(Acts 17, 1 Thessalonians 2)
Introduction: Last week one of the members of my church died. The last time I saw her, she looked right into my eyes and said, "I'll see you again." She was headed into a major surgery, and she thought that she might die during the surgery. My wife and I had prayed for her, and I believed that I would see her again in church. I knew that she meant that she would see me again either in church or in heaven. Although I had not known this dear lady for very long, a strong relationship with her had developed in just a short period of time. When she died without me seeing her again, it not only made me sad, but it made me think again about her last words to me. We cannot be sure when we will see our family and friends again. Life is uncertain. As a result, relationships are one of the most important things in life. Paul's relationship with the members of the church in Thessalonica is our study this week. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible to see what we can learn about strengthening relationships!
- The Parting
- Recall that last week Paul had a mixed reception in Thessalonica. Let's review by reading Acts 17:5. What would you do if you thought that a mob was heading your way?
- What if you were still recovering from the last time a mob caught you?
- Read Acts 17:6-7. Not finding Paul or Silas, they bring Jason before the city officials. What does this tell us about Jason and Paul? (Jason had given Paul a place to live. It was known that Jason was his host.)
- Read Acts 17:8-9. What does this suggest about Jason? (We learn that he had enough money to post a bond. This also suggests that he had enough influence with the officials to avoid rough treatment.)
- Read Acts 17:10. What have Paul and Silas been doing? (Hiding! You would hide too to avoid another beating like they received in Philippi!)
- Now that we review how Paul left Thessalonica, what kind of impression do you think was left in his mind about his visit?
- What kind of impression was left in the mind of Jason and the Thessalonians?
- How does this affect relationships - to have to leave under circumstances like this? Would it bring Paul and the Thessalonians closer together, or further apart? (People under extreme circumstances often form close relationships. On the other hand, no one likes to get in trouble, and Paul certainly got Jason and his friends in trouble.)
- Read Acts 17:11. How does this color Paul's thinking when it comes to the Thessalonians?
- Have you heard the expression, "This is more trouble than it is worth?"
- What is the "worth" in Thessalonica? Would Paul appreciate a greater challenge?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3. If someone tells you about a problem in their life, what is your immediate thought - about them or about a similar problem in your life?
- Years ago, a lady called my wife to see if she could drop her children off at our home. When my wife said this was not possible because her mother had just died, the lady responded, "Well, I'm sure glad my parents are fine." Perhaps you are not as thoughtless as this, but I know that when people tell me about some problem in their life, I often tell about a similar thing that happened to me! When you experience problems, do you want others to relate similar problems in their life or do you want them to focus on your problem?
- Recall that when Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he was still hurting from his beating in Philippi. If you left friends quickly because you did not want to be beaten again, would you start out your note to them about yourself or about them? (I would explain about my own concerns - how it was necessary to run for the sake of my own health!)
- As you look at 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, on who is Paul's attention focused? (The Thessalonians.)
- Look carefully at Paul's words. How would you characterize them? (He is complimenting them.)
- Is Paul simply telling them they look good, he likes their clothes? (No, he is complimenting them about things that are central to the gospel.)
- When my father died, one of the most amazing notes came from Reed Larson, a man for whom my teaching position at Regent University is named. Instead of telling me about the time when his father died, he wrote that my father must have been a great man because he was sure my father was reflected in my life. My father died long ago, but I've not forgotten that note. When you speak or write to someone who faces difficulties, do you remember to say positive, encouraging things to them?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 2:17. On what is Paul focused, his manner of leaving, or on the church members? (He reminds them of how he left ("torn away"), but he says he never stopped thinking about them.)
- If someone wrote to you like this, would you think that they were your friend? (Yes. Paul sounds very interested ("intense longing") in them.)
- How would you put Paul's sentiments in today's terms? ("I am with you in spirit.")
- Read 1 Thessalonians 2:18. How can Satan stop the work of God? (A conflict is going on between Jesus and Satan. Jesus has won the battle, but apparently Jesus allows Satan to "win" some of the conflicts.)
- As you think back to what happened to Paul and friends at Philippi and Thessalonica, did Satan have some victories? (Certainly, it was not God's plan to have His workers beaten or to drive them out of towns where they were working.)
- What does this say about setbacks in your life? (Sometimes we give Satan the advantage by bad decision-making, but at other times Satan "wins" the small fights when we are doing good.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20. What does this suggest about whether Paul is living a self-centered life? (He looks forward to heaven, in which his joy and glory will be those who he has brought to salvation.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1. What could Paul no longer stand? (Being apart from the members in Thessalonica.)
- So what did Paul do when his feelings came to this point? (He decided to stay in Athens! "I couldn't stand missing you any longer, so I decided to stay in a different city.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 3:2. What solution did they hit upon? (They sent Timothy!)
- What is your reaction when someone says that he misses you and wants to be with you, and his actions seem to be just the opposite?
- Or, is there a better, more positive explanation for this? (At least two commentaries that I read suggested that Paul was being left alone in Athens. Thus, Paul was giving up something every important in order to bless the Thessalonians.)
- Friend, have you considered how you react when someone tells you about some sad event? Do you focus on encouraging them, or do you immediately start talking about yourself? Why not determine today to strengthen relationships in the church, and among your friends and family, by focusing more on others and less on yourself?
- Next week: Thessalonica in Paul's Day.