“Expressing Deep Concern for Each Other”
1 Thessalonians 3:1-10
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of 1 Thessalonians 3.1-10
R.A. Torry, an evangelist, pastor and author of the 19th and 20th centuries tells of a story he calls A Deep Spiritual Concern for Your Soul
IN a small country town there was an atheist blacksmith. He was a hard-headed, well-read man, strong in argumentation. An old deacon in the town became deeply concerned in this atheist blacksmith and determined to lead him to Christ. He studied up as best he could all the atheist arguments and how to answer them. When he thought he had all the atheist arguments and answers at his fingertips, he called on the blacksmith and engaged him in conversation, but the blacksmith was far more than a match for him in argument and in a few moments had fought the old deacon to a standstill. The old deacon knew that he himself was right, but he could not prove it to the blacksmith. He burst into tears and said, “Well, I cannot argue with you, but I simply want to say, I have a deep spiritual concern for your soul,” and then left the shop.
The deacon made his way home and went in to his wife and said, “I am only a screw up in God’s work. God knows I am sincere and that I really do desire the salvation of the blacksmith but I could not argue with him. He laid me out cold in five minutes.” Then the deacon went into his own room by himself and knelt down. “Oh, God,” he cried, “I am only a screw up in Your work. You know that I sincerely desired to lead the blacksmith to You, but I could not talk with him. Oh, God, I am only a screw up in Your work.”
But soon after the deacon had left the blacksmith shop, the blacksmith went into his house and said to his wife, “That old deacon brought up an argument today that I never heard before. He said he had a deep spiritual concern for my soul. What did he mean?” His wife was a canny woman and said, “You had better go and ask him.” The blacksmith hung up his apron and went cross lots to the deacon’s home. Just as he stepped on the front porch, through the open window he heard that deacon’s prayer, “Oh, God, I am only a screw up in Your work. You know that I sincerely desired to lead the blacksmith to You, but I could not talk with him. Oh, God, I am only a screw up in Your work.” He pushed the door open and went into the room where the deacon was kneeling and said, “Deacon, you are no screw up in God’s work. I thought I knew all the arguments for Christianity and could answer them but you brought up an argument I never heard before. You said you had a deep spiritual concern for my soul. Won’t you pray for me?” and the blacksmith broke down and accepted Christ.
Torrey adds this note, “Real earnestness and love succeed where all argument fails.” Are you caring for souls this morning? Are you loving people? You might not know what to say, but do you have a deep concern for Christians and non Christians alike?
Turn to 1 Thessalonians 3. On this anniversary Sunday I like to speak to us from this passage on having deep concern for each other. Not just having that concern, but feeling it and expressing it as well. And the reason I picked this passage is that a couple of these verses are above my prayer bench in my office.
Paul is a great example of someone with deep concern and then acting on that concern.
STORY: Paul and his team visited Thessalonica in AD 49 or 50 during Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul and his team lead many to Christ. But opposition arose. Jewish opposition. They started a riot. Acts 17 tells us that they dragged Jason and others before the city leaders accusing them of defying Ceasar, which threw the city into an uproar. Paul and Silas are put in jail but under the cover of darkness were smuggled out of town.
Some of these Jews from Thessalonica followed Paul and Paul continued to the South to Athens. But Paul was anxious about what was going on back in Thessalonica.
The Christians in Thessalonica are experiencing deep trial. They are persecuted. And Paul is deeply concerned about them. He had to leave them, but his heart is with them. He’s deeply concerned for their spiritual state in the midst of this persecution. “Will they stand firm in the Lord?”
So what does Paul do? He himself is hindered from going to see the Thessalonians. And he doesn’t want to be alone in Athens. But his deep concern for themf and their spiritual well-being overrides his apprehension about being alone in Athens. So what does he do? He sends Timothy to see how they are doing and to strengthen them in the faith.
So Paul had been left alone in Athens. And Timothy goes to Thessalonica. And then Timothy returns to Paul. Timothy tells Paul, “Look, they have been faithful to the Lord in the midst of their persecution.”
And Paul is greatly comforted.
This is the story behind 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10. Let’s read this together.
1 Thessalonians 3:1–10 1 Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, 3 so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain. 6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, 7 for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; 8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. [And now these final 2 verses that reside above my prayer bench in my office as I pray for you … ] 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, 10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
How thankful Paul was that in the midst of their trials and temptations that his people remained faithful to the Lord. What thanks can we render? What words can truly express how our deep concern has turned into unspeakable joy because you have been faithful to the Lord?
This is the heart of a pastor for his people. And this should be our heart toward each other as well. So, I’d like to preach briefly on “Expressing Deep Concern for Each Other.”
