Summary: A reminder that the Church is to be a place of mutual encouragement.

I Thessalonians 3:1-13

Introduction: OK, let’s see how we’re doing! Turn to someone near you this morning, and in 30 seconds or less, encourage them in some way. Go!

Chances are, many of you struggled to come up with something that quickly. Chances are, many of you felt awkward trying to encourage. I hope to help that situation this morning!

What I have to speak about today has to do with:

• your attitude toward suffering for Christ

• your prayer life

• your attitude toward each other

• your attitude about the affect you have on others

• what you can do to help the Kingdom of God grow

Other than that, there really isn’t that much to say!

Want to have an impact? Want to be significant in someone’s life? Want to be remembered, appreciated, missed when you’re gone?

If those are things that are of interest to you, then you should have an interest in I Thes 3, because it touches on every one of them. Let’s turn there.

The message of I Thes 3 in a nutshell is: "Your faithfulness to God encourages me."

The family of God is a place of encouragement. So,

I. There’s Real Longing When We’re Separated (vv1-5)

Jn 14 - Jesus told His disciples, among other things, that He was going to prepare a place, that He’d return, and that He’d take them to that place so that they could be where He is. The whole reason for telling them was “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” They needed the help of knowing that Jesus wanted to be around them, and that in the future, He would be. Even Jesus expressed the longing to have His people be where He is. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

Last week, we saw Paul’s feelings about being separated from the Thessalonians and how it was such an intense longing that it was like a child who has been orphaned from his parents. In this chapter we learn what he did about it.

1 Thessalonians 3:5

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.

You don’t invest your life in people and then just walk away from it as though it didn’t affect you.

Paul tore himself away from Thessalonica, forced to leave because of angry Jews. He went on without Timothy and Silas. He went into Athens and Corinth, and he went there alone.

It was a toss-up for Paul. On the one hand, he wanted the help of having good companions with him, but on the other hand he wanted the encouragement of knowing that the Thessalonians were staying faithful. Caring for the needs of young Christians in Thes. was more important to Paul than having help nearby for him personally. Encouragement works that way. It isn’t self-focused.

In a household like the household of God, there’s a longing to be together.

Ill – I had a study in this over 8 years ago. For 16 days, I was gone overseas. I was away from my wife and kids. Honest, there were several things about the US I was missing – clean sheets on the bed, hot water, and a shower that worked, and water that was safe to drink. I even missed Wal Mart! But more than that, I was away from my wife and kids, and I was longing for them. Some of it was selfish -- I missed their companionship and love. But much of it was concern -- how were they doing? Were they safe? Who’d protect them at nights? Who’d help their loneliness? Who would maintain the needed good sense of humor in our home? I can tell you, in the Nichols household there’s a longing when we’re separated. I’ve had another study of that since we moved and left a daughter in MO. That’s because being sure that everyone in my household is doing OK is important for my peace. I like to be around them, and I like to know they’re safe.

In some ways, I feel the same about my church family. There’s a certain longing when we’re separated. Several could stand and share some story about a person who was formerly part of the bunch here, but who has moved away. That separation brings a longing. It ought to. Suddenly, someone you like to be around, someone who encouraged you, is gone. Concern for their faithfulness is heightened, and the Body feels the longing.

I want to be in that place of encouragement, don’t you? I don’t want to miss being around you. I want to know that you’re doing OK, and I want to draw encouragement from your love for God. How about you?

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