Today’s Scripture Focus: I Thessalonians 3:9-13
In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 Paul speaks of how the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God…” Idols permeated every level of city life: home, work, family, religion, economics, politics. The Thessalonians’ radical move will possibly have separated them out from everything that would ordinarily be considered normal, creating pressures and even stresses in the home, marketplace, and the workplace. This reaction by the broader population against those Thessalonians who have begun to follow Jesus is a key aspect in the context of our verses. Paul refers to suffering on three occasions in 3:1-8.
The joy and thankfulness that is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 3:9 comes across to us as sheer delight and even with a hint of relief. The reason for this is twofold: First, because in spite of everything that is set against the fledgling Thessalonian community they are continuing in their faith. Second, Paul’s thankfulness relates to the fact that the Thessalonians have maintained their commitment to relationship with Paul and Silas. The Thessalonians are suffering; Paul and Silas are suffering. Nothing would be easier than to call the whole thing off and to desert each other. However, they continue to love, and support, and encourage one another.
The key to Christian discipleship is love. That love is central to Thessalonians is evident throughout the letter, but Paul and Silas’ prayer here is that “the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). This young Christian community have rooted themselves and their relationships in love. And it is love that will ensure their survival in the midst of suffering persecution. Indeed, Jesus himself, made clear that the only thing that mattered is to love God, and to love one’s neighbour as you loved yourself (Luke 10:27-28). To practice love ensures not just the survival of faith in the midst of difficulty, but the growth and increase of faith.
Next, there is the prayer that the Thessalonians may be strengthened in holiness (1 Thessalonians 3:13). In some ways holiness is similar to love. Both are expressions of the reality of God. God is love and those who encountered God speak of his holiness. To live a holy life is to live as a living and breathing expression of the love, life, and reality of God. This reality has already been seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. However, to live in holiness is not to make life any easier. But rather, Paul turns the Thessalonians attention to a higher and more glorious goal, that of the coming of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask the discussion questions below*. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
*How have you seen God at work in your life this week?
*How have you struggled to follow God this week?
*What are some ways that we as Christians show love for one another in difficult times? How does this help us live a more holy life?
*Is there anything about today’s scripture focus or this week’s scripture readings that especially stood out to you, or that you had trouble understanding?
*How can we pray for you this week?