Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Sustained Through Encouragement” International Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 20, 2010

Purpose: To consider the ways in which believers encourage one another in their commitment to God.

Scripture Text: 1 Thessalonians 3 (NRSV)

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
(1)Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; (2)and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, (3)so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. (4)In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. (5)For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

(6) But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. (7)For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith.(8)For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. (9)How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? (10)Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

(11) Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. (12)And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. (13)And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

There is an old adage that bible scholars have used for centuries, “whenever you see the word, therefore, see what it is there for.” Our text begins with therefore, so we need to find the reason it is “there for”. In this case we need to go back to chapter 2 of Paul's letter and read the last few verses: (17) As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. (18)For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. (19)For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? (20)Yes, you are our glory and joy! Paul could no longer stand not knowing what was going on in Thessalonica, and because he could not go himself, he sent Timothy. In the Book of Acts chapter 17, we learn that Paul, Silas, (Silvanus) and Timothy left Thessalonica and went to Berrea, from there Paul went on to Athens alone. Although Luke does not record Timothy's visit to Thessalonica in the Book of Acts, it should be noted that Luke was recording the works of Paul. The visit by Timothy was very important to Paul and he makes that very clear in these few verses. Paul was acting as any parent would act, over concern for their children's well being.

Paul was facing persecution, and he knew that the small group of new believers he had left behind could be facing the same kind of persecution. Timothy's mission was to “strengthen and encourage” them in their faith. Paul reconfirms his angst in verse 5, where he admits to being afraid they may have lost their faith and slipped back into unbelief, and all of his preaching and teaching was in vain.

Verse 6 offers a double dose of good news, Timothy has come back with a good report and the good report has now lifted Paul's spirits. It has been said that “discouragement” is the devils greatest tool, if that is true then “encouragement” is a tool of the Divine. Not only did Timothy find a healthy spiritual loving group, they were as concerned about Paul as he was about them. Paul proclaimed in verses 7 and 8 how important this encouragement was, “For we now live”; the stress that Paul had felt and the concern has been lifted. So often when we are called or lead to encourage others, we are ourselves end up being encouraged.

As we continue on, there is a sense of an even deeper bond between Paul and this community of believers in Thessalonica, they are constantly on Paul's mind and in his prayers. Now he longs to see them for a different reason, he no longer questions their faith, now he wants to be a part of their community of love. Notice how Paul uses the words “our God and Father” and “our Lord Jesus Christ” this community of believers has been adopted into God's family as declared by Paul.

Paul leaves them with a few words of wisdom and encourages them to seek holiness, or become more like the examples of Paul, Silas and Timothy, and try to live blameless lives before “our God and Father”. That is our charge for today.

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