The book of 1 Thessalonians
Encouraging the Brothers
1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:3 SCC 4.27.14
We all need some encouragement from time to time. So what is the basis of spiritual encouragement and how can we have this kind of influence in one another’s lives?
First: A love for people characterizes a spiritually encouraging ministry 17
1. But we compared to whom? The Jews in verse 14 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, the Jews who are hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved. Contrary to the Jews who don't care that you get the gospel, contrary to the Jews who don't care that you know Christ, contrary to the Jews who don't care about your spiritual condition. "But we, in contrast to the Jews who resented Christianity, Christians and Christ, we do, brethren."
2. Then having been bereft of you means "to be orphaned, to be bereaved” or "to be torn away from." We didn't want to go in the first place. The work was not done. He stayed in Ephesus three years. He stayed in Corinth 18 months. He stayed only a few weeks in Thessalonica. But he was ripped out of there, torn out of there. He experienced a forced, sudden separation and he felt orphaned.
3. But he says, that has happened "for a short while." It indicates that though it had only been a brief separation so far, and though hoping it might be only a temporary one he still had a great longing in his heart for them. Even though Timothy had brought word back of their love and their faith is solid and is growing, he still wanted to be with them.
4. He says, "We, brethren, having been bereft of you for a short while--in person, not in spirit." Out of sight, not out of mind. Though they are physically separated, they are still in his thoughts. "I have you in my heart." His inward affection for them was strong, even though the physical separation existed.
5. So he says, "We were all the more eager with great desire to see your face." He starts out, "We were all the more," that means abundantly and excessively, and it's a comparative, we were more abundantly, more excessively...then he adds the word "eager" which means haste, in a hurry like being short of breath.
6. And then he adds "With great desire." It can be used of any kind of passion, any kind of compelling, any kind of driving desire, any kind of desire that dominates. And so he is saying we have a fierce passion driving us greatly into an abundant, excessive, fervent eagerness for you to see you again.
NB: So ministry is centered on a passion and drive and fervent concern for people’s spiritual welfare.
Second: Satan’s realm and resources often hinder a spiritually encouraging ministry 18
1. Because of all of that "For we wanted to come to you." The feeling made us want to come. It isn't that we didn't want to come. Far from being glad to leave Thessalonica, they were not looking for an out. They were looking for an in. They wanted to get back. They wanted again the fellowship. They wanted to know what their condition was spiritually.
2. Then he personalizes it. He's "we" in verse 17 and "we" in verse 18, embracing Timothy and Silas is now, all of a sudden, "I, Paul, more than once." He says, "I'm not just talking about the group here, I, Paul." Paul did send Timothy back, but Paul as much as he wanted to go couldn't go. It wasn't from a lack of concern. He loved the people. He desired to be with them. He didn't want to preach and then get out of there. He wanted to find out their spiritual condition.
3. Why didn't he go back? "And yet Satan thwarted us." Interesting that in Acts 16:6 "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia”. There the Holy Spirit is stopping him. Over here he says, "I'm being stopped by Satan." Here was a man of discernment. He understood when Satan invaded his territory. Here was Paul separated from these believers, longing to be with them. His heart was there. His parental instincts were there. He had been ripped apart from them. He wanted to go there. More than once he tried to go there. He could never get there. Why? Satan was thwarting him. (John MacArthur: As I was reading this, I thought to myself ”why didn't Paul just bind Satan? How long has this been going on…why doesn't he just say, 'Satan, I bind you!'" And then I realized there was no Christian TV so how would he know to do that.)
4. Satan is very active in doing that. Do not be under any illusions about that. There are many times when we need to accomplish something for the Lord, to speak, to travel, to pray, to write, to accomplish some ministry and it just never happens. It's a good and noble effort and you make several times, but it never happens. Satan thwarts it. We cannot just happily serve the kingdom in whatever way we want without satanic opposition. That's what Paul realized, Satan was actively hindering.
NB: So understand that your desire to provide spiritually encouraging ministry to others can and will be more difficult, disappointing, and discouraging because it is spiritually hindered by Satan.
