Faith Completes Its Work: Nuts & Bolts

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Background
1 Thessalonians 2:17 – 3:13 reveals Paul's address to the Thessalonians. Prior to Paul's address, the city officials evicted Paul and Silas from Thessalonica, due to their proclamation of Jesus being the Messiah. Paul now narrates their desire to return to Thessalonica. However, due to hardships by Satan, they could not return. Despite these hardships, he addresses his continual concern for the church. In Thess 3:5, Paul identifies his fear that the tempter might tempt them beyond their faith. The outcome of their lack of faith would render Paul's and Silas' labor in proclaiming the gospel in vain. However, after sending Timothy to them and Timothy reporting about their faith, Paul receives relief and comfort. His comfort occurs despite all of their distress and affliction. Paul discloses this portion of the narrative with thanksgiving, joy, and prayer in regard to their faith. His closing statements represent relief from his previous concerns about them.
Context
I experienced a situation, where I determined that my friend was going in the wrong direction. I knew she was doing things to cause herself more harm. She sacrificed all that she had to pursue her education. I knew that becoming homeless to complete school was not in her best interest. Therefore, I allowed her to stay with me to get back on her feet.I hoped that the sacrifices I made for her would inspire her to do the same for herself. Over time, it became daunting to become financial responsibility for two people. Eventually, my lease came to an end. I was glad, because I knew that I would no longer have to carry her burdens. She wanted her education and I could not understand the sacrifices she made for it. It was not until years later, when I realized that her culture placed high demands on education. Her response revealed normal practice as education signified success.

 

Unlike my experiences, Paul did not consider himself, when he made sacrifices for the Thessalonians. He sacrificed for their betterment, despite his personal treatment. He faced fierce attacks by Satan. In verse 18, Paul explains that Satan hindered his return. Throughout Paul’s declaration to the church, he emphasizes Satan’s affliction by repeating the word, affliction. He also emphasizes being the recipient of such affliction, by repeating the word, endured. In fact, Paul endures Satan's afflictions or "distress brought about by outward circumstances". The verb, endure means "an activity or state, which blocks entry from without or exit from within". In this particular case, Paul battles to block Satan's outward schemes. More importantly, he wants to block Satan's schemes to destroy the Thessalonians' faith.

Purpose
Satan desires to destroy, by inflicting sinful desires upon the Thessalonians. On the contrary, Paul desires to strengthen and encourage their faith. In verse 17, Paul indicates his longing to return to Thessalonica. The term, great-longing is translated only two times, 1 Thess 2:17 and Phil 1:23 with positive connotations. The remainder occurrences depict negative connotations. Paul uses this term to reflect the root in man's sinful actions or simply man's disobedience to the command. Therefore, Paul's longing compares to man's longing for items outside the will of God. He possesses the same intense desire, but rather for the benefit and betterment of the Thessalonians. The betterment of the Thessalonians occurs by their faith in Christ. Their faith represents their "trust, confidence, and piety" in Christ. In this faith, they are present at the Lord's coming and in the Lord's presence at his coming. To ensure the Thessalonians' faith in this manner, Paul sends Timothy to strengthen and encourage them. Paul's longing prompts his action to ensure the betterment of the Thessalonians' faith.
Application
We all possess moments, where we sacrificed to ensure the betterment of our friends. We may have sacrificed sleep, money, comfortability, time, and other relationships for the well-being of our friends. Paul does the same for the Thessalonians. He endures Satan’s afflictions as he attempts to visit the Thessalonians. His desire to visit includes the preservation of their faith. One can surmise that his concern for the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonians parallels to God’s desire for humankind to possess faith that places them in the presence of the Lord at his coming. Paul’s actions provide a roadmap for today’s Christians and their interactions with one another. 1 Thess 3:12 indicates Paul's actions prompted by love. In love, Christians possess the call to ensure the spiritual well-being of one another. This safeguard occurs by strengthening, encouraging, revealing the tactics of Satan’s schemes, blocking Satan’s schemes, praying, and rejoicing over one another. Contrary to these actions are the actions of Satan. He too understands the value of Christians’ faith and set before them afflictions to deter their faith. However, his tactics can be thwarted. The Thessalonians remaining faithful, despite Paul’s absence, reveals God’s power to sustain those who believe in him. Verse 13 indicates that as God sustains or directs Christians, their hearts can be established without blame in holiness before God at the coming of Christ. Therefore, what an incredible promise bestowed upon believers, when we mimic the example of Paul in strengthening and encouraging others' faith.