Lesson 7: For Their Faithfulness Part 4 of 4 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
1 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.
Here is a statement that is a little hard for any of us to swallow. He says that “no one would be disturbed by these afflictions.” Afflictions here mean “pressures, tensions.”
Then Paul makes the amazing statement that “we have been destined for this.” We know that we are going to go through storms. They will be temporary storms, but we cannot escape them. We are going to have trouble down here. The Word of God makes that very clear. Paul wants the Thessalonians to stand for the Lord in the midst of afflictions.
There are other passages of Scripture which teach this same truth. The Lord Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Tribulation is the trouble that all of us are going to have. There is no way around it. Yet the Lord Himself tells us to be of good cheer even in the midst of trouble. Perhaps a good way to look at it is that the trials and testings that come to our lives as Christians are not accidents—they are appointments.
If you are a believer, you are not going to escape trouble. To accept Christ does not mean to take out an insurance policy against suffering. The fact of the matter is that you will have trouble after you become a child of God, even if you haven’t had any trouble before. He has never promised that we would miss the storm, but we will go through all the storms of life. What He does say very definitely and dogmatically is that He will go with us through the storms and that we will reach the harbor. Any boat which He is in will not go to the bottom of the Sea of Galilee but will reach the other side. You and I are in the process of going to the other side.
Paul reinforces this: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). There are no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” about it (see 1 Peter 4:12-19). We must warn new believers that the way is not easy as they seek to live for Christ; otherwise, when trials come, these babes in Christ will be discouraged and defeated.
The time to be concerned is when there is no cloud in the sky, no ripple on the sea, and everything is smooth and nice. Then you might question your salvation. But if you are experiencing trouble down here, if the pressures and tensions of life are on you, then that is a sign that you are a child of God. This is the way God teaches us to rely on Him.
4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.
“Affliction” does not refer to the Great Tribulation. It refers to the “little afflictions.” We are all going to have a little trouble down here. Such troubles are for the purpose of bringing us closer to God. They promote sanctification in the life of the believer.
God will bring us through the storms. We will finally be rid of all our troubles.
5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
The condition of the believers burdened Paul’s heart. Were they still trusting in God or had they abandoned Him and return to paganism? Paul was not concerned that they had lost their salvation; this they could never do (1:4). They could, however, have ceased to walk by faith, not trusting God in all circumstances of life. Paul’s concern was that his labor might have been in vain, not that their faith had been in vain.
“The Tempter” is none other than Satan, and he seeks to ruin our faith. In chapter 2 Paul said, “Satan hindered us.” In other words, Paul is saying to the Thessalonians, “Satan is giving me a bad time, and I fear he may be giving you a bad time also.” As a roaring lion Satan stalks of believers; and we must resist him “steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9). As a serpent, Satan deceives (2 Corinthians 11:3); as a lion, he devours (1 Peter 5:8). He will use any means to attack the Christian and weaken his faith in God.
Another purpose of afflictions is to test the genuineness of our belief. Trouble is the acid that tests the genuineness of the coin of belief. There are true believers and there are a lot of counterfeit ones. One thing that will really reveal the genuineness of faith is the ability to endure trouble through faith in God. Afflictions reveal the genuine believer, and this is the cause of Paul’s rejoicing.
Timothy’s task was to instruct these believers and encourage (comfort) them in their faith. It is faith in God that keeps our feet on the ground when the enemy attacks. Without faith in God, we are defeated. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.
Timothy met Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:5) and gave him the glad news that things were going well at Thessalonica. The phrase “brought good news about your faith and love” corresponds to “preaching the Good News of the Gospel.” The report from Timothy was, to Paul, like hearing the Gospel.
Timothy reported that the new believers were standing firm in spite of persecution. They did not believe the lies that the enemy had told about Paul, and they still held him in the highest esteem in love.
7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.
“In all our distress and persecution”—Paul tells them that he has also had afflictions. A good report from them is a comfort to him.
8 for now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
“We really live” means that as believers we enjoy life. It should really be translated “since”—“since you stand firm (see note 8.1) in the Lord.” Even in trouble you can enjoy it—that’s not always easy to do, my friend. This is what Peter writes: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12-13). You cannot lose as a Christian. Even if you have trouble, it is going to work out for your good—you can always be sure of that.
This suggests that God’s Word is one of the best tools for establishing new Christians in the faith. “So then, brothers, stand firm (see note 8.1) and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He used the Word of God to defeat him (Matthew 4:1-11). Paul admonished the Ephesian believers to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) in their battle against Satan and his demon assistants.
(note 8.1) “Standing firm” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) in the faith is really “standing firm in the Lord.” Such a relationship strengthens one to withstand the storms of life.
9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
Joy is associated with life, and sorrow is associated with death. However, sorrow increases the capacity of the heart for joy. Paul wants the Thessalonians to know how to rejoice. Being a Christian is a wonderful thing!
The force of Paul’s rhetorical question is, “We cannot thank God enough for you because of all the joy you have brought to our hearts by your endurance in these trials.” It is noteworthy that Paul thanked God for the Thessalonians’ behavior; he did not take credit for this. Paul acknowledged that their endurance was really a tribute to the work of God in them (see Philippians 2:13).
Jesus prayed for his disciples, just as Paul prayed for the Thessalonian Christians, that their faith would not fail (Luke 22:31-32).
10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Paul’s labor in Thessalonica was very rudely interrupted—he was run out of town—and he wanted to return to continue his teaching ministry. Paul wanted to teach the Word of God.
Paul prayed for three specific requests. First, he prayed that their faith might mature (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Paul asked God to make it possible for him to minister to them personally, but God did not answer that request. Paul longed to see them again; he longed to minister to them and help bring their faith to maturity. Our faith never reaches perfection; there is always need for adjustment and growth. We go “from faith to the faith” (Romans 1:17).
Paul said that he prayed by night and by day, not all night and all day. This and other similar references (1:2; 2:13) demonstrate the truth of the statement, “It is evident from Paul’s Epistles that a very large part of his private life was occupied in prayer and thanksgiving to God”.