1 Thessalonians

Faith, Hope, and Love

The church in Thessalonica was started by Paul, Silas, and Timothy, after they were driven out of Philippi. They were only there for a short time because the Jews in Thessalonica formed a mob opposing them and the church.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy, had to leave and were sent to Berea. Soon the Jews drove Paul out of Berea and he traveled to Athens while Silas remained in Berea.  Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica to see how the church was doing. Timothy and Silas then traveled to Corinth where they were reunited with Paul. Timothy told Paul how the church was doing even though they were being persecuted by the Jews. As he made his way back to Paul he was also hearing stories about this church from the people in the towns he traveled through. The church also had some questions that Paul needed to address and so his response is this letter.

In Chapter 1 verse 3, Paul noted that their faith resulted in work, their love empowered their labor, and their hope held them steadfast in the Lord. Faith, hope, and love, are the three pillars of the Church. They are like a stool with three legs. It is always stable and never rocks. But if any one of the three is taken away the stool becomes very unstable and can only remain in place by the effort of man. Man’s energy and ability to stabilize eventually runs out, especially when it is attacked.

The goal of the enemy is to knock out one of the three pillars. Paul noted in Chapters 1&2 that the labor resulting from their faith was a testimony to the areas around them. Their witness was a result of their faith. Thus, the enemy was attacking their faith with persecution. 2:14

Often when pressures come against us we are tempted to push back using the ways of the world. Paul reminds them of his example to them under the same circumstances in Chapter 2:1-13  

I remember a story a missionary told of an Eskimo who had given his life to the Lord. He was looked down on by his friends and co-workers and constantly ridiculed for his faith. His response was always the same. He would say to them that no matter what they said or did, that he loved them with the love of the Lord. The “work” of his response was a result of his faith in God and was a labor of love, which brings us to Chapters 3&4.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God. The next great commandment is to love others. In Chapter 3 Paul demonstrates his love for the church in Thessalonica by sending Timothy to find out how they are doing. The news Timothy brought back brought Paul great encouragement in his situation. In response, Paul prayed that God would increase their love for one another. He also prayed that they would be established in holiness.

The enemy’s attack on love is to change the focus. The enemy wants us to love ourselves and to put ourselves first. Both of these are in direct conflict with the commandments mentioned in the last paragraph. When we love ourselves more than anything else, we become like the world and conduct our lives just like everyone else. In Chapter 4:3 we are told what God’s will is for us. We are to be set apart from the ways of the world. God desires to use us for His glory. The enemy appeals to the desires of our fallen nature. The enemy wants us to refocus our love from God to ourselves and feed our sin nature. He knows that our sin nature will never be filled and we will constantly be seeking for more things to do, and more radical things to do, to fulfill that empty hole in our life. If we allow the enemy to succeed, our labor will be focused on ourselves. Not only that, but what we are doing will become evident to others who are observing us and our actions will corrupt our witness.

Starting in Chapter 4:13, we see the attack on hope. Doubt is the enemy of hope. Doubt thrives when there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of God, His Word, and His plan. Doubt is followed with the temptation to abandon our steadfastness in God and go back to the old lifestyle described in the first part of Chapter 5.

Paul combats doubt with God’s Word and plan. It is important that we too are feeding constantly on the Word of God and meeting regularly with people who encourage us in the Word of God.

We are to also encourage others with the Word of God. Let’s be clear here. In the Church some will be encouragers and comforters. Some will be in need of encouragement and comfort. How we are to receive encouragement and comfort  is found in verses 19-22 of Chapter 5.

From what we have read in this letter, it is obvious that faith, hope, and love, are intertwined and interdependent. To compromise in one area is to make our walk with the Lord unstable and in danger of failing. Don’t let the enemy knock out one of the pillars of faith.

Be wise. Keep faith, hope, and love, strong and healthy.

Pastor Dave