It is not easy to raise proper children in an improper world. God has given excellent instruction in Scripture about holy living. However, Satan’s false teachers are always at work with clever lies and enticing temptations. In Paul’s two letters to his beloved Thessalonians, he behaves as a responsible parent. He offers God’s truths and prays for God’s encouragement to lead his misguided children back into the proper lifestyles that bring peace and joy in the Lord.
It is often hard enough to keep ourselves on track, but when we are called to help others, we must work night and day to fulfill God’s expectations for success. We see Paul’s great model in this chapter. He teaches us how to pray, how to live, and how to discipline.
DAY ONE: PAUL INDICATES NEED FOR PRAYER.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
A. PAUL REQUESTS PRAYER FOR GOD’S BLESSING.
Paul was well aware of the source of his strength. He was a willing vessel but without the Lord’s help he would be working in vain. Anyone who ministers in the Word needs constant prayer that God would work in the hearts of people and give power to the message to make it alive and believable. Paul asks prayer that the gospel would spread rapidly and be honored in the lives of the hearers. We sense the urgency that was always a part of Paul’s thinking. His life must be well lived if he is to accomplish his calling from the Lord to evangelize the Gentile world.
B. PAUL REQUESTS PRAYER FOR PROTECTION.
Paul was also aware of the power of his enemies. He had a special calling from the Lord to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 15:15-16). Thus his opposition came from both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews wanted him to reject Jesus; the Gentiles wanted him to worship the Emperor. Evil and wicked men were always ready to sabotage his work and slander his name.
C. PAUL REMINDS THEM OF GOD’S FAITHFULNESS.
Since it is God’s work, Paul was able to assure them that God was their faithful protector and provider. They were to keep this focus on God’s love and Christ’s model of perseverance. The battle begins in the mind. If we can keep the right focus, we can overcome faintheartedness. The battle can be won.
Those who are living the Christian life and serving the Lord always need to pray for each other. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. There is always danger of losing heart or stumbling or falling into some kind of temptation. Paul is asking the faithful Thessalonian brethren to help share the burden of prayer that must accompany any thriving ministry.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What did Jesus say about our source of strength in John 15:5?
2. What did Paul say about his own fear of failing? 1 Corinthians 9:27)
3. What do we learn about prayer from James 5:16?
4. How did John remind us of our source of strength? (I John 4:4)
5. What great promise is given in verse 3 of today’s passage?
6. Remember to pray this promise each day this week.
DAY TWO: PAUL ADDRESSES IDLENESS.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10
A. BELIEVERS ARE COMMANDED TO TAKE ACTION.
For some people the temptation to laziness is very strong. Why work hard when you can spend your time in comfort and ease. Of course, someone has to pay the price. Laziness on their part becomes an added burden to someone else. The lazy ones also lose the respect of outsiders with this behavior, so it is a serious matter. Perhaps that is why Paul writes so strongly regarding free loaders.
Paul had warned them in the first letter to work and not be dependent on others (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Some had obviously quit work to wait for Jesus to come for them. They failed to heed the warning so now Paul issues a commandment to the church.
B. IDLE BROTHERS ARE NOT TO BE TOLERATED.
When an honest mistake becomes outright disobedience, then something needs to be done to help the people return to proper behavior. They now know better, so Paul tells the church to refuse to support this idle behavior. They were to keep away from these people. This likely means they were not to feed them or offer financial aid or welcome them into their homes. They were not to enable this behavior in any way.
C. PAUL CITES HIMSELF AS AN EXAMPLE.
Paul should have received support for his role as teacher, but he chose to become an example by working day and night earning a living and teaching. He taught the rule of personal responsibility – if a man will not work, he shall not eat. We must practice tough love so that we don’t become enablers to disgraceful behavior.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What does 1 Corinthians 9:14 say about teachers receiving support?
2. Who might be excluded from the general rule of not working and not eating?
3. How did the Law of Moses provide for the poor? (Leviticus 19:9-10)
4. How do we support the poor in our culture today? Could this enable some to become idle by choice?
5. How can we help the poor without enabling them in idleness?
6. Who do you know who needs meaningful work?
DAY THREE: PAUL ENCOURAGES RESPONSIBLE LIVING.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12
A. PAUL TARGETS THE RESULT OF IDLENESS.
God designed human beings to be busy with meaningful work. He gave Adam the job of maintaining the beautiful Garden of Eden. Later others were shepherds, vinedressers, farmers, carpenters, bakers, shop keepers, etc. Each family was to care for their own family needs. Without meaningful work there is a temptation to be busy stirring up trouble and meddling in other people’s lives.
