1THESSALONIANS 2:17-3:5 (NIV – UK)
Paul’s Desire to Visit the Thessalonians Again
17 As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 Yes, you are our glory and joy!
1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain.
Strength through the Gospel
Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to ‘strengthen and encourage’ them for the sake of their faith (v. 2). There were great persecutions going on – Paul himself was suffering persecution (v. 3). And it that is precisely this reason that Paul sends Timothy.
Because of the persecutions Paul sent Timothy to ‘find out about their faith’ (v. 5) and to ‘strengthen and encourage’ them (v. 2). The answer to persecution is to press into God more – to be encouraged and strengthened – to be sure that the sufferings are worth it because the rewards found in Jesus are infinitely greater than any persecution we can suffer. There is strength in the Gospel of Jesus.
In countries around the world where Christians are persecuted we often see followers of Jesus take great heart in their persecution – even to the extent that they are willing to die. We have seen this recently with Meriam Ibrahim, the 27 year old Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death for apostasy. She is standing firm in Jesus and refuses to turn her back on him – how dearly must she cherish him and truly see the great prize found in him.
In the west we don’t suffer such severe persecution – but some forms of persecution can be seen. It can take even the mildest of forms. In those circumstances, how do we respond? Do we suffer gladly, being strengthened and encouraged in the faith, knowing that in Jesus we have everything we need?
Question: Have you ever been treated differently because of your Christian faith? Did it drive you closer to or further from Jesus? Why do you think that is?