1 Thess 3:1-10
Have you ever pondered the question! Why me? Have you ever asked yourself! Why me LORD? Why do You allow so much pain and suffering to happen to your children around the world? Why do You allow me to go through fruitlessness from time to time? Why do You put me through such pain and anguish with the people whom I’m supposed to love and share the truth with? Why do You harden the hearts of so many people, especially those whom are the closet to me? Isaiah penned this “….And He said, "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." Isa 6:8-10. Why Lord! Why? To be honest, there is no easy answer to that question! Except answering it this way! Why not me?
Paul knew that trials and tribulations where part in parcel to the Christian life. Why? (v3) “we are appointed” or “we have been destined to it” We are appointed by God’s divine providence, in that we will face all kinds of affliction in this life. See, Paul knew that there was no escaping this! Why? (v4)…… In the NKJV it says “in fact” which means “you and I will suffer for His name sake.” What does that look like today in our community?
- For some, it might be not getting a promotion at work.
- A certain group of friends at school.
- A relationship that is unevenly yoked whether it’s personal or physical.
- The unexpected death of a child or a spouse.
But remember as Jesus said ".... I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matt 10:16. Jesus said this “Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you......” John 15:20. Yet again we see the under-shepherds heart this morning for his children. It’s the old saying “before a child can walk, he must learn to stand.” It’s the privilege as a parent to teach your child so many things, especially when they walk for the very first time. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. Paul was like a father to these people! We can say he was a “Spiritual parent” who was forced or hindered from being with his children once again. See Paul’s heart and passion was to be with them! As we have seen in the previous chapter. He wanted to help them to learn how to walk or stand when trials of life came crashing down. Look what it says in (v1) “we could no longer endure it” . Literally means “I could no longer tolerate, I’m unable to continue in ignorance of how my precious converts are surviving “
What couldn't you endure (tolerate any more) Paul? Answer: Paul was very concerned for their faith and their spiritual walk! They were under heavy persecution and animosity towards Biblical Christianity (the Gospel). They were going through things we could never understand as a local church here in Canada. They were being ostracized from family, friends, and communities. This was a great concern for Paul. He couldn’t be with them for purposes of his own…….. going back to (1 Thess 2:18). Not only did Satan hinder Paul from coming to them. But he also knew Satan was the Tempter …He is always trying and testing, for the purpose of causing failure! (v5). Paul wasn’t ignorant to Satan and his crafty methods! See for Paul to be away from his spiritual children was “very unsettling” Which means it caused him to worry, be disturbed or it was very troubling for him? It’s like the idea…….When you toss and turn all night long in bed because it’s too hot to sleep. When someone is angry with you and you want to resolve the situation and their not willing. When you worrying about that important job interview in the morning to provide for your family. When you have to take that all important 3 hour exam for school to get your grade average up. When a loved one is suffering and there is nothing you can do about it! Because you are too far away to be with them.
Paul feared the worst about their faith....He feared that they would swap their loyalty to Christ for personal comfort to avoid persecution. So what does Paul do about this unsettling in his heart? He sends Timothy Why do you think Paul sent Timothy? Look what Paul says in (v2)
- Timothy was a brother: a strong spiritual brother who is saved by God’s grace
- Timothy was a minister of God: a true called minister of the truth
- Timothy was a fellow labour of the Gospel: a man dedicated to God and the Gospel.
You never send a baby, to do a grown-ups job!
Timothy was a godly example and soldier of Christ. Paul had a great faith in him to go comfort and encourage his spiritual children. Timothy was like a son to Paul. When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, he starts off by saying “To Timothy, a son in the faith”. Interesting to note! Timothy and Titus, where the only ones to received this special expression from Paul. “True son” is better translated “genuine faithful child” which emphasizes Paul’s role as spiritual father to Timothy, which is why he sent him.
Paul trusted Timothy, and he also knew he could handle himself, if he fell into the hands of the adversary the Temper. Timothy you must go and establish and encourage my loved ones! Paul was not concerned for their: health, wealth, self esteem or your best life know! Paul was concerned for their spiritual well-being, during such hard and troubling times….just as it should be for every pastor or spiritual leader of the church. See, it’s so much easier to run and hide and blend in with the crowd, then to stand and face whatever comes your way! Like the disciples did in the garden , as Peter did in the court yard….just as Adam and Eve did when they listened to the lies from Satan, himself. I’m the first one to say “No one likes to be persecuted or to face trials every day” It’s not like we go out each and every day looking for persecution or troubles. But we have to realize that is going to happen! But be of good cheer as Jesus said “fear not” Matt 10:28-33 we read “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Let me ask the question again! Why does a holy and loving God, allow us to go through such trials and tribulations? Why does He allow things to go wrong in our lives?
- Why did You allow for me to lose my job of 25 year?
- Why did You allow me to get hurt in that accident?
- Why did You allow for my house to burned down?
- Why do You allow children to be murdered?
- Why do You allow for churches to be burned and people killed for their faith?
