Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 6

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 6

Study Guide, February 18, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

Some things that are meant to be helpful are kind of a mixed bag. You know what I mean? For instance, upon the recent passing of an acquaintance, a lady texted the family: “So sorry to hear the news…I’m praying God will comfort you and Fred.” A little later she received a text back that said: “Thank you…but Fred and I are not ready yet.” Confused by that she looked back at her text, and she found that Autocorrect had made hers say: “I’m praying God will come for you and Fred.” Now, for believers, either way is good…but that wasn’t how she was trying to help them right then.

One of the reasons that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians was to clarify some confusing information that they were getting from other sources. How well we know that religious discussion is often a mixed bag of some helpful truths, and yet often with many unhelpful ideas and even deceptions. And the thing about deception is like we’ve been discussing in our Men’s Life Group, spiritual warfare often comes at you through the forms of temptation, accusation, and deception. The thing is, we know when we are being tempted. And we know when we are being accused. But with deception…we don’t know if we’re being deceived…unless…unless we know the truth!

And that’s one thing that Paul was so pumped up about after hearing Timothy’s report after spending some time with these Thessalonian believers. He was pumped up about their ‘victories’ over the schemes of the devil. Here they were, new believers in Christ, and they were already…well, let’s check it out and see. 1 Thess 3:6-9- “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, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” NASU And the Amplified Version states it… “…because you stand firm in the Lord.”

Everyone who is alive is living. Now, how about that for a ‘eureka’ statement? Well, of course, everyone who is alive is living. Okay, how about this? Every Christian that is alive is also living. You say, “All right, but what’s your point?” We’re getting to that…because the point is…yes, everyone alive is living, and every Christian is living, but not everyone, not even some Christians, are REALLY LIVING! And the difference between ‘living’ and ‘really living’ is like the difference between the Israelites living in Egypt and then later living in the Promised land. One was a form of daily slavery…the other was an experience of daily freedom. And there’s a whole lot of difference between slavery and freedom.

But, you see, A lot of Christians still live…they still think and talk and act, like they are still in Egypt. They are still letting the world, the flesh, and the devil enslave them through the pressures of their peers, and through the powers of their problems, and through the persistent unholy habits of their own personality. And it’s all just like deceptive forms of control over their attitudes and actions…just like another form of slavery. Do you remember what Paul said about that to the Roman believers? Rom 6:16- “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” 19- “Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” NLT

Remember this: The only true freedom is when you choose to be a slave to righteous living! Righteous living is the only thing that sets you free from slavery to things like peer pressure, and frequent problems, and persistent habits. And what is ‘righteous living’? ‘Righteous living’ is simply ‘right thinking’ that leads to ‘right acting’ that is all based upon ‘right revelation.’

One of the most helpful ‘reality checks’ I’ve been helped by is from a talk that Ron Hutchcraft gave to young people at a Youth Rally our family attended some years ago. And he said, “Whatever you hear or have learned, whatever someone says or claims, no matter who says it or where you got it, first ask this question: ‘Based on what?’” What is this statement or teaching or these thoughts from anyone else and even from, or especially from, your own mind based upon? And if it’s not based upon the truths as revealed to us from the Truth Giver, God through His Word, then you are not to believe it nor receive it nor let it control your life!

Again, Paul was pumped because, even in the midst of these Thessalonian believers having to deal with temptations and accusations and even deceptions, still, they were standing firm in the Lord! They were standing firm in the truths that had been revealed to them through God’s words. They were choosing to obey God in righteous thinking and in righteous actions, and therefore, they were experiencing their new spiritual, mental, and emotional freedoms! Or, another way of putting it…they were now REALLY LIVING! And REALLY LIVING is a really great way to live! It’s simply the way we are supposed to live. We are to daily ‘give ourselves to be slaves to righteous living’. And in so doing, we become freed from slavery to temptations, accusations, and the deceptions of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Free to be who God created you to be…and free to do what God created you to do…and free to enjoy the freedom God meant for you to enjoy!

And in connection with this, notice another curious, but remarkable thing Paul also says to them. 1 Thess 3:9-10- “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, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?” NASU In order to ‘really live’ we each need to really keep, as Peter said…really keep growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. As relatively new Christians they naturally needed to grow in that which they were lacking. As we will soon see in our next chapter, their doctrinal views as to Christ’s return and the state of those who had preceded them, and their understanding of the end times, and so on, all needed to be expanded…and some corrected. Of course, as we previously pointed out, Paul’s method of correction was to try to always begin by commending whatever was praiseworthy…and then he would move to what needed correction. And that is a pattern that we, too, are to use with others. Plus, it is simply the key to the secret to how to have ‘power in persuasion’ with any and all people, really.

