In Sunday’s message, ESTABLISHING OUR FAITH (1 Thes. 3:1-5), we continued to look at Paul’s enormous burden for the church in Thessalonica that was ‘under fire’ by “Satan” as they stood for Christ (1 Thes. 2:18; 2 Cor. 11:28, etc.).

When Paul “could no longer endure it,” he and Silas “sent Timothy” back to the believers there to “ESTABLISH… [their] FAITH” (1 Thes. 3:1-2). Paul and Silas, after heading the missionary outreach in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4), were not able to return, but their younger “brother… minister, and fellow laborer” Timothy was the perfect man for the job as he was able to sneak back ‘under the radar’ of the authorities there with the “comfort [parakaléō] of God” (1 Thes. 3:2 KJV; John 14:26 KJV, etc.). We are all called to strengthen one another in the faith, but this is especially true in times of trouble (Acts 4:36; 9:27; 2 Cor. 1:4; Heb. 10:23-25, etc.).

The word “afflictions” in verse 3 of our text means ‘tribulations, persecutions or trouble’ in the Greek, and it can literally be translated simply as PRESSURE- suffocating unrelenting pressure resulting in anguish beyond human strength to bear (1 Thes. 3:3; 2 Cor. 1:8, etc.). Scripture identifies evil or sin in our world as a “mystery” (2 Thes. 2:7), and, if we are honest, it is something we will not fully understand on this side of heaven. But we can trust that GOD IS GOOD (1 Cor. 14:33, etc.) and also that HE IS SOVEREIGN over all- working even the bad things out in the lives of His children for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:6-14, etc.).

To help us better understand this “mystery” of evil, the Bible does show us it comes upon all people, regardless of their religion, ethnic group or economic status because of the Fall of man (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19; Matt. 5:45; Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-3; Rom. 5:12; 8:22, etc.). That is also why we all need a Savior (Rom 3:10, 23; John 3:16, etc.). In addition to this, Scripture tells us all people can suffer personally for going against their God-given conscience as well as good laws established by nations that are designed to hold back evil in our world as well as other things… (Gen. 4:6-7; Rom. 2:14-16; John 8:9; Gal. 3:19; Acts 4:29, etc.). Christians too are promised certain discipline from God (either now or at the judgment seat of Christ) if we walk in our own ways refusing to confess personal sin (1 John 1:9; 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:15; Heb. 5:5-11; 1 John 5:16-17; James 5:19-20, etc.). BUT the suffering of believers in Thessalonica had nothing to do with this! They suffered because they sought to live for Jesus with all their heart! (1 Pet. 4:16; Phil. 1:29; 2:12-13, etc.). The Word shows us without reservation their “afflictions” came from the enemy of their soul- “the tempter” (AKA Satan) who had turned up the heat in their lives through open persecution in his desperate attempt to take their eyes of off Jesus (Gen. 3:1; Job 1:9-12; 1 Thes. 3:3-5, etc.).

Paul reminded them through Timothy and later through God’s Word that Christians who “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus” are “appointed to this” (2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Thes. 3:3, etc.). “To the extent” (Grk. kathó- ‘precisely as, in proportion as… inasmuch as’) we identify ourselves openly with our Savior, walking in the Spirit, resistance can come from the enemy (1 Pet. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:12, etc.). Paul had “told” them this (the imperfect present tense here means ‘repeatedly’) when he was with them, so that they “should not be shaken by these” “fiery trial[s]… as though some strange thing [had] happened” to them (1 Thes. 3:4; 1 Pet. 4:12, etc.)

The Thessalonians had been born into God’s family by grace through faith forever at the moment they trusted in the Gospel (1 Thes. 1:6-10; Eph. 2:8-9; John 1:12-13; Eph. 1:13, etc.), but how was their present-day faith doing? (i.e. Paul writes, “I sent to know of your faith” 1 Thes. 3:1, 5a; Eph. 4:30, etc.). The “tempter” seeks to ruin our faith by taking our eyes off of Jesus by any means available to include open persecution (1 Thes. 3:5; Gen. 3:1; Job 2:4-10; John 10:10, etc.). When Jesus walked the planet during His First Coming, He was concerned about faith and in spite of what we might think He even rebuked His disciples when they showed “little faith” (Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8, etc.). Christ knows our frame, but He also wants us to grow (… He wants us, as Paul did, to be ESTABLISHED in our FAITH today so we can weather the storms of life regardless of their source- 1 Thes. 3:2, 5a; Rom. 8:3-4; 10:17; 12:3; James 1:22-25, etc.). Jesus is the author (pioneer/source) and finisher (completer) of our faith (Heb. 12:1-3; Phil. 1:6, etc.). It is possible for a Christian to act faithlessly in this life through sin and unbelief making his or her life “vain” or empty in a present-day sense (1 Thes. 3:5b; Gal. 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:12; 1 Cor. 3:15; Heb. 11:6, etc.), but our Lord is always faithful and He will not let any of His children go (2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 13:5; Rom. 8:31-39, etc.). One day our faith will be made sight and we will know just as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12, etc.). Until that Day, may we “walk by faith” so we can “resist [the devil] steadfast in” it today (Heb. 10:25; 2 Cor. 5:7; 1 John 5:4; Eph. 6:10; Gal. 2:20; 1 Pet. 5:8-10; 1 Thes. 5:18; Rom. 8:30; Rev. 21:4; 1 Thes. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:12, etc.).