Verses: 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – 3:13
Leading Question: When is it safe to imitate other believers?
1. The Judean Example (1 Thess. 2:13-16). Paul commends the Thessalonians for “imitating” the churches in Judea. And his specific point of comparison focuses on suffering in persecution. That raises two practical questions for us today:
a) Is persecution inevitable for everyone? For some, the fear of the future can be so debilitating that they simply cannot function. Writing to Timothy, Paul says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12, NIV11). Such comments seem to have been written to those who have already suffered persecution or who are currently being persecuted.
b) Should the focus of our thinking be on the evil or on the good? Would it not be better to focus on the good, as listed in Philippians 4:8, for example: the “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – the excellent and praiseworthy” (NIV) – or the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (NRSV). Why talk about persecution?
2. Paul’s hope and joy (1 Thess. 2:17-20). As Paul continues his letter, his passionate longing for the believers is remarkable. He longs for personal contact, not just electronic contact through Twitter and Facebook. The May 2012 issue of The Atlantic contains an article with the title: “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” The editorial blurb to the article by Stephen Marche states that in spite of all our connectivity, “research suggests that we have never been lonelier.” Paul didn’t have electronic media. How could he show genuine passion? Can we learn from him?
3. Timothy the substitute visitor (1 Thess. 3:1-5). Paul makes the case for sending Timothy in his place. Is he convincing? Under what circumstances can a substitute to helpful today?
4. Paul’s prayer life and ours (1 Thess. 3:10). Paul declares that he prays for the Thessalonians “night and day,” and he uses the first person plural. Why is communal prayer such a challenge for those who share Paul’s vision and passion today? How can we recover a vibrant prayer life?
5. More prayers (1 Thess. 3:11-13). Paul prayer has a three-fold focus. First, he prays that God will open the way for him to come to them; second he prays that they will care for each other; third, he prays that they will be blameless before God. Is it possible to be blameless before God without being wholehearted in our demonstration of love for each other?