The first two chapters of 1 Thessalonians explained how Paul labored day and night to build a solid foundation for the growth of the new Christians in this city. He was both mother and father while he was with them. The mother and father of a family are privileged to nurture, train, and teach their young children to stand, walk and then run in the race of life. They pick them up when they fall, soothe the hurts, and then comfort and encourage them to try again. Parenting is a lengthy process for physical children as it is for spiritual children.
But Paul had to leave suddenly and his Thessalonian children were left orphans. Will they become wild things? How will they learn to stand when life throws darts at them? How will they learn the true facts of their lives in a hostile world filled with Satan’s lies? How will they learn the keys to successful and righteous living as they mature?
Our parenting skills and procedures need to go through a series of adjustments as our children grow to maturity. Paul will not abandon his beloved Thessalonians. Now his parenting must take a different turn. He will find a new way to guide them — using trusted helpers and instructive letters.
It is much the same today. We rely on school teachers, coaches, scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, tutors, baby sitters, day care workers, and house helpers to help with our children along the way to adulthood. But we have to know who is trustworthy. We must know the helper and monitor carefully what is being taught.
Paul was confident in his choice as he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica as a tried and trusted helper. Even though Timothy was limited in his knowledge compared to Paul, he had a solid foundation and had grown rapidly through Paul’s sound teaching.
DAY ONE: PAUL EXPLAINS HIS ACTIONS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5
A. PAUL EXPRESSES HIS ANXIETY.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy had been traveling together as a missionary team. They taught and shepherded in every place they went on their missionary journey.
They had been called from Asia Minor into Macedonia in a vision. Their first stop was Philippi. They were run out of town. Then they stopped at Thessalonica. They were run out of town again. All three went to Berea. Paul had obviously hoped to be able to return to Thessalonica after things settled down. But the Thessalonians followed him to Berea with hatred in their eyes. Persecution was not fading away; it was intensifying. Paul knew his spiritual children were in deep trouble.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. It doesn’t seem fair that serving God automatically brings opposition. Why does persecution come to God’s faithful people? (John 15:18-21; John 17:14; 1 Peter 5:8).
2. There are always consequences for our choices. What does God say about choosing evil in 1 Thessalonians 2:16?
3. What good thing comes from persecution? (James 1:2-4)
4. Who is behind the persecution of true believers? (1 Th. 2:18)
5. When have you seen persecution strengthen either yourself or someone you know?
6. What lessons did Paul learn in the midst of his trials that could be true for us today? (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9)
DAY TWO: PAUL EXPLAINS HIS TRAVEL DECISIONS.
A. PERSECUTION FORCED THE TEAM APART.
Paul’s missionary team was forced to separate for a time. Paul was escorted to Athens by some of the Berean believers. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea, intending to join Paul as soon as possible (Acts 17:14-15)
Obviously when Timothy and Silas finally joined Paul, Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica. Silas may have been sent back to Berea or to Philippi.
While Paul was alone in Athens he visited the Areopagus where the great thinkers of the day gathered to debate the latest philosophies. From this spot you can see the Acropolis with its temple to Athena and statues of Greek gods and goddesses. This is a stronghold of humanism. Would you have given up?
B. TIMOTHY WAS SENT BACK TO THESSALONICA.
Timothy was a fairly new believer. We might wonder how he had made enough progress to be qualified to be a “stand-in parent” to the Thessalonians. These converts needed spiritual help to stand against heavy persecution. They needed deeper teaching to stand against the false teaching about the second coming that was being spread abroad.
C. TIMOTHY WAS WELL PREPARED.
Timothy had been well taught in Godly living by his Mother and Grandmother, Lois and Eunice. Paul built on that foundation with his teaching about Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, promises and pictures. He spent time with Timothy during his early visit to Lystra (Acts 16:1).
God’s plan was for the Jews (the prepared people) to be the ones who would spread the gospel to the world. Their scriptural foundation would be a huge benefit.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What did Timothy learn in his early life? (2 Timothy1:5)
2. What are some ways that we build an early foundation for our children today?
3. In Hebrews 5:11-14 Paul speaks of milk for babes and meat for the maturing believers. What would you consider milk?
4. What would you consider meat?
5. Whom did you trust (or are now trusting) to help educate your physical children or spiritual children as they grow up?
