Summary: Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with praise, promises and prayer. The promises included the fact that the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will be punished.
A. The story is told of an angel who appeared at a college faculty meeting and told the dean that in return for his unselfish service, he would be rewarded with his choice of wealth, wisdom, or beauty.
1. Without hesitating, the dean selected wisdom.
2. “It is done!” the angel said, and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
3. All of the other members of the faculty stared at the dean with amazement.
4. Finally one of them said, “Now that you have infinite wisdom, Dean, say something wise.”
5. The dean looked them and said, “I should have taken the money.”
B. Life is all about the choices we make.
1. Sometimes we make the right choices and sometimes we don’t.
2. But with each choice we make comes the consequences of that choice.
C. Another story is told of a teacher who was having a difficult conversation with a student.
1. The teacher said, “Didn’t you promise that you would behave?”
2. The student said, “Yes, sir.”
3. The teacher continued, “And didn’t I promise to punish you if you didn’t behave?”
4. The student said, “Yes, sir, but since I broke my promise, you don’t have to keep yours.”
D. What we will learn from 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1, is that choices have consequences and that God will keep His promises.
1. If we keep our promise to be faithful to God, then He will keep His promise to reward us.
2. If we don’t keep our promise to God or fail to make a promise to God, then He will keep His promise to punish our rejection of Him.
E. I’m sure the Christians in Thessalonica were thankful to God for Paul’s first letter.
1. The letter we call 1 Thessalonians must have given them some encouragement and must have answered some questions, but it did not immediately solve all their problems.
2. It appears that the persecution they were facing continued.
3. Then it appears that a letter arrived claiming to be from Paul, stating that the Day of the Lord was present or had occurred.
4. Needless to say, the Thessalonians were confused, and began to become irresponsible as they awaited the imminent return of Christ.
F. In response to this situation, Paul immediately wrote a second letter to address these developments.
1. It is estimated that there was only 6 months between the writing of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
2. In the first chapter, which we will cover today, Paul shared three encouragements with his suffering and confused friends.
I. The Encouragement of Praise
A. After giving his traditional greeting, Paul launched into a statement of praise to God for what God had been doing in the lives of Thessalonians.
1. Paul wrote: 3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2. Here we see Paul practicing his own admonition from the last letter – “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18).
3. No doubt the Thessalonian believers didn’t consider themselves to be doing very well spiritually as they suffered through persecution and confusion.
4. Often times you and I are in the worst position to evaluate our own spiritual lives.
5. Many times we can’t see the spiritual improvement that is happening in our lives, but others can see it more clearly.
6. What things did Paul see in their lives that he was thankful for and wanted to encouragement with?
B. First, Paul encouraged them by giving thanks that their faith was growing.
1. In many ways, a faith that hasn’t been tested cannot be trusted.
a. The faith of the Thessalonians was being tested and was not only remaining firm, but was growing.
2. Faith is like a muscle – it must be exercised to grow stronger.
a. Troubles and persecution are often the things that God uses to strengthen our faith.
b. Troubles and persecution strengthen our faith by driving us toward God that we might depend on Him even more.
3. Unfortunately, often an easy life leads to a shallow faith.
4. The great men and women of faith that are mentioned in Hebrews 11 all suffered in one way or another, or faced some kind of tremendous obstacle.
a. It was through those things that their faith grew and was shown to be true.
5. Paul had prayed that he might be in a position to supply what was lacking in their faith (1 Thess. 3:10), but God answered his prayer in a different way.
C. Second, Paul encouraged them by giving thanks that their love was increasing.