THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS
Prepare Gods people to endure trials
1 Thessalonians 3:3b-8 SCC 5/4/14
WE CAN EXPECT OUR FAITH TO BE TESTED BY DIFFICULTIES 3b-4
Here are the reasons why they should remain stable:
(1) They should not be shaken because they were taught about suffering for their faith in Christ 3a
The fact is trials will come: No sooner had the Thessalonians trusted in Jesus than the bottom seemed to fall out of their lives. This is true in the life of every Christian. The truth is, if you aren’t presently in a trial you are either headed out of one or right now preparing to head into a trial. The word “afflictions” here, has the idea of being “under the thumb” because of pressure from above. Regardless of how we may try, we can’t avoid afflictions. We can’t play hide-and-go-seek or peek-a-boo. They are part and parcel of every believer’s experience.
(2) They were to remember that the trials that come to us as believers are appointed by God 3b
Our trials are part of God’s sovereign plan. Afflictions are not accidents—they are appointments. These trials didn’t happen by accident. In fact, this is the opposite of chance or circumstance. Affliction is God’s appointment for us. God places affliction strategically in our lives for our personal growth. This is God’s destiny for us and comes by His divine design. Although God is with us through all of our trials, He is not always in a hurry to pull us out of our tribulations. The reason is because suffering is the surest path to spiritual maturity.
(3) They were not to be surprised by the appointed testing of their faith but expect it v 4
We were predicting it he says, "That you were going to suffer affliction." You were going to be put under pressure, under the thumb. You knew it, we told you. But even though we told you, I also know you've got to be strong to deal with it. Trouble, that's inevitable. That's the way it is in this world. Jesus said it, didn't He? Jesus said, "Blessed are you when all men revile you, persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10, "You can expect that the pupil will be like his teacher, the servant will be like his master." Implication, if they treat the master one way, they'll treat the servant the same way. Expect it.
SATAN WILL USE THESE DIFFICULTIES TO INITIATE INSTABILITY IN OUR LIVES v 5
In 3:5, Paul explains the reason behind the reason he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonian church. Paul once again demonstrates his pastor’s heart. He is concerned about the Thessalonians and desperately wants to hear how they are doing in their faith. The reason that he is so anxious to learn of their spiritual progress is because he is all too aware of “the tempter.”
1. The tempter is one of the many descriptive titles of the devil that reveal both his character and his activities or strategies. One of Satan’s constant objectives is to negatively affect our faith in the promises and truth of God’s Word. Did you know that Satan has a ministry? He is a step up on many Christians. Satan’s special ministry is to attack Christians and destabilize their faith.
2. Paul knew that no labor in the Lord is in vain (1 Cor 15:58). We have the Lord’s promise that He will reward us for faithful labors. But Paul also knew, because of the workings of Satan, some of his labor could be annulled or tarnished as to its effect on the lives of others—hindered from reaching its goal. This is why the Apostle was so concerned about their faith and took steps to protect his labor. In 2 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 11, Paul says, "I'm concerned that no advantage be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes." Don't get in a position where he takes advantage of you. If Satan can't stop you from believing, if he can't choke out your first longings toward faith, then he'll try to devastate your faith, weaken your faith, suck you into sin by his schemes, by taking advantage of you in any way he can. That was Paul's fear. Remember, Paul even knew that Satan was directing obstructing his own ministry for he had wanted to return to this flock but Satan thwarted us 2:18. He, himself, had been personally hindered from doing so.
NB: By way of application, this should first remind us of the need to be prayerfully on alert for other members of the body of Christ, our spiritual family. Satan is at work day and night to neutralize our faith and nullify all the work that has gone on in building and training believers in the Lord.
A SIGNIFICANT OUTCOME OF OUR TRIALS IS EVIDENCE OF OUR SPIRITUAL STABILITY 6-8
1. Their spiritual stability is indeed good news v 6
The phrase translated brought us good news is the exact equivalent of “preaching the good news of the gospel.” This is the only place in the New Testament where this verb is used in the general sense of bringing good news rather than of preaching the gospel. Paul’s use of this verb here shows his depth of feeling on hearing news of the Thessalonian Christians. The report from Timothy was, to Paul, like hearing the gospel. Paul most likely uses this word here because while through our lives we have the opportunity to influence unbelievers favorably on behalf of the gospel, he takes the term reserved usually for the message of salvation by grace through faith and says it was that kind of good news, thrilling news. He had such a heart for those people that he gets this report from Timothy and he calls it "gospel," good news, the best news.
Then he reiterates a four-point summary of Timothy’s report about them:
1. The good news about your faith. Your faith was real. It is genuine and has been proven by your response to the afflictions you have experienced.
2. The good news about your love. You love God, you love Christ, you love each other, and you love the lost. Your love is intact. You have not collapsed inwardly focused upon yourselves licking your wounds.
3. The good news about your loyalty. That is, your personal love for me. What a delight. He was thrilled that they cherished happy memories of him.
4. The good news about their longing to see us. What a vindication. He said, "I nursed you like a nursing mother," and "I encouraged and exhorted you like a father. You are my joy, you are my glory, you are my crown of exaltation.” And what good news it is. Your faith is in tact, your love is in tact, your loyalty is in tact and you long for fellowship with me.
2. Their spiritual stability brought comfort in the midst of personal distress and affliction v 7
Because of the report of Timothy, for that very reason, in all our choking pressure, all the crushing trouble that had come on him: in all the troubles and trials and pains of his heart, it all of a sudden disappeared and we were comforted about you when we heard about the reality of your faith. We were strengthened for the work. The genuineness of their faith, the fact that he had received evidence that it was real saving faith was the most basic cause of his delight. Faith is always the key. This is what delights the heart of disciplers and shepherds. It is the faith of his people, the love of his people, the loyalty of his people, and the longing of his people to fellowship with him. This kind of news takes thoughts of our own distress off of us and then transfers our focus upon others.
3. Their spiritual stability stimulates them to renewed ministry efforts in spite of hardships v 8
That stimulates me to new ministry just to know that. That is his joy to know that his people believe and stand fast in the Lord. That word "stand fast" is a military term. It refers to a refusal to retreat against an attack. Stand your ground under attack. When I see you stand your ground under attack, I really live. I am alive! I find my greatest delight in the personal and spiritual strength of the people. I find my greatest heartache in the weakness of the people. Not numbers or accolades or a pat on the back or recognition—but their spiritual stability is the satisfaction of the work.
1. Please never assume that we can have heaven while on earth. This is a battleground and not a picnic.
2. Do not be surprised when you or other believers have a hard time of it. This is to be expected.
3. Hard times are opportunities to reveal the content, validity, and capacity of our faith.
4. This life is the laboratory God is using to test our faith and produce spiritual maturity in our lives.