First Thessalonians chapter 2 ends with a cliffhanger. Paul, Silas, and Timothy had been torn away from their beloved Thessalonian converts and had been hindered by Satan again and again from returning to check on them. As chapter 3 begins, we learn that Paul cannot take the separation—the not knowing—any longer. And we will discover in today’s passage not just what Paul does about it, but also why he does it.
- What are some of the benefits and the drawbacks of being separated from those we love?
READ THE WORD: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 (ESV)
3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
- What did Paul do when he could not handle the separation any longer?
- According to the last eight words of verse 2, why did he do it?
- How would you personally go about establishing and exhorting a new believer in the faith? How did Paul do it?
- Was your answer in question three (as to how to encourage new believers) different than Paul’s? If so, why do you think that is?
- What does Paul’s reaction to suffering teach us about how to handle our own suffering and how to discuss suffering with fellow believers?
RESPOND TO GOD
When a Christian friend is going through a difficult time, the most immediate response in the midst of his or her suffering is probably not to say, “We are destined for this.” But the truth of the matter is that without a foundational understanding of the place of affliction in our lives, we are in danger of being shaken in our faith. That’s what Paul was so distressed about: He desired to be absolutely certain that the faith of his friends had not been shaken. Although it doesn’t sound very encouraging, knowing that suffering is normal gives us confidence because it helps us to endure our present hardships. It keeps us from being shaken.
- Pray that the difficult truth of this passage will permeate your mind, heart, and soul today—that it will give you with the encouragement to endure.