Summary: 3rd in series on 1 Thelessonians (3 of 8).
INTRO: It was not easy to be a Christian in Thessalonica where believers faced persecution and suffering. Yet in the midst of suffering, the Thessalonian Christians experienced joy. They received Paul’s ministry of the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit (1:6).
Churches do experience “growing pains” as they seek to win the lost and glorify the Lord. We may not experience the same kind of political and religious persecution that the early Christians suffered. Yet if we are living “godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:12), we will suffer for His sake. In this passage, Paul explains the divine resources we have in times of suffering and persecution.
I. GOD’S WORD WITHIN US (v. 13).
The church has been founded on the Word of God, the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The same Word that brings us salvation also enables us to live for Christ and endure suffering for His sake. Paul was thankful that the saints in Thessalonica had the right spiritual attitudes toward the Word of God. This helped them endure in the hour of suffering.
1. - They appreciated the Word. They did not receive it as the word of men; they received it as the Word of God. We must never treat the Bible as any other book, for the Bible is different in origin, character, content, and cost. The Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Spirit of God, and written by men used by the Spirit.
The way a Christian treats his Bible shows how he regards Jesus Christ. He is the living Word, and the Bible is the written Word; but in essence they are the same.
Would you rather have your Bible than food? Mary chose the Word, but her sister Martha got involved in making a meal. Mary got a blessing while Martha lost the victory.
Would you rather have God’s Word than money? Look at Psalm 119:14, 72, 127, 162.
Would you rather have God’s Word than sleep? The Jews had three night watches: sunset to 10, 10 to 2, and 2 until dawn. The psalmist gave up sleep three times each night that he might spend time with the Word (Ps. 119:148). But some Christians cannot get out of bed on Sunday morning to study the Word.
If we are going to be victorious in suffering, we must appreciate the Word. But there is a second attitude we must show toward the Bible.
2. - They appropriated the Word. Paul used two different words for received. The first means simply to accept from another, while the second means to welcome. One means the hearing of the ear while the other means the hearing of the heart.
The Lord repeatedly warned people about the wrong king of hearing, and His warnings are still needed.
3. - They applied the Word. They obeyed the Word by faith, and the Word went to work in their lives. It is not enough to appreciate the Bible, or even to appropriate the Bible. We must apply the Word in our lives. The Word of God has in it the power to accomplish the will of God.
II. GOD’S PEOPLE AROUND US (vv. 14-16).
Not only were the Thessalonian saints imitators of the Lord and of Paul, but they also became imitators of the Jewish believers in their experience of persecution. The saints in Judah suffered at the hands of the Jews, and the saints in Thessalonica suffered at the hands of the Gentiles. But keep in mind that even this Gentile persecution was encouraged by the Jewish unbelievers (Acts 17:5, 13). Jesus promised that this would happen (John 15:18-27).
Why did the leaders of Israel officially reject Jesus Christ and persecute His followers? They were only repeating the sins of their fathers. Their ancestors had persecuted the prophets long before Jesus came to earth. By rejecting God’s truth, they protected their man-made traditions.
Paul encouraged the suffering Christians by assuring them that their experiences were not new or isolated. Others had suffered before them and were even then suffering with them. The churches in Judah had not been exterminated by suffering; if anything, they had been purified and increased.
Here is one of the great values of the local church: we stand together in times of difficulty and encourage one another. It was when Elijah isolated himself from the other faithful Israelites that he became discouraged and wanted to quit.
III. GOD’S GLORY BEFORE US (vv. 17-20).
Paul was not ashamed to state his affection for the Thessalonian Christians. He felt as though he had been orphaned from them (2:17) since he was their spiritual mother and father. Paul wanted to remain there longer to help ground them in the faith, but the enemy drove him out. However, his absence was only physical; he was still with them in heart.