First, we see Paul’s concern in his emotion. He’s burdened.
Paul’s concern is seen in his emotion. He’s burdened.
Paul’s emotion really comes through in this passage. His burden is quite clear. You can see in verses 1-5 that he’s burdened about how they are handling their trials.
A. Paul is burdened about how they are are handling their trial.
Notice the same phrase in verse one and in verse five. Paul writes “when we could endure it no longer.” In verse one when we could endure it no longer we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone. In other words, that Paul would be left alone. And in verse five when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith.
He couldn’t endure it any longer. The very thought about the fact that his people in Thessalonica were going through deep trial for their faith affected him. He was concerned greatly about whether they would remain faithful to the Lord or whether they would forsake the Lord.
But he’s burdened about them and their faith. He could endure it no longer. He had to know how they were doing in their trial.
And we also see Paul’s burdened emotion here in verse 3 when it says that his goal for sending Timothy was so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions. He didn’t want their faith to be disturbed by the trial. He deeply wanted them to continue on in the faith.
And so because of his deep concern for the Thessalonians, he warns them about their trials. He reminds them in verse 4 that he had told them that they would suffer affliction.
1 Thessalonians 3:4 4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.
Paul’s deep concern for them his burden for them is seen in these things. He couldn’t endure the fact that he didn’t know how they were handling the trial, he didn’t want their faith to be disturbed by the trial, and he also warned them about their trials.
ILL: And I feel this with Paul for you! Over these three short years pastoring, my heart has become more and more enlarged for you as I’ve seen some of you go through trials and difficulties. I know at least some of the deep concern that Paul felt for his people.
And we all should have similar concern for one another. As we pour our lives into each other and as we pray for one another and love one another, we’ll grow in our deep concern for one another.
Do you feel the deep concern that Paul’s talking about? I know many of us do. If you don’t, are you expressing love to others here? Are you praying for the other believer’s here? Catch the burden; carry it with God’s strength, and express deep concern for each other.
TRANS: For Paul, he knows that the Thessalonians’ trial… is directly…related…. to their faith. They are also experiencing temptation in their trial. Because of their persecution, he’s concerned that they may depart from the faith, leave the church, and prove themselves to be unsaved and heading for hell. This greatly moves him, as you could imagine! He’s spent all this time, energy, and concern on them and he wants to make sure that they press on for Christ!
So Paul is concerned about how they are handling their trial, but also how they are handling their temptation.
[say this … ]
B. He’s burdened about how they handle temptation (3:5)
a. He was afraid that Satan might have tempted them (3:5)
And Paul says explicitly in verse five that Satan can tempt them to leave the faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.
Paul wanted to make sure that Satan did not tempt them to leave the faith. Paul wanted to make sure that their hearts were not the rocky soil… that when they hear the word of the gospel they receive it with joy but because they don’t have any root in themselves they only believe for a while and then in the time of temptation, they fall away. Paul didn’t want this to be true for them.
And Satan does tempt. You remember in Acts chapter 5 when Satan tempted Ananias and Sopharia. Peter says, “that they lied to the Holy Spirit.”
In 1 Co. 7, Satan is said to be tempting married couples in certain situations. And let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. Paul teaches that Satan is active where there is a lack of forgiveness between people.
2 Corinthians 2:10–11 10 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 [So, Paul has forgiven them …why? Well, partly verse 11…] so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Paul was quick to forgive because he did not want Satan to take advantage of them. Satan is active where there is a lack of forgiveness between believers.
APP: Are you quick to forgive? Do you need to go to someone and ask for forgiveness or to express forgiveness?
Paul’s burdened about how they handle temptation. And he was particularly concerned that Satan might have tempted them to leave the faith.
Now, you may not be experiencing persecution to the degree that you are considering leaving the faith. But you may be experiencing other temptations. Do you allow others to express their deep concern for you? And do you know people in our assembly who have specific temptations right now? Are you expressing concern for them? Are you helping them? Can you get out the Word of God with them to encourage them? Can you pray with them? Yes you can!
This is the kind of care that we need to have towards one another.
So Paul’s burdened about how they handle temptation. He’s been afraid that Satan might have tempted them. He is also afraid that … his labor might have been in vain. that … his labor might have been in vain.
You see this at the end of verse five. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.
He’s afraid his labor might be in vain. In other words, he’s afraid that the work that he has put into their hearts might turn out to be empty and they might not be saved.
He’s preached to them in many ways that Jesus is the Christ. God has fulfilled many promises for the coming Messiah in him. Told them of the burden of Christ and how he took upon himself the sin of the world to go to that cursed tree to be crucified there… Paul explained to them how Jesus took upon himself all of the wrath of God… And then gloriously that third day was raised from the dead.
