1 Thess. 5: “Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat”

Many times in Paul’s epistles (letters) he ends with a few final words of advice to whomever he’s writing to. With the amount of “urgencies” Paul offers, you would think he didn’t know he would write another letter in six months. I counted fourteen different things that Paul urged the believers to do at the end of his letter. Among the fourteen, there were three verses that I think would be a beneficial reminder for us today.


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT) 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.


Rejoice Always

Verse 16 in the NIV reads, “Rejoice always.” What’s very interesting about this statement is that we forget Paul is writing to a persecuted church. I think we can all understand rejoicing in the best of times, but what about rejoicing in the worst of times? It would be one thing for Paul to say and not do, but we couldn’t say that about Paul. In fact, just the opposite is true. Here are some examples of Paul rejoicing in the midst of suffering:

  • Acts 16:25 (Singing and praising God in prison)
  • Romans 5:3 (“…rejoice in our sufferings”)
  • 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (A laundry list of things “servants of God” should endure)
  • 2 Corinthians 12:10 (“…delight in weakness, in insult, in hardship, in persecution”)
  • Colossians 1:24 (“…rejoiced in what we suffered for you)

We can learn a lot from Paul who figured out that joy was a powerful weapon against life’s many ups and downs. Connect with joy, Paul moves on to the instruction, “never stop praying.”

Never Stop Praying

You may recognize verse 17 in it’s more popular form, “pray without ceasing,” but there’s always been a lot of confusion surrounding what it means exactly. The first thing you should know, which may serve as good news for some, is that Paul didn’t expect everyone to bow their heads, close their eyes, and continuously be on their knees in prayer all day long. However, it was Paul’s intention that everyone have an attitude of prayer. This means allowing God into the everyday moments of our lives. Prayer is not only a vital part of our relationship with God, it’s also something that should happen on a regular basis. It wasn’t just good enough for Paul, but it was good enough for Jesus. Luke 18:1 (NLT) 18 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 

Be Thankful in All Circumstances

 

Lets notice what the verse doesn’t say:

  • Be thankful in some circumstances
  • Be thankful in a lot of circumstances
  • Be critical  in all circumstances

No! There’s a reason why Paul included to be thankful in ALL circumstances. There’s a reason why Paul included circumstances. I mean, think about it, Paul isn’t communicating to these baby Christians that their life would be circumstance free, instead, he’s saying when you experience circumstances, give thanks!

Unfortunately many can attest that even though we don’t like it, God typically uses difficult times and difficult situations to grow our character and strengthen our faith. I do believe there are other ways God can grow our character and strengthen our faith, but it seems growing character and strengthening faith is on hyperdrive during difficult situations.

Try It Today

Like I said earlier, the reason these three verses stuck out to me, is because I think you can apply them to your life today. I think not only you can, but you should apply them to your life…TODAY! Think of it this way: Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat. When your dealing with life’s circumstances: Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat. When you’ve experienced an incredible moment in your life: Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat. Worked for Paul.

 

1 Thess. 4: “Show Me The Way”

Verse 4 of “It is Well”

4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

Verse 4 of “How Great Thou Art”

4. When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!


Maybe you’re like me and you too grew up in church singing these great hymns. I will always remember the worship leader, Mr. Roland, saying, “Now let’s lift the rafters of the church.” For a second I thought we had a rafting team I didn’t know about, but instead everyone knew what he meant; “Sing it, shout it, loud and long…”

Either way, these songs were not just to sing, shout, or be loud, they were also meant to teach and educate the congregation on matters of theological importance. Historically in most hymns, verse 4 is where we learn about the return of Christ. So if we were to take this principle and look just at these two hymns, what do we learn about the Second Coming?

The Second Coming, According to Verse 4

Continue reading 1 Thess. 4: “Show Me The Way”

1 Thess. 3: “Be A Timothy”

Long before it became a push in our denomination, I heard the President of Olivet Nazarene University, Dr. John Bowling ask the question, “Who are you discipling, and who is discipling you?” This question not only communicates the necessity for discipleship, but it also paints an important picture regarding our position in the discipleship model. Simply put, you should always be in the middle.

(Who is discipling you?) → (You) → (Who are you discipling?)

Up to this point in 1 Thessalonians we have learned a lot about the church in Thessalonica and the role Paul played in helping the church advance God’s kingdom. Now in Chapter 3, we start to get a picture of not just Paul and the church, but the apostle Timothy.

Where in the World is Timothy?

No, seriously, where in the world is Timothy? If there was one person that traveled nearly as much as Paul it’s Timothy. When you look at the breakdown of what Timothy did and where he went, you can tell very quickly that he was a trusted “co-worker,” as mentioned in 1 Thess. 3:1, with Paul.