But how fascinating that this first letter to the Thessalonians is saturated with Bible doctrines. In fact, every major doctrine of the faith is touched on in these brief chapters. There are dozens of references to God the Father and Jesus Christ, and at least four references to the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:5-6; 4:8; 5:19). In this epistle, Paul dealt with sin and salvation, the doctrine of the church, the work of the ministry, and especially the doctrine of last things. Since Paul did not remain in Thessalonica very long, it is remarkable that he taught His converts so much.1

But the point is, we each need reminders and even course corrections day by day as we, too, run this race of faith. Speaking of which, how many NASCAR enthusiasts do we have here? I know our Brother Bob Smith is a NASCAR guy! What an amazing sport that is. And one of the things we always think about in connection with NASCAR is the essential ‘pit stop’. Well, how’s this for a God-thing? I remember some time ago when Sarah and Alice were taking some young people to Atlanta Fest, and they had a flat tire on the way. And as they were getting ready to attend to it, a car pulled over and out stepped a guy with a STP outfit on. And he said that he was a crew member for Richard Petty’s racing team, and asked if they could use his help in changing their tire. And they were like… “Well, absolutely, thank you!” But, how amazing and providential was that? I love that story!

But, in a similar way to racing, as we run our race of faith, we, too, need pit stops. And since our race is a daily race, we need daily pit stops. We could think of them as ‘prayer stops’. Remember, the fifth chapter of Daniel points out that Daniel had a ‘prayer stop’ habit of pausing for prayer three times a day. And Paul told these Thessalonian believers that he had ‘prayer stops’ for them both during the day and during the night. And he then informs them about some of the things he was praying for them. Let’s see what that was as we finish out chapter three: 1 Thess 3:11-13- “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 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; 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.” NASU

We are to ever remember that intercessory prayer is one of our duties as New Testament Priests. Praying on behalf of others is simply to be part of our body-life habits. It’s like the race team pit stops…what they do in the pit stops assists the whole team in their protection, in their progress, and in their perseverance. What’s that? Might we say these are the ‘3 P’s of a Prayer Pit Stop’? Well, yes, we might certainly say this…because our brothers and sisters and ourselves, as well, need protection and progress and perseverance in order to both stay in the race of faith and to succeed in the race of faith.

Again, because of the persecution these Thessalonian believers faced due to living in an idolatrous and immoral society, Paul prayed for their protection. Remember how Jesus prayed for Peter? “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 NASU You see, prayers for protection include protecting the strength of your faith. We know we will face trials. We know we will face testing. But a tested faith can become a trusted faith when we turn to the Lord in more and more dependence upon Him and in more and more attendance to His promises. Plus, it’s in praying these kinds of prayers for protection for others, for their faith to not fail, and for their tests to form an even trusted and stronger faith, that we benefit as well. We become like the racing team, all working together to protect one another, and in doing so, strengthen the bond and the goals of the team…or of the body of Christ.

That’s like the prayers of progress. Paul said: “…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.” The concept of ‘love for one another’ is sometimes a bit ambiguous to us. But when we realize that God’s love is a ‘service’ kind of love, a ‘sacrificial service’ kind of love, a ‘looking out for the good of one another’ kind of love, then we better understand what it is that God is calling for us to do. God is calling for you and me to increase and abound in serving, and sacrificing for, and looking out for the good of one another. Again, that’s what a racing team does. They are always looking for how to increase and abound in serving the team and looking out for the good of one another in the team. And the reason it all makes sense, the reason it all motivates them to serve like this, to sacrifice like this, to look out for the good of one another, is because of the goal…to finish strong in the race! They are committed to finishing strong, finishing as strong as they can, by working together, serving together, sacrificing together, looking out for the good of one another together.

And that’s why the prayers for perseverance are necessary in our Pit stop prayers. We pray on behalf of our team, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to press on toward the goal of finishing strong. And as we pray for our team, we are simply reinforcing in our own mind and heart what our own part is as well…to increase and abound more and more in serving, in sacrificing, in looking out for the good of one another as we persevere in the race of faith for our Team, as we serve our King! We run this race of faith for the sake our King…and we serve together…we press on together because we are His team.

And what does a strong finish look like? What is a strong finish in this life of faith, this race of faith? Here’s what the Apostle said: “…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.” What a strong finish in the Christian life looks like is that when you hit your finish line, you’ll be at your strongest in holiness in your service to Christ and for Christ. You’ll hit the finish line when you’re at your strongest push toward being who God created you to be and in doing what God created you to do. And with Paul, you’ll then be able to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Tim 4:7-8 NASU


  1. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989