Paul had called upon them… As I call upon you… You know your wicked ways, but do you grieve over your sin? Do you have any idea what it is to be grieved over your sin?
ILL: This is illustrated in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian and Faithful meet up with one named Talkative. He is one who talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk … he does not separate himself from his sin.
Faithful asks Talkative, “How does the saving grace of God display itself when it lives in the heart of man?” And Talkative…who just likes to talk…says, “First, when the grace of God dwells in the heart, it causes a great outcry against sin.”
And Faithful says “No…not just the crying out or the talking against sin, but it’s the abhoring of sin. A hatred of your own sin.” Do you hate your own sin this morning or are you just talkative against sin?
Just being aware of your sin and even talking against sin in general doesn’t make you someone who’s on his way to the Celestial city.
!!!! Only when you know yourself to be lost … oh, could you imagine the eternal declaration… “Lost! Forever Lost! I never knew you, says the Lord!”
Call upon the Lord; beseech the Lord of the harvest that he would harvest your soul unto eternal life!
And Paul, like others in your life, have toiled to preach Christ to you, to preach repentance to you …and to see them … did they “only accept Jesus into their hearts” but they were never really converted by the power of Christ? Never truly born again?
There is a Christian labor among people that’s empty. Don’t you be counted among that number.
EXP and APP: During trials, you can either run from God or leave the faith all together. Paul is concerned that some of Thessalonians not leave the faith all together. Are you concerned about others? When you know someone is going through a trial, does it trouble you? Do you get concerned for their faith; that they remain faithful to God?
Will you sacrifice for them?
B. Paul’s concern is seen in his sacrifice. He actively cares.
Paul’s concern is seen also in his sacrifice. He actively cares.
For Paul, to actively care for the Thessalonians in their time of deepest need, it meant that Paul had to sacrifice. Verse one tells us that Paul had to be left alone in Athens. He sent Timothy to the Thessalonians. And here Paul is by himself with no Christian fellowship in this pagan city.
You can tell Paul is sacrificing by the way he describes Timothy in verse two. He sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith.
Paul made a great sacrifice by sending Timothy. And he sent Timothy for two reasons. Number one in verse two as we read, he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them as to their faith. And he also sent them verse five to find out about their faith. To learn the condition of their faith.
Paul cared enough about those Thessalonians to deprive himself so that they would be spiritually encouraged. He sacrificed his own needs for the needs of others.
I don’t know about you, but I need to learn this more more. I like my creature comforts too much; it’s tempting sometimes to see people in spiritual need and say, “I’m
done; I can’t take it any more!” But shouldn’t I sacrifice?
What about you? Are you sacrificing? Do you see people in need? Do you talk with them? When you get with them, do you encourage them spiritually?
When we meet with people who are in need, we must encourage them spiritually. And you will begin to do that as you spend more and more time with Jesus. Are you spending time with him to be equipped by him to sacrificially help others?
TRANS: We’ve seen Paul’s deep concern when he described his burden for the Thessalonians… We’ve seen Paul’s concern in how he sacrificially helped the Thessalonians. And now we’ll see Paul’s care in his joy when there’s good news about their faith.
Timothy has now returned as Paul is writing this letter to them.
And you can just picture it: Paul in great grief and perhaps even anxiety or worry, sends Timothy to the Thessalonians out of his deep concern for them. And he is gone for a long time. And now one day as Paul looks off in the distance, he sees Timothy coming! …. And Paul’s stomach is in a knot as he runs to Timothy to hear the news … “Have they stood firm? Are they trusting in the Lord? Or have they caved into the pressures from this life?”
And Timothy responds … Verse six 1 Thessalonians 3:6 6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you,
Yes, they’ve stood firm!
They have faith and love for the Lord Jesus. No they didn’t just believe for a while and in time of trial, turn away from the Lord. No they have pressed on and kept on trusting in the Lord Jesus proving they have been saved. They are affectionate towards Paul as well. Paul says part of Timothy’s news was that they were thinking kindly of him and they also long to see Paul again.
Timothy brought Paul this great news …
TRANS: Now, Paul responds to this news. Verses 7-9…first, verses 7-8…
2. Paul’s response to this news – 1Th 3:7-9
a. Comforted in his own affliction and distress by their faith
b. Made to really live by their steadfastness
c. Rejoicing with thankfulness for their condition before God
1 Thessalonians 3:7–8 7 for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; 8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account,
Verse seven … even when Paul experienced great distress and affliction during this time when Timothy arrived, Paul was very much comforted because of their faith. They… verse eight … stood firm in the Lord. Paul is made to really live because they are standing firm in the Lord. They’re walk with God is his life! For Paul, to really live, is for them to stand firm in the Lord. This is his greatest joy.
