Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13
Summary: Paul’s feelings for the Thessalonians and having to be separated from them is evident as you read, “But since we were torn away form you brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you…” (1 Thess. 2:17-18).
Worry Over Faith
Paul worried unnecessarily. But who could blame him?
His departure from Thessalonica had been premature. Of that he was convinced. Inability to return there he blamed on Satan and fervent prayers had been offered that God would bring him back (1 Thess. 2:18; 3:10-11).
Paul’s concern was for their faith. Was it sufficient to withstand their inevitable afflictions? Would it survive? Would those whom he considered his “glory and joy” become a bitter disappointment? Would his own efforts among them prove to be in vain? Paul just couldn’t stand it. He sent Timothy back “to learn about your faith” and “to establish and exhort you in your faith” while He remained alone at Athens (1 Thess. 3:2, 5).
Turns out Paul was very pleasantly surprised. They had not only survived, they thrived in their faith. What Timothy found was that both the word of the Lord and their faith in God had “gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thess. 1:8).
Though Paul had contributed significantly to the conversion and early instruction of the Christians in Thessalonica, the quality and depth and strength of their faith was not dependent on Paul. After all, they had received Paul’s message, not as the word of men, but as God’s word “which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 1:13).
It’s not that preachers and preaching aren’t important (see Rom. 10:14-15), but the power is in the message, not the messenger (Rom. 1:16). Men may encourage faith, but only God’s word produces it (Rom. 10:17). Paul learned that faith can flourish in his absence, but he knew it would die apart from the word “at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13).
Now, about your own faith—is it what it is by the working of God’s word in you, or is it based on some man?