How to Revive the Suffering – Part 1- Encourage them from their past
How to revive the suffering:
Encouragement from their past
Describe the suffering of the believers in Thessalonica:
- Jews, god-fearing proselytes and gentiles from the city who followed Paul
- Argued into questioning their new faith
- Fathers would disown repentant children
- Employers made life unbearable
- Friends implored them to stop following
- Society branded them as trouble makers
- Unbelieving spouses made life difficult
On top of this, they had the typical struggles of new converts
- The constant battle against old habits
- Yearning for righteousness
- Inevitable disappointments of failure
- The Lord leaves you under a trial
- Paul’s prayer to be delivered 2 Cor. 12:8-9
- Israel under foreign occupation – Canaanites and Philistines seen in book of Judges
Doctrine and application
- How do new converts not agonize to understand doctrine?
- Some fall into extremes and make life hard on themselves
This is the life of a believer – If anyone comes after me and does not take up his cross and follow me daily, he cannot be my disciple – This is the suffering they are called to endure.
The outcome is that Christians become discouraged and fearful.
- They become depressed.
- They are tempted to turn away from the Lord.
We know their struggles. You are familiar with many of the things I mentioned.
Young and mature Christians struggle with
- Other’s sin against them
- Personal sin
- Frustrations of a fallen world
- Temptations of Satan
And so, all Christians need encouragement.
- There are times in our walk with the Lord where we feel like a broken reed or a dimply burning wick.
- We feel worn out, and we need to be revived.
That's what Paul did for the Thessalonian believers in our text.
And that's what I pray to do for you over the next three Sundays.
From this text I will point to something in your past, something in your future and something in your present to encourage you to push on.
Now, I want to say this beforehand. 1 Cor. 10:13 indicates that the Lord does not always take away the source of your suffering, but with it, He gives you glory weights. These act like a counterbalance that outweighs your pain so that you may bear up under it.
These things I will point to are those glory weights.
Let's turn to the text to look to the first one of these coming from your past.
Glory weight from our Past
V3: Just like he did in the first letter, Paul begins this letter with thanksgiving. Only here he says: verse 3a
- The Greek for 'ought' or as some other translations have it – 'bound' – is literally "we are obliged/under obligation to give thanks to God".
- Now, Paul is not saying that his gratitude is out of obligation, but instead, he is acknowledging something significant.
- In 1Thess 1:2,5 Paul says: Read verse
Paul's gratitude acknowledges the Lord's work of grace in the lives of these believers.
And so, he says "I am obligated to give thanks to God for His work in you.
- And what is the work of God he saw in the believers? Read verse 3b
- An enlarged faith
- And an ever-growing love
An enlarged faith
2 Important facts =
- Faith = Believing God – Heb. 11:1
- We are blind, hardened sinners – Eph. 2:1, 3; 4:18
- It takes a miracle to make us see (This miracle is promised in the Gospel – John 9:39)
- The miracle that gives sight to the blind, hardened sinner (immoral or religious) = New Birth
- The effect of the New Birth = Persevering faith
Therefore, faith is a gift from God that He sustains
- John 6:44, 66-69 – See this kind of faith evidenced in the apostles
- Luke 22:31-32 Jesus intercedes to sustain this faith
An enlarged faith = An unfailing faith = A persevering faith
Persevering faith is evidence of God's work in believers
An ever-growing love
- Love is the heart of sanctification
- It is the substance of holiness
- It's the nature of the Godhead
- It is the fulfilment of the law
- The apostle John goes so far as to say that love is the evidence of salvation
- 1 John 3:10-14
As much as I am speaking to believers, I must talk to those who might be deceived. Many hear the word, but it has born no fruit in their lives. I say this on the authority of God's word, that if you don't love the children of God, you do not know God.
- 1 John 4:7-8
Perhaps your love of the world, your idolatry, will this day witness against your conscience. Maybe the crisis the world is in has unveiled your refuge. You trust money. You comfort yourself with drink. You fear death.
You must be forgiven. This is what you need, and this is what Christ promises. If you will call on Him today and confess your sin and believe in your heart that Jesus is the saviour sent from God, you will be saved.
An ever-growing love is evidence of salvation.
- What Paul was seeing was that the love they had for one another was increasingly evident through acts of love toward each other.
- They had a concern for each other and so they
- Wept with those who wept
- Rejoiced with those who rejoiced
- Prayed for each other
- Eagerly shared their possessions
- Carried each other's burdens
- Counselled one another
- Comforted each other
- Were being a community, a body of believers
That is why Paul feels an obligation to thank God because seeing the believers take care of each other is seeing God's saving work in them.
V4: In verse 4 Paul says because we see these things in you, we boast of you amongst other believers: Read verse 4a
- Now listen as he highlights the glory weight of your past: Read verse 4b
- Paul does not see perfection; he sees perseverance, and he attributes that to God
The fact that you have persevered in your love and your faith
And the fact that this has happened amid your sufferings
(Suffering = Cursed world – Broken/Frustrated relationships, Pain/sickness/Death/Loss, Fallen nature and temptations of Satan –)
Is evidence of God's work in you
This is the first glory weight that you need to place firmly on the other side of your pain
Your perseverance is evidence of your election
Your enlarged faith, your growing love and your enduring direction is evidence that God has called you.
Now, listen to these words:
Jn. 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
Jn. 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Phil. 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
The good shepherd will not break a bruised reed, and He will not extinguish a dimly burning wick. He loves the sheep. He loved you even when you were a sinner.
Take courage Christian; He is with you in the midst of your trial
He will never leave you, and He will never forsake you