“I can’t stand it anymore…” When was the last time you heard anyone utter those words? Was it a woman exasperated with her children or spouse? Was it a husband stressed at work over cyclical patterns of crisis management? Was it a missionary or pastor about to submit their resignation letter?
Paul and his missionary team were forced to make a hasty exit from Thessalonica. Persecution drove them out and pushed them on to Berea and ultimately Athens. Separated by distance, yet heavily burdened for these young believers, Paul penned 1 Thessalonians. Notice the Perplexity, the Plan and the Probing strategically laid out for this young congregation.
“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 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.” (! Thess. 3:1-5)
- The Perplexity – We could stand it no longer. What was happening? How were they coping? Had they remained true to Christ? What strategies had Satan been using in the community?
2. The Plan – Send Timothy – This young ‘intern’ who had been mentored for years by Paul (since Acts 16) was learning the ropes of ministry. He proved faithful, in fact Philippians 2 notes the unusualness of Timothy’s selflessness among God’s people! Timothy was sent, commissioned by this apostolic leader to strengthen and encourage, to be a ‘son of encouragement,’ a Barnabas to this fledgling congregation. People need care. Pastoral care is not an optional extra but a core necessity for younger and older believers and Timothy was the right person to send. Praise God for those who serve others pastorally.
3. The Probing – What was Paul saying to this group? Don’t be unsettled by trials. Remember our previous teaching while with you. Persecution is normal. Watch out for the strategies of the devil who delights in disrupting God’s work, to the degree God will permit him to do so.
So how much do you care for others? How relational are you in the ministry God has called you to, by His grace? Maybe God will bring someone to your mind today, someone who needs a note of encouragement, a phone call, a message that demonstrates love, the kind of love that Jesus said would mark his followers. (John 13:34,35)