LINK: 1 Thessalonians 1
Paul and Timothy and Silas (Silvanus) had spent about three weeks in Thessalonica, teaching as usual in the Jewish synagogue. A large number of people believed. That angered the Jews, who stirred up some mob violence. Paul and his friends had to get out of town quickly! You can reread the story in Acts 17.
A few years later Paul sent Timothy to check up on the believers in Thessolonica and this letter is a result of Timothy's report to Paul (1 Thess. 3: 5-8). It is one of the first letters of Paul, written in about 51 A.D., less than twenty years after Jesus' death and resurrection. So it gives us a good picture of the concerns of the very early church.
Timothy reported to Paul that the Thessalonians' faith and love were strong. But since Paul's visit several of them had died and they were confused. They had expected Jesus to return before that. What would happen to those who had already died when Jesus came back? Also, the persecution wasn't letting up. It was hard to be a Christ follower. How should they live?
Paul addresses these questions in this letter. The second coming of Christ is mentioned in every chapter. He tells them how to live in the meantime and in the midst of persecution. I hope you'll notice as you read this book the love and tenderness with which Paul speaks to these believers.
This first chapter is full of encouragement for the Thessalonians who are full of doubt and discouragement about themselves. They'd believed the gospel, but life was harder than ever. They were being persecuted. Paul here makes clear that the message he brought them was true and powerful. He reminds them that he saw evidence of their faith: they received the message with joy, in spite of severe suffering. He tells them that others talked about the Thessalonians' faith - how they turned away from idols to worship the "true and living God."
The part I want to focus on is in verses 2-3. "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV)
Paul reminds them of what he's seen in them. Look at how he makes clear that their work, labor, and steadfastness are the result of the faith, love, and hope they received in the Lord Jesus. It is because of their faith in the Lord that they work; it is because they love the Lord that they labor, and they are able to remain steadfast and faithful because they have hope in the Lord.
Paul goes on, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you..." What an encouraging statement - one filled with love. Paul calls them his brothers. He tells them that they are loved by God, that they are chosen by Him. From the very beginning of this letter, Paul wants them to understand that suffering isn't a sign that they aren't loved. He points them to Jesus' return.
And the letter just gets better, so keep reading!
Is there someone that you can encourage in the Lord? Learn from Paul.
If you are discouraged , this book is a good one to read and ponder.
Father, I thank you for my brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to trust you in the midst of persecution. I ask that your Holy Spirit will encourage them. Give them steadfast hearts. Help them to know that you love them and enable them to keep on serving you in hope. In Jesus dear name, Amen.