6. How are you now helping them move to the next level of maturity?
DAY THREE: PAUL ENCOURAGES BY LETTER.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7
A. PAUL’S PARENTING TAKES A NEW TURN.
Paul now models a behavior that we need to imitate. When our children (physical children or spiritual children) are separated from us by miles, we need to use whatever method we can find to keep in close touch. The world of unbelievers will almost daily tempt believers to join them in rejecting God’s ways. Their loud voice must be countered with the still small voice that comes from God’s Word. Although the voice is quiet, it is powerful. Paul first sent Timothy to reinforce God’s Word and now Paul writes this first letter of encouragement and instruction.
Paul finds great joy in their pleasant memories of his visit. The Thessalonians obviously did not believe the slanderous lies about Paul. They had kept their faith and their loyalty to Paul’s teaching.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What communication methods do we have available to us today?
2. How can we encourage our grown children spiritually in a way that is effective and not a nuisance?
3. What does 2 Timothy 3:16 tell us about the Word of God?
- Teaching tells us what is true and holy.
- Rebuking tells us what is not true and holy.
- Correcting tells us how to become true and holy.
- Training in righteousness tells us how to remain true and holy.
4. How are you personally building on the foundation that has been given to you?
5. Select several special scriptures to share with someone in your circle as you interact this week.
DAY FOUR: PAUL PRAYED FERVENTLY.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 3:8-10
A. PAUL EXPRESSED THANKSGIVING
Paul reveals his profound joy at the news that the Thessalonians were standing firm. Obviously they had enough instruction about their new life in Christ, enough warning about persecution, and enough empowering from the Holy Spirit to sustain them for the present time. However, they needed help for the future. Some false teaching was being spread about, and they were confused.
B. PAUL EXPRESSED HIS LOVE AND PEACE.
Their faithfulness thrilled Paul’s very soul. He can now be relieved of anxiety and can help them move to the next level. He gave God the credit for his joy. It is God’s work in the heart of man that produces faithful followers.
Paul let them know what he was praying for:
- That he may visit them again, and
- That he will be able to answer their questions and supply what is lacking in their Christian teaching.
God will answer the second request with this letter as he begins to instruct them. The first request will take longer. God had work for Paul in Corinth. Paul will be instructed to stay there 1 ½ years.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Prayer is always a necessary method of help to go along with the teaching of the word. What did Jesus pray for Simon Peter when he was preparing to leave? (Luke 22:31-32)
2. What are some things that cause faith to fail in our children today?
3. What are some things that we can specifically pray for our children?
4. Make a prayer list of three specific things that would help our children’s faith to remain strong.
5. Pray these things for your physical or spiritual children today.
DAY FIVE: PAUL LISTED HIS PRAYER REQUESTS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
A. PAUL’S FIRST REQUEST
Paul’ s first request is that God the Father and the Lord Jesus would clear the way for Paul, Silas & Timothy to come back to Thessalonica. Paul had yet much to teach them. He recognized that God opens and closes doors and has the power to overcome the opposition in this city in some creative way.
Paul desired to come back to see them and also to help them grow. Paul well understood the way faith grows:
- We grow in knowledge with sound teaching;
- We grow in trust through testing and trials;
- We grow in maturity with learning how to apply our knowledge in real life situations.
- Teaching, testing and living – there is no shortcut. We have to transform our minds and then live out this new knowledge in whatever circumstances come our way.
B. PAUL’S SECOND REQUEST
Paul prayed that their love would grow. This love for each other in their church fellowship is a major source of strength. Hard times put pressure on us and will test our love. Since the world hates believers, they must get their love needs met within the body of Christ. This supernatural love is strong enough to overflow outside the church body as they witness to and interact with unbelievers.
C. THIRD REQUEST
Paul prayed that the Lord would strengthen them so they will be able to live holy lives and be ready for Jesus’ return. The bride must be ready to meet the bridegroom. She is to be clothed in purity.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Often we tend to use our churches as social clubs not family circles. What might cause love to grow in a church fellowship.
- Romans 12:3-5
- Ephesians 4:2-6
- Colossians 3:12-14
2. Make your prayers meaningful by keeping a prayer journal.
3. List three specific things you would desire for your family or church family that would deepen relationships. Pray for these things.
4. As you pray, ask God what role He might have for you in this regard.
Paul continued to find ways to parent his Thessalonian converts well. He sent a temporary helper, encouraged, prayed, and finally wrote a lengthy letter to help them deal with their problems and challenges. No one can doubt Paul’s love for these people.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
Sanctification is a lengthy process that requires love, teaching, encouragement and prayer.
Determine to invest your life in mentoring someone who needs help in growing up well. Or else, pray for someone on a regular basis for a designated period of time.
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