Summary: In this lesson we learn how the Thessalonians were such an encouragement and how we can be one also.
A. If I asked you to turn to someone near you this morning, and in 30 seconds or less give them some encouragement, would you know how to do that?
1. Chances are, many of us would struggle with that assignment, perhaps for a number of reasons.
2. Let me ask you this: “Do you consider yourself to be an encourager?”
3. Do you like to encourage others? Do you know how to be an encouragement?
B. Unfortunately, many people are skilled discouragers.
1. In one Peanuts Cartoon, Charles Schulz showed Snoopy sliding along the frozen pond on his bare paws.
2. He was having a great time.
3. Then Lucy walked up and slid out onto the pond with her skates on, and Snoopy doing a little twirl, slid up right in front of her with a big smile.
4. Lucy said to him, “That’s not skating, that’s sliding!”
5. And Snoopy just stood there while she went on with her lecture, “You don’t have any skates on. Skating is when you have skates on. You’re not skating at all. You’re just sliding!”
6. Snoopy dejectedly walked off the pond saying, “How could I have been so stupid. And I thought I was having fun.”
C. It’s easy to be a discourager.
1. In his commentary on Hebrews, William Barclay wrote this: One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement…It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.
2. Because it’s easy to be a discourager, many people are discouraged because of what the people around them have said and done to them.
D. Obviously, life and circumstances can also be very discouraging.
1. I like the story of former heavy-weight boxer James (Quick) Tillis, who was a cowboy from Oklahoma who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s.
2. He still remembers his first day in the Windy City after his arrival from Tulsa. He said: “I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under my arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, ‘I'm going to conquer Chicago.’ But when I looked down, the suitcases were gone.”
3. For many of us, people and circumstances have stolen our courage and zest for life.
4. Perhaps you are very discouraged today.
E. My hope for today’s lesson is that each of us will leave here not only encouraged, but that we will realize that we can be an encouragement to others, and that we can do it even while we are going through hard times and don’t feel very encouraged.
1. My point in a nutshell is this: “A person’s faithfulness to God is a great encouragement to others.”
2. Let’s take a look at the text and see how that idea comes out of today’s section.
3. Then let’s consider how we can be an encouragement to others.
I. Exploring the Text
A. Paul began chapter 3 with these words: 1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 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. 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 might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
1. In our sermon last week, we learned about Paul’s feeling about being separated from the Thessalonians.
a. Paul felt so intensely about it that he described it as being like a parent separated from a child, or a child being orphaned from his or her parents.
2. Paul didn’t like the fact that he was forced to leave Thessalonica, but he had to.
3. You don’t invest your life in people and then just walk away from them as though it didn’t affect you.
a. Paul knew he had left them in a very vulnerable situation.