had been serving God faithfully and that cost him physically. However, spiritually Paul was growing in the Lord.
In verse 1 Paul is still talking of “we”. He is still referring to the three men mentioned in chapter 1. They were all concerned about the spiritual health of the saints at Thessalonica. This again shows the heart of these men. They were more concerned about the spiritual well being of others than of their own comforts.
In verse 2 they were led to send Timotheus to Thessalonica. Notice the importance of the relationship of Timotheus. He was a brother. He was a true, born again believer. Not only that, he was a minister of God. God had chosen him to be a spiritual leader in the first century. Timotheus had witnessed the trials of the ministry, but he remained a faithful minister.
He was also “our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ.” The ministry is never a one man show. There will always be more than one faithful servant of God as long as the earth remains. There may be fewer, but God will always have His remnant. God wants people to be saved and by His mercy and grace there will be those who repent and are saved in every generation. Notice as well that it is the gospel of Christ that is essential. It is not just the gospel, but it is the gospel of Christ. We noted in our study of the book of Galatians, that there were false gospels. There still are false gospels today. They are numerous. They all distort the truth and they present a non-existent path to peace and heaven. They are actually on the broad way that leadeth to destruction.
Paul’s desire was that of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted the saints in Thessalonica to be established in the faith. In Ephesians 4 Paul wrote that saints need to know how to weather the storms of life. They cannot be like waves driven by the wind. The only way that saints can be established is to be in the Word of God faithfully. You notice that independent Bible Study is not enough. The Thessalonians could study Paul’s letters by themselves. They had portions of the Scripture. That was not enough. It was not enough to God. They needed God’s men to help to establish them. Timothy was a good man and he could be trusted to teach the saints properly. We have already seen the motivation of these men. They honoured God and they had a love for God and a love for the saints.
Along with being established there is the need for comfort concerning our faith. True faith is always in God. It is not some pie in the sky thing. It is trusting in God’s Word and living by that. God wants His children to increase in faith. He wants His children to be growing in their trust in God. The Charismatics distort that into selfish desires. God speaks of following Him and serving Him more faithfully.
Those who walk by true faith, will face persecution. The devil hates the truth. There are many people who are filled with hatred for God. Some will tolerate hearing about Him, but many have a hatred for Him. They express that hatred toward those who know the true God.
We know there is a spiritual war going on. Many people will tolerate all kinds of evil. The sodomite agenda is one of those evils. Many people are not sodomites, but they tolerate and even accept the increase in debauchery that is part of sodomy. They will allow their children to be polluted with that and many other evils. However, they become quite vocal when the Gospel is preached. The Bible tells us we are in a war. It is a war for the souls of men. True saints need to be encouraged to continue to walk by faith and understand that in this world, there will be trouble for those who do that.
In verse 3 we see the goal of this current plan is that “no man be moved by these afflictions…” We have noted earlier that John Mark was moved by what he witnessed on his first trip with Paul and Barnabas. In spite of the testimony of Paul and Barnabas, he could not stand. He ran back home. He was not spiritually prepared for what he saw. His faith was weak. He needed to learn the necessity of true faith in God.
God wanted the saints at Thessalonica to be grounded. He wanted them to remember that true faith will bring affliction. That is a fact. Church history shows us that these afflictions can take different forms and be at different levels of intensity. We have also seen that in the times of relative ease, most Christians have fallen. We tend to be careless when we are not being challenged. Being challenged will drive the true child of God deeper into the Word of God. It will cause him or her to desire the fellowship of the saints more. We see that in the life of the apostle Paul. He was left alone at times, but he reached out to men like Timotheus for prayer and comfort. He always had God with him, but that human aspect is also important.
In verse 4 Paul reminded the saints that they had been faithful in warning them of the consequences of true faith. Paul and his team did not preach a “prosperity gospel”. They did not not preach a health and wealth gospel. They preached the truth.
Jesus had warned the disciples of the trouble that was ahead for them as well. In John 15 He reminded them that they were not trail blazers. Jesus was hated first. As His followers, they too would face hatred.
The Old Testament also shows us that those who follow God will suffer at the hands of ungodly people. Jeremiah is referred to as the “weeping prophet.” That was not because he was a complainer or a weak man. He wept for the wickedness of his own people. He tried to stop obeying God but found that to be an impossibility. The Word of God burned in his belly. He needed to keep proclaiming the truth.
The Thessalonians were in good company. Today, those who know the Lord and serve him faithfully are in good company. There are others who have faced persecution and stood strong and true to God. It is possible to be faithful to God. The Christian life is not lived in the flesh. It is lived in the Spirit.
In verse 5 Paul stated that he could not wait in silence any longer. He wanted to know of their faith. Were they standing true to God? He knew the tempter was crafty. He knew the devil had many lies up his sleeve. Paul knew that others had been taken aback by the devil’s lies. He wanted to know that the Thessalonians were grounded. He did not want to hear that his labour in their midst had been in vain. Of course labouring for the Lord is never in vain. However, it could be of no benefit to those who reject it. Hearing the Word is not enough. It is important, but it is not enough. The hearer must respond in obedience to the Word. There will be those who will reject it. That does not make the labour in vain. That just means that those who reject the truth have hardened themselves against the truth.
The true child of God is always saddened by that reality. We love to hear people respond to God’s Word favourably. Paul knew his message was solid. He knew he had faithfully taught the people. He knew the power of God’s Word. He was not trying to turn people to follow him. He wanted them to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. He was simply the messenger chosen by God to bring His Word to others.
He loved doing that. He wanted to remind the saints in Thessalonica that this message was important and worthy of holding on to. It was worthy of their time and effort to build upon the truth.
Today as well, it is worth knowing the true God and serving Him. This is not because life will be easy. It is because the blessings of eternal salvation are great. They are worth more than all the fine gold this world can offer.