Third: Anticipating the Lord’s coming motivates a spiritually encouraging ministry 19-20
1. The Apostle Paul’s motivation was that the return of the Lord. He says, "Who is our hope? Who is it that we are hoping to see? Who is that which is all bound up with our future hope?" He's talking about his hope of future reward, his hope of eternal blessing. Who will be that eternal hope?
2. And he secondly says, "Who is our joy? Who is the source of our eternal happiness? Who is the source of our eternal bliss? Who is the source of our eternal satisfaction?"
3. Then he adds, "Who is our crown of boasting?" that's what exultation means. "Who is our crown to boast about?" Who is my source of joy? Who will be my eternal reward? Who will cause the burst of joy coming out of my heart when Jesus comes?”
4. He says, verse 19, "Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus?" It's the presence of the Lord Jesus but it's you in His presence. That's my joy. That's my hope. Paul is saying, You're it. "This is my joy and my hope and my glory and my boast is you in the presence of our Lord Jesus." That's it. This was Paul's eternal joy...some day in the presence of the Lord Jesus would be the people whose lives he touched.
5. When? "At His coming." The bema seat, the time of rewards is future. That's the time of official rewards. In an unofficial sense he's enjoying it now, in an official sense it's going to take place at His coming. So, at the time of the Rapture when Jesus comes and we receive our rewards at what is called the bema judgment, then he says, "You're going to be my crown...you're going to be my joy...you're going to be the fulfillment of my hope."
6. Then in verse 20 he repeats it emphatically, the emphasis on the word "you," "You are our glory and joy," with a strong exclamation point. You're it. You’re what we live for...you in the presence of our Lord. That whole scene, He's there and you're there...that's our hope, that's our joy, that's our crown.
NB: So a spiritually encouraging ministry is spiritually encouraging. It understands that ultimately what matters is what eternally matters. It is energized by this reality.
What are the marks of a spiritually encouraging ministry? 3:1-3
1. Unselfishness: Strong affection leads to unselfishness. Here was a man who made a significant sacrifice because he cared. This is unselfishness. To be alone in a pagan society, to be alone to try to confront the intellectual capital of the world with all of its cynicism is a very difficult task. But his affection for the Christians at Thessalonica was so strong that he was willing to sacrifice personal companionship and comfort for their sakes. So he sent Timothy, the best, the very best gift, his dearest friend, his companion, though it meant hardship, personal loneliness and exposure for Paul.
2. Compassion: This flows out of that affection and unselfishness. Timothy was sent, and here's the reason, "To strengthen and encourage you as to your faith." Now the Thessalonians were good. They had heard the Word, and applied it. They had become imitators of the Apostle and his companions and the Lord. They had endured some persecution. They had turned to God from idols. They were waiting for the Second Coming. They were still young in the faith. They still needed nurturing and growth. And he says, "I'm sending Timothy for the express purpose of strengthening and encouraging you as to your faith.”
3. Protection: why did he feel it so deeply? "So that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions." What's going to cause them to waver or to be allured away from truth? "These afflictions...these pressures...these tests of faith." They can do that. I don't want that to happen. So I've got to get Timothy there to get you strong. And he says, "I know they're coming, for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this." Paul is not saying Jesus is the answer to all of your problems. He is saying Jesus is the path to some new ones. When you give your life to Jesus Christ, you are promised eternal peace and temporal trouble. "All that will live godly in this present age will suffer persecution." Expect it, that's how it is. We're called to this. Peter says, "After you've suffered a while the Lord will make you perfect." James says, "Count it all joy when you fall into these trials because God is using them to perfect you." Paul says, "All these things that happen to you work together for good."
1. The essence of any biblical ministry is the spiritual encouragement of believers. Nurturing their spiritual growth requires tenacity and determination. It demands our heart and soul. It requires a genuine love and concern for their spiritual and eternal welfare.
2. A spiritually encouraging ministry is a mature ministry. It is not dominated by self-serving agendas. It is the outcome of one’s own personal and spiritual growth that enables one to participate in a work that has nothing to give to the servant except the joy of doing the work well for the good of God’s kingdom.