And you can see his thankful joyous response in verse nine because they are standing firm in the Lord in the midst of trial and temptation … Because they’re standing firm in the Lord trusting in him and time of trial temptation, Verse 9,…
1 Thessalonians 3:9 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account,
I will say this morning, for many of us here this morning I am very thankful and comforted by your faith and love for the Lord Jesus. It is a joy to minister among you.
I want to see us continue to grow in our longing to see one another. A longing to be with your pastor and the pastor longing to be with his people… When you haven’t seen some of God’s people here for some time, does your heart go out to them? Do you miss them? Do you long to see them?
Do you rejoice when believers, although they are going through trial and temptation, but they have remained faithful to the Lord? I am comforted, even if I’m going through a hard time, knowing that you are walking with God.
ILL: Someone asked me once what they could do as someone in the church to be a blessing to me. I said, “Live with God. Your walk with God is what will be the greatest of blessings to me…and so digest His word, live His word; every passage. Pray over God’s words. Seek to meld your being with the life flow of Scripture. Become one with the Bible: know it, speak it, live it, breathe it and even bleed it, if you have to!”
I really live when you are steadfast in the Lord. You know, I take my work home with me. I think about you when I exercise, my wife and I talk about how you are doing.
And I thank you for your support, all your encouragements and care. There is no greater joy, like John said, than to know that my children are walking in the truth.
TRANS: Finally this morning…Paul’s concern is seen in his prayers…
1 Thessalonians 3:9–13 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, 10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13 so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Notice how Paul describes his praying. Praying night and day. That is praying throughout the day praying in the night praying in the day whenever he’s praying, he is praying for these people. It’s no wonder that he is verse 10 praying most earnestly… And for what? To see their face. And secondly he’s praying that when he does see their face, he’s praying that he may complete what is lacking in their faith.
ILL: they want to see each other. And Paul wants to complete what is lacking in their faith … this is a very affectionate thing…he longs for them with a pastor’s heart …
I know over these past three years I have grown. I’ve grown as a pastor. I’ve grown in this desire most recently to see you people more face-to-face. I see more now the importance of doing that so that I may complete what is lacking in your faith. I used to think that the vast majority of ministry could be done from the pulpit … but I see now that much of ministry happens when we see each other face to face and talk of spiritual things.
And you may not like the fact that there could be something lacking in your faith. But we all have something lacking, don’t we? We’ve been doing a discipleship series on Thursday nights, which really I think will eventually define our ministry. And the applications for myself I see is this very thing face-to-face one-on-one ministry with you. And God is working in me the willing and the doing of His good pleasure on this.
As Paul writes those words, his heart is enlarged and his joy is extended, his hearts desire is greatly increased when he writes that …he has great joy, thanksgiving, and is praying earnestly for them to see them and to complete what is lacking…it’s no shame to lack; be willing to be made complete. Are you willing to be made complete?
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of 1 Thessalonians 3.1-10
Hymnwriter Fanny Crosby, though blind, she loved to visit rescue missions. One night she was casually discussing things with some men at the mission. She says, “I made a pressing plea. That if there was a boy present who had wandered from his mother’s home and teaching he should come to me after the service. A young man of 18 came forward and said, “did you mean me?” I have promised my mother to meet her in heaven; but the way I am now living that will be impossible.” We prayed for him; he finally arose with a new light in his eyes; and exclaimed triumphantly, “Now, I can meet mother in heaven; for I have found her God.”
A few days before, Mr. Doane had sent me the subject “Rescue the Perishing,” and while I sat there that evening the line came to me Fanny Crosby says … “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying.”
And as Providence would have it, this blind lady Fanny Crosby is once again speaking and this time at the YMCA in Lynn, Massachusetts 35 years later. And she told that same story that I just told you about her penning of the hymn “Rescue the Perishing.” And after the meeting a large number of men came by to shake her hand and one of the men, to her surprise, was that same boy, now a man. And he said, “Miss Crosby, I was the boy, who told you more than thirty-five years ago that I had wandered from my mother’s God. The evening that you spoke at the mission I sought and found peace, and I have tried to live a consistent Christian life ever since. If we never meet again on earth, we will meet up yonder.” As he said this, he raised my hand to his lips; and before I had recovered from my surprise he had gone; and remains to this day a nameless friend, who touched a deep chord of sympathy in my heart.
Miss Crosby had deep concern…Paul had deep concern … do you have that deep concern for others? Spend time with Jesus to get it … Let’s sing that song, Rescue the Perishing … it’s number 570.