1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8
Paul was concerned, The Thessalonian church had experienced trouble from the very beginning. He was afflicted with thoughts that they may have drifted away from the faith and each other. He was concerned:
1. that their troubles would knock them off their faith and off Christian fellowship.
2. that their troubles would open them up to the Tempter’s work of emptying out their faith in Jesus.
What a relief when Timothy came back and shared the good news! The church still exists. People still remember Paul affectionately. The believers are still trusting Jesus even in their troubles.
Troubles and Temptations
Paul knows how isolating troubles can be. Its tempting to keep it all to yourself, to feel forgotten and of no value to God and others. However, authentic fellowship is the place where we can let others know of our troubles and experience the comfort and courage of the Holy Spirit together. During change and pain a circle of brothers and sisters in Christ can make the difference for our faith. But there is a vulnerability during these times. Will it knock us off our faith?
Other Apostles and Christian leaders know of this vulnerability too. James wrote of mature communal faith this way: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will rise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:13-16
Praise and Prayer
Praise and prayer are experienced in authentic fellowship. Participation in each other’s good times and difficult times is part of authentic fellowship. The amazing part of authentic fellowship is that the focus both in trouble and in good times does not get fixated on the individual and his or her pain, but instead turns toward God and our graceful communion with Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.