Summary: reflection on a part of Paul’s prayer for his Thessalonian congregation. Nothing flashy here, just straight forward stuff.
November 30, 2003 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Whenever you go through a death in the family, it is obviously a difficult time. Within the past two weeks I’ve had more emotions run through me than trains at Grand Central Station. But as I look back at the two past weeks, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. The sorrow that my wife and I shared drew us closer together. The responses of love from our friends, families, and this congregation have been overwhelming. People called, sent cards, food, hugs, and most importantly shared their faith with us - and it’s helped - it truly has. I can see how God has blessed us through these trials.
Paul had gone through many trials with the Thessalonians as well. After looking through the first three chapters of Thessalonians, I saw how Paul described several key points in their relationship and history up to that point.
✓ our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. (1:4)
✓ with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (2:2)
✓ You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews (2:14)
✓ we were torn away from you for a short time, out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. (2:17-18)
✓ We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker a in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. (3:2-3).
✓ Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. (3:6)
From these points, it is easy to see that Paul and the congregation at Thessalonica had grown together and suffered together. It was this whole relationship that motivated him to say this prayer that he prayed in our text for today.
Paul’s Advent Prayer for the Thessalonians
I. A prayer of thanks
What was Paul’s first reaction and response to Timothy’s report? First of all he was thankful. Thankful that the Thessalonians had responded so well to the message of the Gospel. They very easily could have given up the faith in the face of persecution or gotten angry with Paul for getting them into their mess in the first place. They could have accused Paul of being a chicken or uncaring for not having returned to them in the midst of their trials. Instead, they stuck to the faith and even grew closer to Paul through the trials they were facing. They said that they looked forward to seeing Paul again. They sucked it up and grew stronger in their love instead of fading off. That’s what made Paul so thankful - for the response of love and faith that this young congregation had in the face of adversity and trial.
Every relationship in this world will go through these kinds of times. When a wife goes through a health problem and the husband has to take extra time to nurse her back to health, he has a choice. He can either withdraw and get angry at his wife for being so dependant on him, or he can suck it up and dedicate more time to her. So many times people choose the worse of the two, and problems result. But you can’t imagine how that strengthens a relationship when the one supports the other. In the story of Jonathan and David, Jonathan’s father Saul wanted to kill David. But instead of siding with his father, Jonathan stood up for David and did his best to protect him. This made them closer than brothers so that they had one of the closest relationships ever in the Bible. After Jonathan helped to protect David from getting killed the Bible says, they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD. (1 Sa 20:41-42) The ultimate example, of course, is found in Christ. He saw that we were helplessly drowning in our sins. He saw that we needed help. He could have ignored our situation, because we were getting what we deserved - God’s wrath for rebellion. But instead, he dove down into our world of sin through a filthy sinner’s womb into a cattle stall. He lived in a disgusting world and resisted it’s lure. He allowed that same world to be smeared on His skin, heart and soul at the cross - ultimately drowning in our filth. But it was this love, this compassion, that saved us from being condemned and raised us out of our guilt and shame. Jesus stepped up, and re-established our relationship with God.