1 Thessalonians 3:6-10: An Encouraging Report
It is always good to hear good news. Recently in Southern California where we live, there have been wild fires, burning literally thousands of acres and destroying dozens of homes. Watching the news I see people who have been forced to leave their homes and everything in them. Their anxiety is evident as they worry about their homes, pets, and belongings. But their joy can almost be felt through the television as they hear the good news that their home is still standing unscathed.
We all love good news! Paul was no exception! He was comforted by Timothy’s good report. Remember Paul had to leave Thessalonica because of the persecution, and I’m sure that it had not gotten any better since his departure. He was concerned that they were “shaken by these afflictions” (1 Thessalonians 3:3). It was necessary for Timothy to come to them to “establish and encourage them concerning their faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).
Verse 6a: “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news…”
Paul was alone in Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1) when he gave “instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him” (Acts 17:15). By the time Timothy returned with this good report Paul had moved on to Corinth (Acts 18:1-5).
“Good news” in Greek is euaggelizo, in its original sense could be used to refer to a declaration of any kind of good news.
“Paul always uses this verb to mean the preaching of the good news of the gospel. The news Timothy brought was so good that it was a veritable gospel to him. Of course that report was not a part of the gospel message but did announce the outworking of the gospel in the lives of the Thessalonian converts. It was good news concerning the good news they had preached at Thessalonica. –Adapted from Edmond Hiebert
“The verb he employs here is the one which is usually translated ‘preach the gospel.’ Indeed, this is the only place in the whole of Paul’s writings where it is used in any other sense than that.” –Morris
This “good news” was refreshing to Paul's spirit which is just the effect Solomon stated should occur: “Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land” (Proverbs 25:25).
Have you given a "cup of cold water" to anyone recently?
If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand.
But if by death to living they can Thy glory see,
I'll take my cross and follow close to Thee.
–Follow Me, by Ira Stanphill–
The good report of Timothy that the Thessalonians had not failed under testing but were standing firm in their faith convinced Paul that their conversion was genuine and they were God’s elect, a truth he was then able to write with assurance in this letter.
Verse 6b: “…good news of your faith and love…”
1 Timothy 1:5 NLT, “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.”
Paul linked faith and love together in many New Testament passages, one that is very apropos regarding the good news of the Thessalonians is from Galatians…”For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is…faith expressed in love.” (Galatians 5:6 MSG)
“In these two words, faith and love he states concisely the sum total of godliness. All who aim at this double mark are beyond the danger of error for the whole of their life…All pastors are reminded by this of the kind of relationship which ought to exist between them and the church. When things go well with the Church, they are to count themselves happy, even though in other respects they are surrounded by much distress. On the other hand, however, if they see the building which they have constructed falling down, they are to die of grief and sorrow, even though in other respects there is good success and prosperity.” –John Calvin
There is a kind of faith that will help us through the hard times, the shared faith of God’s people. So many believers struggle because they try to handle their problems alone. But God never meant that you should walk through the lonely valley by yourself. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…”
That’s why the author of Hebrews admonishes us “…not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews10:25 NLT). We get encouragement from others. We stir up love and good works from each other. We share one another’s suffering. We draw strength from each other! We disciple others, and are disciple by others when we come together. We increase our faith by meeting together with others.
“What kind of faith does Paul have in mind?
•Faith in God’s Character—that he is good and makes no mistake.
•Faith in God’s Word—that it is true no matter what happens to us.
•Faith in God’s Purpose—that he is conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.
•Faith in God’s Promise—that he will never give us more than we can bear.
•Faith in God’s Presence—that is with us in the darkest moments of life.
•Faith in God’s Power—that he can deliver us from every temptation.”
–Ray Pritchard, keepbelieving.com
Do you find joy in the growth of those whom you have helped to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Can you say with John the Beloved, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
Verse 6c: “…and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you.”
It is not surprising that the Thessalonians would not forget the one who ministered among them. They had good memories of Paul and his team, “…always have a good remembrance of us,” is in the present tense signifying this was the Thessalonian saints’ continuing heart attitude toward them. How encouraging for Paul to know that the Thessalonians were looking back on his 3-week visit with such fond memories.
Paul made a tremendous impact on them. Remember he was only there for three weeks. Marlena and I have pastored several churches, every one was memorable, but some were filled with people, who even years later are still good friends and prayer supporters. They will never forget our time together, and neither will we!
Have you ever written someone to let them know you are thinking kindly of them? Can you say with Paul, I’m thankful for you? And how many do you pray for when they cross your mind?
Listen to Paul:
The Philippians: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3).
The Romans: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).
The Corinthians: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
The Ephesians: “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15,16).
The Colossians: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).
The Thessalonians: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 1:2,3).
Timothy: “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3).
Philemon: “I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints” (Philemon 1:4).
Verse 7: “…therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.”
I know the old saying is, “misery loves company,” but there is comfort in knowing you are not alone in your “affliction and distress.” Many years ago I was going through a debilitating depression, so severe that I resigned my pastorate. I cried a lot, feeling very sorry for myself. It was a miserable experience. I phoned a physician friend and shared with him my misery. The first thing he said to me was, “you’re not alone, millions of others have gone through what you are going through and they survived.” That was very comforting! I read that the great Prime Minister of England, Sir Winston Churchill suffered from manic-depression (bi-polar). He called it “black dog!” It’s amazing what he accomplished in life, even with his “black dog.”
Verse 8: “…For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord…” “Knowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive” (MSG).
