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!

  1. The Parting

    1. 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

      1. What if you were still recovering from the last time
        a mob caught you?

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

    4. 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!)

      1. Now that we review how Paul left Thessalonica, what
        kind of impression do you think was left in his mind
        about his visit?

      2. What kind of impression was left in the mind of Jason
        and the Thessalonians?

      3. 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.)

    5. Read Acts 17:11. How does this color Paul’s thinking when
      it comes to the Thessalonians?

      1. Have you heard the expression, “This is more trouble
        than it is worth?”

        1. What is the “worth” in Thessalonica? Would Paul
          appreciate a greater challenge?

  2. Encouragement

    1. 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?

      1. 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?

      2. 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!)

      3. As you look at 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, on who is
        Paul’s attention focused? (The Thessalonians.)

      4. Look carefully at Paul’s words. How would you
        characterize them? (He is complimenting them.)

        1. Is Paul simply telling them they look good, he
          likes their clothes? (No, he is complimenting
          them about things that are central to the

      5. 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?

    2. 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.)

      1. If someone wrote to you like this, would you think
        that they were your friend? (Yes. Paul sounds very
        interested (“intense longing”) in them.)

      2. How would you put Paul’s sentiments in today’s terms?
        (“I am with you in spirit.”)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    4. 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.)

    5. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1. What could Paul no longer stand?
      (Being apart from the members in Thessalonica.)

      1. 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.)

    6. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:2. What solution did they hit upon?
      (They sent Timothy!)

      1. 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?

      2. 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.)

    7. 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?

  3. Next week: Thessalonica in Paul’s Day.