and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith…. (
Life is full of difficulties and disappointments. Being a child of God does not immunize us from those—it can even increase them! It is just that we have resources that those who do not know Christ cannot access. Jesus gave this balance of truth in
John 16:33, “In the
world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the
world.” Paul echoes this in 1 Thessalonians 3, as he speaks of
the need to be established and encouraged.
Since tribulation is coming, we need to be established, yet, since
Christ has promised ultimate victory, we can be encouraged.
Paul says that we can be established and encouraged with PURPOSE (v.1-4). The word, “therefore,” connects this passage with the previous verses where the Apostle expressed his disappointment that he had not been able to come see the Thessalonian Christians (2:17). He lays the difficulty on Satanic opposition, even as he exults in the prospects of Christ’s triumphant return, and that all God’s saints will be safely home (2:18-20). Yes, some battles are lost, but the war will be won! Paul is driven by this great purpose—investing his life in the cause of Christ, pressing on, established and encouraged himself as he sought to share that same foundation and fortifying of faith and love with others. When Paul got up every morning, he knew God’s purpose for his life, and plowed ahead. If he hit a stump, he plowed around it, but there would be no turning back. That is the tenacity of faith and power of love that is grounded and growing in God’s purpose.
The Apostle shows that we can be established and encouraged through PARTNERSHIP (v.5-8). Timothy was a partner in ministry—an extension of Paul’s labor. He went where the Apostle could not and did what Paul had been unable to do. We need support to shore up our faith and to spur us on in growth in love, even as we provide this to others. None of us can face the challenges of life alone—and we need not. That is why God designed the church—an army to fight side by side in His cause. One soldier may fall easily, but joined with others, he or she are established. Trying to charge into enemy fire by yourself is impossible, but not if a host of troops are moving forward with you—that encourages us to take that hill.
Next, Paul shares that we can be established and encouraged by PRAYER (v.9-13). He prays for them to be grounded in faith and growing in love. He rejoices in the possibility. Paul longs to be with them and engage in personal ministry, but until then there are no boundaries of time and space to his intercession on their behalf. Not only can he pray for them, but, in his example, he lets us know that this is vital to being established and encouraged ourselves. There is no better way to be established than on standing before the Almighty God and pouring out our soul to Him in prayer, and then receiving the encouragement of the Holy Spirit enveloping us and infilling us as we meet with Him. In
Ephesians 6, where Paul teaches
about spiritual warfare, calling on us to stand wearing God’s armor, he
concludes with a challenge to pray. That
is where victories are won!