Chapter 3 opens with a moving statement from Paul to the Thessalonian brethren. Upon hearing of the Thessalonians’ willingness to suffer persecution for the faith (2:14), Paul said he ‘couldn’t stand not knowing’ and, being willing to be left in Athens alone, he sent Timothy to inquire of their situation and encourage them concerning the faith (3:1-2).
Paul was relieved to receive Timothy’s good report of the church’s faith and love. He also reciprocated their great desire to see him, noting his constant prayer that he might see them face to face. Moreover, Paul prayed that the providence of God might be active in bringing them together, “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.
But more than anything else, Paul was concerned with and rejoiced most of all concerning their faithfulness to the Lord. Listen to this heartwarming word from the apostle’s pen, “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord” (v 8). And this, “For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God?” (v 9).
Finally, Paul prayed that the Lord might make them increase and abound in their love for one another, even as he and his company loved them. Being recent Christians, Paul knew they needed the love marked by the maturity of experience (v 12). He reminded them of his own persecution in bringing the gospel to Philippi immediately before coming to Thessalonica (2:2; Acts 17:1-9). He reminded them of the persecution of their Judean counterparts (2:14-15). And he reminded them of the fact that he had warned them of the necessity of their own distress (3:3-4).
One point of note in closing. As Americans, we consider it our birthright to practice our faith without distraction or persecution. However, America has continued to move toward secularism and rejection of religion in general. The media is openly hostile toward people of faith, and infidels are increasingly vocal in their criticisms. In response, we rail at every slight and slur, and we rally around those political leaders who pander to our perceived persecutions. I cannot help but think that our first century counterparts would shake their head in disbelief at our perceived wrongs. It is past time for the American church to grow up.