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
- 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
- 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.