Introduction: Many years ago, I agreed to take over a case in
Connecticut from another attorney who assured me that it would be
“simple.” When I met the judge for the first time, he was literally
screaming at the lawyers. He told us that he did not have time to
preside over our trial, and we were to come back next month. In the
meantime, I had an ocean beach vacation. As I sat on the beach
looking at the ocean, what do you think I was doing? Enjoying the
sun, sand and water? No! I was thinking about how I would try the
case before the screamer. Thinking about an unpleasant future kept me
from thinking about the pleasure of the present. A current book I’m
reading about the brain suggests that we should be more conscious
about our thoughts, and notice the difference between a focus on the
present and planning for the future. It suggests a deliberate
consciousness about the present. Is this a Biblical concept? Let’s
jump into our study of the letters to the Thessalonians and find out!

  1. The Present

    1. Read Matthew 6:31-34. What does Jesus suggest should be
      the focus of our thoughts? (Today, rather than worrying
      about tomorrow.)

      1. There are a number of Bible texts that teach us to be
        diligent workers, use our common sense, and engage in
        planning. Why does Jesus say that we should not be
        worrying about tomorrow? (God knows our needs. We can
        “offload” future problems to Him.)

        1. Why is it an advantage to “offload” our
          worries? (Our minds can only focus on a few
          things at once. Removing worry from the stage
          of our mind, allows us to focus on other

      2. What does God require of us, instead of worrying
        about the future? (Presently seeking to advance the
        Kingdom of God. We can substitute thinking about
        doing good for worrying about possible future

      3. In my story about the screaming judge, all of my
        worry time was a complete waste. When I showed up
        next month, a wonderfully kind and pleasant judge was
        in charge. Apparently, they rotate judges from county
        to county, and the screamer had been moved to another

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3. On what time frame is Paul’s
      focus? (He reminds them of the past, to make a point about
      the present.)

    3. We previously discussed how they were beaten in Philippi,
      and then barely escaped another beating in Thessalonica.
      Paul denies that he is trying to trick them, has impure
      motives or is just wrong. What does the past suggest
      about the truth of those charges? (Paul argues that facing
      a beating would deter the dishonest. The dishonest would
      find an easier way to make a living.)

  2. The Example

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:4. What two reasons does Paul give
      as to why he should be believed? (He says “Look at how we
      speak.” Second, he suggests that beatings are not a sign
      of failure, for they are not trying to please others –
      just God.)

      1. Paul’s call for them to look at how they speak is a
        call to examine the present. What about their speech
        is important? (They speak as if they were given a God
        message. They speak as if they were “approved” and

          1. What do you think this means? (There must
            have been a competency, honesty and
            assurance in the way they spoke.)

      2. Have you considered how you impact the Kingdom of God
        with your speech?

        1. Do you speak as one “approved by God to be
          entrusted with the gospel?”

        2. If not, why not? (Many years ago I asked myself
          this question – what is my influence upon
          others? Am I aiding God or Satan? I was
          embarrassed when I concluded that my influence
          was negative in many ways, and determined to
          change that.)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:5. What was absent from their
      speech? (Flattery and greed.)

      1. I use compliments regularly in my dealings with
        others. What is wrong with it? (Praising people for a
        job well-done is the gift of encouragement. Paul
        tells the Thessalonians to encourage one another. 1
        Thessalonians 5:11. On the other hand, dishonest
        flattery to get someone to do something is not a
        gospel tactic.)

    3. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:6. This is a continuation of Paul’s
      statement in verse 4 that they are trying to please God
      and not men. Is this (“we are not looking for praise from
      men”) a defensive attitude – because Paul was not just
      rejected, he was physically attacked – or is this an
      attitude we should seek?

      1. In sorting this out, can we agree that we should not
        try to please men instead of God?

      2. Paul approaches this as if pleasing God and humans
        were mutually exclusive. What about the idea of
        pleasing both God and humans?

      3. If you only had to worry about pleasing God, would
        your life be better or worse?

      4. If humans praise you, would that deter you from
        considering whether God is pleased with you? (This is
        probably the most important point to consider.)

      5. Think about the people in your life who have said, “I
        don’t care what other people think.” What kind of
        people are those? Are they people who you thought
        cared what God thought?

      6. Have you seen people do a lousy job in the church
        because they don’t care what other people think? (In
        my experience, people who said that they did not care
        what other people thought were doing a lousy job. The
        Bible speaks positively about encouragement and
        advice. At a certain point, praise and encouragement
        are more important to me than money. Plus, honest
        praise improves performance. I think Paul is mostly
        being defensive here, but there is no question that
        we must put pleasing God first.)

  3. Hard Work

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9. Paul says, “We could have
      asked you to support us, but we did not. Instead we worked
      day and night to share the gospel with you and support
      ourselves.” How is this relevant to Paul’s gospel
      message? (It shows greed could not have motivated Paul and
      his friends. Instead, he was giving to the Thessalonians.)

      1. What other argument do you find in this? (Paul says
        this is proof of our love for you. We did not love
        ourselves as much as we loved you.)

      2. If you are wondering, the same is true of this
        ministry. I don’t make any money from writing this
        lesson, it costs me money. The translators are all
        volunteers. On occasion, readers send small
        contributions and we have ad revenue. This all goes
        to my son who maintains the web site, the e-mail
        distribution, purchases ads to promote the lessons
        and pays the bills.

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12. Review what Paul has written
      so far. What are the elements that go into his conclusion
      that they have been “holy, righteous and blameless?” (They
      suffered physically, they did not demand money, they were
      not greedy. Their speech was consistent with the gospel
      and not modified to please humans. They treated church
      members as loving parents would treat their children.
      They encouraged right living.)

      1. Did you notice that Paul says that he was
        “encouraging” to them? This gets us back to the
        flattery discussion.

    3. Friend, have you examined your life? Have you taken a
      sharp and honest look at the present? Can you say that in
      your daily life you reflect the attitude and actions which
      Paul says show a person to be “holy, righteous and
      blameless?” If not, why not ask the Holy Spirit to help
      you to be conscious of this, and to change your attitude
      and your actions?

  4. Next week: Friends Forever.