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 (Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus)
Lesson 4 Longing and Joy (1Thess 2:17-3:13)
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Lesson 4

I.       Observation

A.     Outline

Separation (2:17-20)

Sending Timothy to Strengthen the Believers in Afflictions (3:1-5)

Comfort and Thanksgiving (3:6--10)

Prayer for Reunion (3:11-13)

B.     Key Words/Phrases

Taken away, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly, great desire, hope, joy, crown of rejoicing, at His coming, glory, could no longer endure it, establish, encourage, faith, afflictions, appointed, comforted, now we live, stand fast in the Lord, thanks, night and day praying exceedingly, love, establish your hearts blameless in holiness.

II.    General Analysis

1. The first paragraph speaks of Satan’s hindrance of Paul from coming back to the Thessalonians, whereas the last paragraph is Paul’s prayer to the Lord Jesus to direct his way to the Thessalonians.

2a. Deep affection and longing.

2b. Taken away, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly, great desire, time and again, hope, joy, crown of rejoicing, could no longer endure it, comforted, now we live, all the joy, night and day praying exceedingly.

III. Segment Analysis

1. The physical separation cannot take away the deep affection in Paul’s heart for the believers because he truly loves them. Because his heart is with them, he still tries everything possible to minister to their needs even though he cannot be physically present.

2a. As a minister of the gospel, Paul’s hope is to see the believers “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” (19). If the believers stand firm in the faith until the coming of the Lord, that will be his greatest joy, victory, and glory, for his labor will not have been in vain.

3. Paul was concerned that the faith of the Thessalonians might be shaken by afflictions or temptations (3:2-5).

4. Establish and encourage the Thessalonians concerning their faith (2).

5. When a person undergoes trials, it is easy for him to lose heart and be defeated if he is fighting alone. In times like these, a helping hand becomes critical (cf. Ecc 4:9-12). As members of Christ’s body, we need to show empathy to those members who are suffering, as if their suffering is our own (Rom 12:15; 1Cor 12:25-26). Out of our concern for their faith, we ought to encourage them with the word of God and testimonies about God’s grace in our afflictions. Furthermore, we need to pray for their faith and ask for God’s protection. Such concern, encouragement, and prayer will fortify and even restore their faith (cf. Lk 22:31-32).

6. If a Christian has the false assumption that his walk of faith will be trouble-free, he is bound to be caught by surprise when afflictions come. Worse yet, he may reject the faith, unable to accept the fact that sufferings do come upon believers. The Scriptures tell us in many places that, as believers, we are bound to suffer (Jn 15:18-16:4,33; Acts 14:22; 1Thess 3:3; 2Tim 3:12; Rev 12:7-13). With this knowledge, we can be prepared to face afflictions and not be caught by surprise (1Pet 4:12-13). When afflictions actually come in our lives, we can rejoice, knowing that our sufferings are accomplishing a greater purpose because they make us spiritually mature (Rom 5:1-5; Jas 1:2-4,12). We can also have the assurance and peace in Christ, knowing that He has overcome the world and will see us through our sufferings (Jn 16:33; 1Cor 10:13).

7. Judging from the context, we know that the tempter, Satan, hopes to unsettle the faith of the believers. He may do so by discouraging the believers during their trials, or inciting the enemies of the gospel to spread false rumors about Paul and his co-workers in order to make the believers doubt the truth of the gospel (this would explain why Paul vindicated himself and his fellow workers in chapter 2).

8. If the people we minister to fail in their faith, our labor would be in vain. Although the Lord will still remember our efforts, it would be a great disappointment to see believers we have preached to forsake the faith. Because failure in faith is such a real possibility, we must work hard to minister to the believers continually. We cannot become complacent when people are converted, but must make every effort to help them grow in their faith.

9a. The Thessalonians have kept their faith and love, and always have good remembrance of the missionaries, greatly desiring to see them (6).

9b. He was comforted in all his affliction and distress (6).

10. The ministers’ joy and hope rest on the progress of the believers, and the believers’ faith is the very reason the preachers live (cf. Php 1:25-26). Therefore, whether the believers succeed or fail will touch the lives of the ministers profoundly. If they stand fast in the Lord, the preachers’ joy and hope will be refreshed and revived.

11a. He thanks God for all the joy with which he rejoices for the believers’ sake (9).

11b. When we see the fruits of our labor, we ought to give thanks to God because it is He who gives the growth.

12a. He prays that he may see the believers’ face and perfect what is lacking in their faith (10).

12b. He prays night and day (continually) and exceedingly (most earnestly).

13. He hopes to help them grow in the faith.

14.     1. That God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ may direct their way to the believers (11).

          2. That the Lord may make the believers increase and abound in love to one another and to all (12).

          3. That the Lord may establish the believers’ hearts blameless in holiness before God at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints (13).

15. It is the Lord who makes us increase and abound in love, and it is He who establishes our hearts blameless in holiness before God. Thus, we must continue to put our faith in the Lord and ask Him to accomplish His good purpose in us.

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