Unit: 1 & 2 Thessalonians
Theme: Walk Worthy
Lesson Text: 1 Thessalonians 2:17—3:13
Supplemental Text: Philippians 1:25-30; Colossians 1:9-12; Hebrews 12:1-3
Aim: Walk worthy by enduring hardship sustained by faith.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Micah Odor): LOOKOUT_July 10_2022.
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By Mark Scott
It’s been said that the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. Anyone can start. The question is, “Can one finish?” Races are won at the tape—not in the blocks. Even the writer of Hebrews emphasized this when he said, “Let us run with endurance the race set before us” (12:1).
One thing hindering the Thessalonian believers from enduring the race was confusion about the end times and return of Christ. Confusion about the future caused them uncertainty in the present. They needed some details about the future, but only so it would empower them to live well in the present by enduring any kind of suffering. Every chapter of Thessalonian correspondence says something about the return of Christ. Eschatology in the New Testament is more often tuned to Christian ethics than to predictions about world events.
Endurance Helps Us Suffer Affliction
1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:5
Paul loved the Thessalonian believers. In fact, he loved them so much that being separated from them seemed to him like being orphaned. He had an intense longing to see them. More than once he wanted to come to them. These people were Paul’s hope, joy, crown, and glory. Paul even used Timothy to close the gap between the Thessalonians and himself. Shortly after Paul’s trip to Berea and Athens (Acts 17), Timothy was dispatched to see how the Thessalonians were doing.
Paul recognized that he was in a battle with an archenemy, Satan (or the tempter), for the Thessalonians. Satan was who blocked (struck down) Paul’s way to the saints. Satan was who would attempt to derail the believers from being strengthened and encouraged in the faith. Satan was who would tempt people and cause Paul to feel he had labored in vain. Timothy’s report would help allay Paul’s fears.
The Thessalonians probably needed to get more comfortable with the idea of suffering affliction. Not only had Paul warned Christians about this previously (and now again in this Epistle), but he even went on to say that they were destined (placed or set) for this. It might be that Christians should be surprised when they are not suffering. But endurance causes us to bear up under any affliction.
Endurance Helps Us Stand Fast
1 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Paul worried about the believers in Thessalonica. He waited for word from Timothy about how the Christians there were enduring. Timothy brought a good report. He brought good news (the word for evangelism) of the Thessalonians’ faith and love. Evidently the Thessalonian believers felt the same way about Paul too. Even though Paul admitted to being in distress and persecution, he found himself encouraged (comforted) by Timothy’s report. The Thessalonians’ faith was growing.
Verse 8 is key in this section. Paul said, “For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” To “stand firm” means to be constant or persevere. To some extent, Paul’s spiritual barometer was in sync with the well-being of the people he had brought to Christ. Paul was grateful to God for their progress in the faith. This brought Paul much joy. It increased his desire to see the people. It also energized his prayers for them night and day. If there was anything lacking in their faith, Paul wanted to supply it.
Paul ended this tender section of the Epistle with a significant benediction or blessing (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Paul prayed that God would clear the way (make straight) so he and his companions could come to them. He also desired that the Lord would make them increase (the positive side of coveting) and overflow (to be in excess) in love for each other and for everyone else. The purpose of that prayer was to see the Thessalonians be strengthened in their hearts and be blameless (unblemished) and holy in the presence of God. This would be noted when Jesus returns with all his holy ones (angels?).
If faith is strong and the future is secure, then any hardship can be endured. The race is not always to the swift. Often it is to the one who keeps on keeping on.