The Christian’s Hope, part 7

In this week’s message, MAKING OUR JOY COMPLETE (1 Thes. 3:6-13), we saw Paul’s response to Timothy’s report and his prayer for the believers there in Thessalonica.

Paul had sent Timothy to strengthen the Christians there as he was deeply concerned about their “faith” (1 Thes. 3:5). Timothy returned with “good news” that the church there was keeping their eyes on Jesus even though they had lost loved ones around them in the intense persecution they faced from the enemy (1 Thes. 2:18; 3:5-6; 4:13-14; Heb. 12:1-3, etc.). The Christians there were walking in the “faith” as evidenced by their “love” which was demonstrated by their desire to see Paul and his companions again (1 Thes. 1:3; 3:6; Gal. 5:22, etc.). Paul and his missionary team also had been under great “affliction and distress,” and they were anxious about the condition of the church there (1 Thes. 3:5, 7a). This “good news” (literally glad tidings- the same words used to describe the Gospel of our salvation) comforted Paul and strengthened his own faith in his walk with God- bringing “new life” to his aging body (1 Thes. 3:7; 1 Thes. 3:8 NLT). Paul was so overwhelmed he did not have words with which to express “all the joy” he felt in that moment as he praised God (1 Thes. 3:9). It was joy unspeakable, a present-day taste of his “crown of rejoicing” (1 Thes. 2:19-20; Heb. 11:1; 12:28-29; Titus 2:11-13, etc.).

Paul knew it was possible for the Christians there to cave into the pressure from the culture around them (i.e. “… we live, IF you stand fast in the Lord”), so he made every effort to strengthen their walk with God (1 Thes. 3:8). Immediately after Timothy arrived to him at Corinth sharing this good report (i.e. “But now…”), he began writing God’s Word, the book of 1 Thessalonians, to send back to them to encourage them more (1 Thes. 3:6a; Acts 18:5). The Bible is food to nourish us (Matt. 4:4); a light to guide our path (Ps. 119:105); and a weapon to defend us (Eph. 6:17) as it strengthens us in the faith (Rom. 10:17; John 14:21; Heb. 11:6, etc.). “Every major doctrine of the faith is touched upon in [the book of 1 Thessalonians]” -Dr. Wiersbe. Paul made sure the Christians there had God’s Word to establish and strengthen them in the faith so they could endure the storms of life.

Not only did Paul send a comforter (Timothy) to strengthen the Christians’ faith there, as well as God’s Holy Word, but he prayed “night and day” to this end as well (1 Thes. 3:10). Paul longed, out of love, to see their faces again so he could “perfect what was lacking in [their] faith” (1 Thes. 3:10b). Perfect (Grk. katartízō) means to fit a thing for its full purpose (Eph. 2:10; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 13:21; 1 Pet. 5:10; Titus 2:14, etc.). This perfecting/growing faith is to be manifested in God’s holy “love” and Paul, likewise prayed they would “increase and abound [that is overflow] in love to [#1] one another and [#2] to all” (1 Thes. 3:12; Rom. 12:9; Isa. 6:3; Gal. 6:10; Rom. 5:8; Luke 23:34; 1 John 4:19, etc.). Growing or being strengthened in our faith keeps us, as God’s children, safe from falling “from [our] firm grasp on the truth” so we can have “confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (2 Pet. 3:17-18 NET; 1 John 2:28; 2 Pet. 1:5-10; 1 Cor. 10:12, etc.). It also helps us to experience His joy today- making our “JOY… COMPLETE” (John 15:11 NET; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:18; 1 Thes. 2:19-20, etc.).

Paul continues this line of thought as he asks God to strengthen their faith so they “would be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 3:13). “The judgment seat of Christ” is in view here again as every chapter in the book of 1 Thessalonians ends with the return of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:9-10, etc.). When properly taught and taken to heart the return of Christ motivates us to live a holy life (Titus 2:11-13; 1 John 3:2-3, etc.). That is, it strengthens our faith- sanctifying us to make us more like Jesus (John 17:17, etc.). To this, God’s Word will turn next week in the book of 1 Thessalonians…