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1 Thessalonians 3

Barclay's Daily Study BibleDaily Study Bible

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Verses 1-13

Chapter 3

THE PASTOR AND HIS FLOCK ( 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10 )

3:1-10 So, when we could not stand it any longer, we made up our minds to be left all alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy our brother and God's servant in the good news of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, to see that none of you is beguiled into leaving the faith because of these afflictions, for you yourselves know that that is the very work that God has appointed us to do. For, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we Christians always suffer for our faith--as indeed it has turned out as you well know. So then, no longer able to stand it, I sent to find out how your faith is doing, in case the tempter had put you to the test and our labour should turn out to be all for nothing. But now that Timothy has come back to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love, and has told us that you always think kindly of us and that you always yearn to see us--just as we yearn to see you--because of this we have been encouraged, brothers, by you through your faith in all our straits and in all our afflictions, and because now life for us is indeed worth living if you stand fast in the Lord, what thanks can we return to God for you for all the joy with which we rejoice because of you before God, while night and day we keep on praying with all the intensity of our hearts to see your face and to fill up the gaps in your faith?

In this passage there breathes the very essence of the spirit of the pastor.

(i) There is affection. We can never affect or win people unless we begin, quite simply, by liking them. It was Carlyle who said of London, "There are three and a half million people in this city--mostly fools!" The man who begins by despising men or by disliking them can never go on to save them.

(ii) There is anxiety. When a man has put the best of himself into anything, when he has launched anything from a liner to a pamphlet, he is anxious until he knows how the work of his hands and of his brain will weather the storms. If that is true of things, it is still more poignantly true of people. When a parent has trained a child with love and sacrifice, he is anxious when that child is launched out on the difficulties and dangers of life in the world. When a teacher has taught a child and put something of himself into that teaching, he is anxious to see how that training will stand the test of life. When a minister has received a young person into the Church, after years of training in Sunday School and in Bible Class and latterly in the First Communicants' Class, in confirmation class, he is anxious to know how he will fulfil the duties and the obligations of Church membership. Supremely it is so with Jesus Christ. He staked so much on men and loved them with such a sacrificial love that he anxiously watches and waits to see how they will use that love. A man must stand awed and humbled when he remembers how in earth and in heaven there are those who are bearing him on their hearts and watching how he fares.

(iii) There is help. When Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica it was not nearly so much to inspect the Church there as it was to help it. It should be the great aim of every parent, every teacher and every preacher, not so much to criticize and condemn those in his charge for their faults and mistakes but to save them from these faults and mistakes. The Christian attitude to the sinner and the struggler must never be that of condemnation but always that of help.

(iv) There is joy. Paul was glad that his converts were standing fast. He had the joy of one who had created something which would stand the tests of time. There is no joy like that of the parent who can point to a child who has done well.

(v) There is prayer. Paul carried his people on his heart to God's mercy seat. We will never know from how much sin we have been saved and how much temptation we have conquered all because someone prayed for us. It is told that once a servant-girl became a member of a Church. She was asked what Christian work she did. She said that she had not the opportunity to do much because her duties were so constant but, she said, "When I go to bed I take the morning newspaper to my bed with me; and I read the notices of the births and I pray for all the little babies; and I read the notices of marriage and I pray that those who have been married may be happy; and I read the announcements of death and I pray that the sorrowing may be comforted." No man can ever tell what tides of grace flowed from her attic bedroom. When we can serve people no other way, when, like Paul, we are unwillingly separated from them, there is one thing we can still do--we can pray for them.

ALL IS OF GOD ( 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 )

3:11-13 May he who is our God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ direct our way to you. May the Lord increase you and make you to abound in love to each other and to all men, even as we do towards you, in order that he may strengthen your hearts so that you may be blameless in holiness before the God who is our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

It is in a simple passage like this that the instinctive turn of Paul's mind is best seen. For him everything was of God.

(i) He prays to God to open a way for him whereby he may come to Thessalonica. It was to God that he turned for guidance in the ordinary day to day problems of life. One of the great mistakes of life is to turn to God only in the overpowering emergencies and the shattering crises.

I remember once talking to three young men who had just completed a yachting expedition up the west coast of Scotland. One said to me, "You know, when we are at home we hardly ever listen to the weather forecasts, but when we were on that yacht we listened to them with all our ears." It is quite possible to do without the weather forecasts when life is comfortably safe; it is essential to listen when life might depend on them.

We are apt to try to do the same with God. In ordinary things we disregard him, thinking that we can manage well enough by ourselves; in the emergency we clutch at him, knowing that we cannot get through without him. It was not so with Paul. Even in an ordinary routine thing like a journey from Athens to Thessalonica it was to God that he looked for guidance. We use him to try to achieve a God-rescued life; Paul companied with him to achieve a God-directed life.

(ii) He prays to God that he will enable the Thessalonians to fulfil the law of love in their daily lives. We often wonder why the Christian life is so difficult, especially in the ordinary everyday relationships. The answer may very well be that we are trying to live it by ourselves. The man who goes out in the morning without prayer is, in effect, saying, "I can quite well tackle today on my own." The man who lays himself to rest without speaking to God, is, in effect, saying, "I can bear on my own whatever consequences today has brought." John Buchan once described an atheist as "a man who has no invisible means of support." It may well be that our failure to live the Christian life well is due to our trying to live it without the help of God--which is an impossible assignment.

(iii) Paul prays to God for the ultimate safety. At this time his mind was full of thoughts of the Second Coming of Christ when men would stand before the judgment seat of God. It was his prayer that God would so preserve his people in righteousness that on that day they would not be ashamed. The only way to prepare to meet God is to live daily with him. The shock of that day will be not for those who have so lived that they have become God's friends but for those who meet him as a terrible stranger.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.