Scripture reading – 1 Thessalonians 3; 1 Thessalonians 4
Continuing our study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian believers, we notice again the “shepherd’s heart” of this powerful preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a pastor of 43 years, Paul’s words resonate with my own heart for the people I pastor. Today’s devotional is taken solely from 1 Thessalonians 3.
Remembering Paul fled Thessalonica when enemies of the Gospel rose up against him, he longed to know their welfare, spiritually and physically. Unable to go to Thessalonica himself (3:1), Paul sent Timothy, a young man he often identified in his epistles as a spiritual son. The apostle commended Timothy to believers, writing of him: “Our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ” (3:2). Paul’s purpose in sending Timothy was to see how the believers fared, and “to establish [them], and to comfort [them] concerning [their] faith” (3:2b).
Lest they be ashamed of him and his afflictions, or discouraged by the persecutions they suffered, Paul reminded the believers of Thessalonica, “we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (3:4). Having received no news of the welfare of the believers in that city, Paul determined to send Timothy to know their state of affairs, and their faith (3:5).
With rejoicing, Paul had learned from Timothy the believers in Thessalonica were abounding in faith, and longed to see him (3:6). That news stirred the old apostle’s heart, and in spite of his own persecutions and afflictions, had strengthened his resolve. Paul wrote of himself and his fellow ministers, “8For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord” (3:8).
Closing thoughts (3:9-13) – Imagine—a giant of the faith, an apostle, and minister like Paul found blessed assurance, and his faith was strengthened, because believers of Thessalonica sent a message of their love and longing to see him. His heart overflowed with joy, and he found himself praying night and day that he might see them (3:9-10).
Though unable to come himself, Paul’s letter must needs have sufficed as an assurance of his love, and exhortation for them to continue in the faith (3:9-10). Assuring them of his longing for the Lord to direct his steps to them (3:11), Paul concluded this portion of his letter with a loving benediction: “12And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13To the end he may stablish [stablish] your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (3:12-13).
May the same be true of every believer reading this today. If Paul needed a word of encouragement, surely the same is true of every faithful minister. Every pastor longs to know his life and ministry have made a difference, and that his labor has not been in vain. Such news not only stirs the soul of the minister, but inspires him to pray with rejoicing for those he shepherds. May we all labor to “increase and abound in love,” living in anticipation of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (3:13).
Even so, Lord, come quickly! (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20)
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