- Why didn’t You stop the killing at the University in Kenya?
- Why didn’t You stop 9/11 from happening Lord?
- Why do You allow my classmates to reticule me in school for being a Christian?
- Why do You allow people in my community to make fun of me all the time for being a Christian?
- Why do You allow people to hurt us?
- Why is my marriage in such a mess?
- Why has my child stepped away from the faith that I hold so dearly to my heart?
- Why is my mom or dad dying of cancer?
- Why don’t people like me?
- Why is so hard to be a Christian, Lord? Why?
The answer that keeps coming back to me over and over again! Why not me; why not you? Think about: What right do I have to ask an all merciful, all gracious, all sovereign and just God, that kind of question? Again the answer that keeps coming back to me is….why not me? We always need to remember before we question the sovereign God of the Universe.
- He is the One who saved us from the death we all deserve.
- He is the One who saved us from wrath that is yet to come.
- He is the One who saved us in spite of our fleshly desires.
- He is the One who saved us by His grace by putting His only Begotten Son on the cross in our place.
- He is the One who saved us from an eternity of torment and pain, which is where I belong.
See, God allows these things to happen in our life for one reason, and one reason only! So that He gets the glory in your suffering! Do you realize it’s a gift to suffer for Christ? Phil 1:29 “For to you it has been granted (approved, arranged, decided) on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”. Peter said this “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:16-17
If this means we have to endure suffering here on earth! I’m willing to live with it and not complain about 24/7. Why? Because He saved me from what I deserve, the same judgement to “those who do not obey the gospel of God” Look at what Timothy said for Paul, or reminded these believers to encourage their young faithful hearts. (v3-5) “no one should be shaken by these afflictions” Literally means: “do not lose heart, stay strong”. Why? Because of what Paul said next “we are appointed to this” This is all part of God’s plan for His children. God wills that we face afflictions, trials, tribulations for His sake.....Why Me Lord? James said it the best “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3. Jesus, even said this to His disciples, when He explained the parable of the 4 seeds that fell on the ground! “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” Matt 13:20-21
When we are faced with trials and tribulation! It’s for the purpose of seeing your faith!
- A true believer will count the cost and follow by faith to whatever end.
- A true believer will continue even if it hurts physically, mentally and emotionally.
- A true believer will persevere through whatever is put before him or her for our growing and ultimately for His glory.
That’s why Jesus says the one that falls on good ground will grow……Some hundred fold, Some sixty, Some thirty. The evidence of a true believer is that you will continue to grow! Are you growing this morning? Are you growing more today, than when He first grabbed a hold of your heart and changed you for your good and His glory? Can you say “the Lord has always been transforming me into the image of the Son?
- Even in times of trials!
- Even in times of success!
- Even in times of silence!
- Even in times of draught!
As Paul said in (v3) “that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.” God is always working and directing us closer to Him each and every day! This was Paul’s unsettling concern for these new believers that he loved and missed dearly. But what do we see next! (Look at v6) Timothy delivered the news that would give Paul a sense of peace and joy in his heart. News that brings composure....news that would remove all that unsettledness..That test is over! I can get some rest now! Knowing my children are ok! Paul found this highest sense of ministry joy, (1 Thess 2:20) this is where see “for you are our glory and joy” come alive for us. His spiritual children were walking and growing in the truth of God’s word even in times of trials and suffering. (v9). It like the same expression of gratitude the Psalmist had when he said “How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me” 116:12
I can attest to what Paul is saying here and the concern he has for God’s people! This should be every pastor’s heart around the world this morning! This should be your heart as well as we walk this Christian life together as a church. When I see people in the church loving the Lord more than life! I can say with Paul: My heart is filled with joy seeing you glorify Christ in your suffering. My soul feels blessed with your passion for one-another and the true Gospel you serve. My desires become your desires as we grow deeper in your relationship with Christ. My prayer life is stronger day and night because of your faithfulness to Christ and His church. I can pray the same prayer that Paul does here in (v11-13) as we will look at next week, Lord willing! Nothing on this earth should encourage us more than to see brothers and sisters grow in His grace, even in the midst of their suffering. As the 2 Moravian missionaries boarded a ship…..these were the last words that they cried out to their fellow believers who were staying at home “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
My Sunday question: Is your faith enduring today, even if causes you to suffer for His name sake? Are you saying in your heart! Why Me Lord? Or Why not me Lord? We must stand fast (full of faith) in a world that hates and is going against everything we hold dear in the Christian life:
- Biblical Morality
- Raising and having Children
- Biblical Education for our Children
- The Family
- The Freedom to pray and share the Gospel with others
- The God of the Bible
The only way we will ever increase is by staying close to Him and the help of one another in our trials and tribulations by the Power of His grace. As Matt Chandler said “your house may be built on the rock, but that doesn’t (exempt) that doesn’t mean the rains won’t come” But as we stand together and encourage one another, we can say “Bring on the rain for the glory of His name.”