B. SOME HAD BECOME BUSYBODIES.
Obviously the idle lives of some had led to their becoming overly involved in trying to “help” others. They may have had good motives initially in doing this, but they had become too involved. Could this happen today?
Certainly women must pay attention to Paul’s teaching. A housewife, a career woman, or a woman in a ministry role in our modern cultures can also develop a lifestyle that causes us to neglect our work in the home. Paul advises us to never tire of doing what is right.
- Is your housework done up in good order?
- Is your meal preparation commendable?
- Are the people in your care well attended?
- Do you practice Christian hospitality?
- Are you available to help people in real need?
How do you spend your time in a typical week? How many of us would be able to put our schedule up as an example like Paul did? Would we be able to say to new converts – You should imitate me. We are most effective as witnesses when we have our lives in order.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What did Paul say about those who do not support their own families? (1 Timothy 5:8)
2. How did Paul warn about widows maintaining a reputable lifestyle? (1 Timothy 5:9-16)
3. What result of idleness do you see in our culture today?
4. What is the line between meddling and helping?
5. What is your definition of a busybody?
6. What in your own life needs to be put in better order?
DAY FOUR: PAUL ADVOCATES EXTREME MEASURES.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
A. DELIBERATE DISOBEDIENCE MUST BE DEALT WITH.
Christians are to be known for their love. That is a beautiful thought and an awesome challenge. We know that love can be very powerful. However, sometimes love can be messy. True love may mean that we deal harshly with someone whose life is damaging themselves and the church. It may look ugly in the onset of church discipline.
B. DISCIPLINE INVOLVES THE ENTIRE CHURCH.
Jesus gave the basic guidance for church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17). A church characterized by love will always try to help erring brothers see their sins and return to right living. Otherwise they will begin to suffer personal consequences and will be in danger of influencing others in the church to sin as well.
When disciplinary action must be taken, the entire church must cooperate with the goal of shaming the offender and encouraging him to repent. He is not an enemy; he is a brother who must be helped. It is always difficult to practice tough love in a family or in a church family. We risk making people angry and interrupting friendships. But to let people we love continue in destructive behavior without trying to help is unthinkable.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Why do you think it is so hard to practice church discipline?
2. What kinds of behavior would warrant church discipline?
3. How do you understand the concept of “tough love?”
4. How often do you pray for protection for fellow believers?
5. When have you been more concerned about maintaining a relationship than helping a fellow believer to correct behavior?
DAY FIVE: PAUL FINISHED WITH LOVE AND PRAYERS.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18
A. PAUL PRAYS FOR PEACE.
Because of the nature of the part of the letter advocating discipline, Paul now has a specific request for peace. When a church has problems and must practice discipline, there is a danger of people taking sides and creating division. To be healthy, a church desperately needs unity. The Lord is the source of peace, so Paul prays for peace at all times and in every way. This would include:
- Peace with God – Spiritual peace that comes from being in God’s will and from being obedient in all things.
- Peace with man – Corporate peace that comes from church unity with a common goal of serving God in obedience and with pure worship with one voice.
- Peace with self – An inner peace even in persecution that comes from trusting God to work all things for good and knowing that God is in complete control.
Paul prays for God’s presence to be with every person as they work through their problems inside the church and problems with the world. God is able to restore peace and calm their storms in His time.
B. PAUL PROVIDES HIS OFFICIAL SIGNATURE.
Paul mentioned the possibility of a counterfeit letter in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Since some letters in Paul’s day may have been dictated and written in another person’s handwriting, it would be difficult to discern the true from the false. So Paul writes his final greeting in his own handwriting. They will be able to detect a forgery if another letter surfaces.
C. PAUL CLOSES WITH A BENEDICTION.
What is the most loving thing Paul would want for his children of the Spirit? It would be a plea for grace as only the Lord Jesus could provide. The one who loves us ultimately and died for us is ready and willing to bless us. We are truly loved.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What is the definition of grace?
2. What does Paul tell us in his letter to the Corinthians? (2 Cor. 12:9)
3. What kind of peace did Jesus promise in John 14:27; 16:33?
4. Paul prays for the presence of God. What did Jesus promise in Matthew 28:20?
5. What kind of peace is lacking in your life?
6. What would be one prayer request that you would pray for your loved ones?
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, believers learn about personal behavior while waiting for the Lord Jesus to come. It matters to God that we live In harmony in our churches, and it matters to God how we conduct our personal lives. Jesus is coming again, and we want to be found faithful. This letter is especially meaningful for those who are being persecuted for their faith. Their perseverance will be noted and rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ. God is a just God.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
Peace that passes understanding is a profound witness to the world and a great model for fellow believers.
Think of one action that you could practice that will lead to greater peace in your life or home or church.
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