  • Timothy submitted to being circumcised by Paul (Acts 16:3)
  • Silas and Timothy remain behind in Berea to teach (Acts 17:10-15)
  • Joined up with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1,5)
  • Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Romans (Romans 16:21)
  • Timothy and Erastus were sent ahead to Macedonia to teach (Acts 19:22)
  • Paul sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10)
  • Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:1)
  • Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2)
  • Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 1:1)
  • Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Colossians and Philemon

(Paul) → (Timothy) → (Faithful Men)

What did Timothy Do?

We’ve learned so far that Paul trusted Timothy, but I want to look at what exactly Paul trusted Timothy to do.


1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (NLT) and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles.

1 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT) That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong.


So we learn here that Timothy is sent to…

  • Strengthen the believers (Strengthen)
  • Encourage the believers in their faith (Encourage)
  • Keep the believers from being shaken by their troubles (Warning)
  • Find out whether the believers faith was still strong (Accountability)

To help us better understand what Timothy was sent to do, lets examine for time sake the first two: “Strengthen” and “Encourage”

Strengthen and Encourage

Strengthen (στηρίζω: stērizō) in the Greek literally means “to make stable, place firmly, set fast, or fix.” Have you ever been to a cafe or a coffee shop and sit down at the table only to find that it teeter-totters? What do you do? Depending on the totter, you grab something to place under one of the legs to set it firmly on the ground. This illustration is not far off what Timothy did in Thessalonica. There were many believers who were being oppressed and persecuted for their faith. Timothy came in to place the truth under their feet and to keep them from wobbling.

Encourage (παρακαλέω: parakaleō) is translated, “to call near, i.e. invite, invoke: beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, intreat, pray.” The usage here in the Greek is indicative of a person standing alongside another person to put courage into him or her. My dad is a hugger, not a big from the front hugger, but he is the master of the side hug. There were times when my dad would side hug me so hard it felt like my shoulders where going to crumble. This is exactly what Timothy was sent to do. He was sent to stand next to the Thessalonian believers, put his arms of encouragement around them, and build confidence into their faith.

Conclusion

Lets go back to the original question: “Who are you discipling, and who is discipling you?” Let me put it this way: “Who are you a Timothy to, and who is your Paul?

You need to stop and consider this question at a deeper level. Who are the people in your life that consider YOU their Timothy? Those people need you to strengthen and encourage their faith; they need you to help them to not be shaken by their troubles, and lastly they need you to help keep them accountable.

Take a page out of Timothy’s book; Timothy didn’t just come to say, “buck-up buttercup,” he came to strengthen and encourage the believers in their faith. He also came because Paul told him to: when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2and we sent Timothy to visit you.

Paul hadn’t heard word from the believers in Thessalonica and he couldn’t take not knowing how they were doing. So as Chuck Swindoll said, “He picked up the phone, sent a friend, wrote a letter. He took time from his busy schedule to check up on how they were doing.”

Who are the people in your life that consider YOU their Timothy? How good of a Timothy have you been?

 

1 Thess. 2: “Please God, NOT People”

Just to clarify, the title for today’s reflection is, “Please (verb: cause to feel happy) God, NOT People.” Verses: “Please (adverb: wish or desire to do something) God, NOT People.” I can hear Moses at times leaning more towards the latter title.

A part of Paul’s knowledge and understanding of leading people was recognizing the utter dependency on God. Paul also recognized the necessity to please God, verses pleasing people.


1 Thessalonians 1:4 (NLT) …Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.

Continue reading 1 Thess. 2: “Please God, NOT People”

1 Thess. 1: “Ringing Out from You”

Introduction

Welcome to 1 Thessalonians! The year is A.D. 51. Writing from Corinth, Paul sits down with both Silas and Timothy to write a note of encouragement and explanation to the people of Thessalonica. The encouragement part was to spur on the church and the Thessalonian Christians to keep being the Godly example their reputation suggested. The explanation portion of the letter is to address the many questions brought up by the young believers in the church.

So you have some context, it was in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas found refuge after their experience in Philippi… you know, the place where they were beaten and thrown in prison? Again, to help with context, the first eleven verses of Acts 17 take place while they were in Thessalonica.

Because Paul didn’t spend a ton of time with the Thessalonians he was fearful they didn’t understand how to teach the next generation. Paul was partially correct, but also pleasantly surprised when Timothy came back reporting all the church had accomplished since his departure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

You can learn a lot about a church from the opening of Paul’s letters. He typically brings greeting, thanking God for the believers, and a word of encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 1 we find out what Paul thinks about the church while he prays for them: Continue reading 1 Thess. 1: “Ringing Out from You”