“Live” in Greek is, zao, meaning, to enjoy real life or have true life worthy of the name Christian. The present tense speaks of Paul's desire that this be a continual experience. He really lives in comparison with his feelings of dread at not knowing how they were doing as the tempter was tempting them in the context of their appointed afflictions.
“For now we live” means to…enjoy life; a vivid rhetorical description of the contrast between his state of apprehension when he was in ignorance of their welfare, and the comfort and ease of mind produced by Timothy’s good news.” –Vine
“Never is the servant of God so full of delight as when he sees that the Holy Spirit is visiting his hearers, making them to know the Lord, and confirming them in that heavenly knowledge. On the other hand, if God does not bless the word of his servants it is like death to them. To be preaching and to have no blessing makes them heavy of heart: the chariot-wheels are taken off, and they drag heavily along: they seem to have no power nor liberty.” –Spurgeon
“Stand fast in the Lord…” steko in Greek and it means literally to stand, but here it is used figuratively meaning to stand firm in faith and duty, to be constant, to persevere, to remain steadfast, to continue in a state. The present tense expresses Paul's desire that his spiritual children continue remaining firmly committed in their Christian belief.
The word steko pictures an army that refuses to retreat even though it is being assaulted by the enemy. Standing firm as a believer is clearly an important exhortation as shown by Paul's frequent use illustrated in the following passages.
Jude sums up this topic of “standing firm in the Lord,” with this beautiful benediction: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24,25).
Verses 9a: “For what thanks can we render to God for you…” Verse 9b: “…for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?”
“What thanks can we render” The sense of this rhetorical question is that words simply cannot adequately express to God the thanks which filled Paul’s heart. His joy was overflowing every time he remembered these saints before his God.
“Some find it easy to rejoice in the material prosperity in the life of others, but Paul honestly rejoiced in the spiritual prosperity of others.” –Guzik
“Render” means to give back in return for something received. It means to pay back something owed. Paul is saying we as Christians owe to God joyful thanksgiving and praise for what He has done.
Verse 9b: “…for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God…”
“Joy-rejoice” in Greek is chara, a state of mind and an position of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, , “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23). Since God is the author of all these good things, when one becomes a Christian, and is united to God through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit imparts these qualities to the believer. Joy is also an integral part of the Kingdom of God and will exist wherever believers are present, “…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
A dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” The definition of the word “rejoice,” from which our word “joy” comes, is “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad. Joy, in the Biblical context, is not an emotion, it is an attitude of the heart.
There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotion and temporary; joy is an attitude of the heart. Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times.
The Bible doesn’t promise happiness, but it does promise joy. There is a difference. You can have joy and be happy but you can’t really be happy without joy; at least lasting happiness. So the Bible teaches that happiness is fleeting because it often depends on things outside of ourselves, but true joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.
So “joy” is the deep-down sense of well-being that lives in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord. It is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances but even occurs when those circumstances are the most painful and severe as Jesus taught His disciples declaring… “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). “You will have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).
Verse 10: “…night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?”
“…night and day…” Paul uses phrase 3 times in his letters to the Thessalonians. It does not mean once in the evening and once in the morning, nor that he did nothing else but pray, but emphasizes the frequency of his prayers, while exceedingly refers to the extreme intensity of their prayers.
“Praying,” in Greek is deomai and it implies that it is an asking that is motivated by a sense of personal need or is asking for a personal favor. Deomai is common in secular Greek writings of someone making a petition to a ruling sovereign. Paul was not appealing not to an earthy sovereign but to the Sovereign One, the One in control of everything.
Here we see another "one of Paul’s super-superlatives: “Exceedingly” the Greek word is huperekperissou meaning exhaustlessness, surpassing, superabundantly, surpassingly, beyond measure, exceedingly, quite beyond all measure, overwhelming, over and above, more than enough. It describes an extraordinary degree, involving a considerable excess over what would be expected.
Huperekperissou is found only 3 times in the Bible: Here in verse 10, also in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly (huperekperissou) abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” 1 Thessalonians 5:13, “and to esteem them very highly (huperekperissou) in love for their work’s sake.”
The use of the present tense indicates that their praying is not spasmodic or an isolated act but reflected their habitual practice. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
“Perfect what is lacking” “Perfect” in Greek is katartizo, to restore, repair, equip, adjust, fit, finish, or complete things still needed. It means to thoroughly prepare something to meet demands. It is to make fitted or equipped for a duty or function, to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something, to supply that which is missing.
From In the midst of all this joy, Paul called attention to the fact that they were still lacking. Though the apostle repeatedly complimented them, he was also concerned to perfect (complete) what is lacking in their faith.
Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Hebrews 6:1,2 “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
Colossians 1:28, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Katartizo conveys the fundamental idea of putting something into its appropriate condition so it will function well. It conveys the idea of making whole by fitting together, to order and arrange properly.
None of us is perfect, we have not yet arrived! Philippians 3:12-14, “ Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We never stop learning. It seems that no matter how mature we are in age or in the Lord, there is still more to learn. We still need adjustments to our Christian life. We all need a Timothy to inquire about our present growth. Galatians 6:1,2, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
A group of tourists visiting a picturesque village walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked him, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”
Every person who is a born-again believer starts life as a baby in Christ. Whether the new convert is six or sixty, that person is still a new Christian and needs to grow in the Lord. A baby Christian who has been saved for forty years is a tragedy. God intends for us to grow and mature so that we can be a positive influence in the lives of others. Until we learn to dig into the meat of the Word for ourselves, we will never grow.
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).