“Thanks to this, brothers, we found comfort in you through all our distress and affliction because of your faith, because now we live again, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 3:7-8)
Those who are charged with levels of spiritual authority and oversight understand exactly what Paul is saying in this section of 1 Thessalonians. Paul was concerned that the persecution he was suffering would negatively impact the congregation in Thessalonica. His major concern was that Satan would use his suffering to discredit his teaching.
His concern over the Thessalonians, and the fact that they may have turned from the truth, weighed heavily on Paul. It was such a burden that, for him, it was a death experience of sorts. A part of his soul was wilting away under his concern for the congregation in Thessalonica.
This is a common feeling. When God calls someone to minister to people, the weight of responsibility goes with it. When things are going well, that weight is light and bearable. But when things go wrong, and the people involved are beginning to fall under deception, the weight increases. If things are very bad, the weight feels like a death sentence of sorts.
That is why Paul was so overjoyed by Timothy’s report about the people in Thessalonica. The weight of Paul’s concern evaporated. Paul wrote that he and his companions could now “live again.” To him, it was a type of resurrection experience.
This is a great reminder to pray for spiritual leaders. At most any given time, those who care for people will have someone who is off course. This adds to the weight of responsibility in a spiritual leader’s life. And since many who turn away do not turn back, that weight can last a long time. Pray that God help them carry the weight, and that they see many get back on course so that they might “live again.”
Now, on to the translation of 1 Thessalonians 3.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
A Translation by Randal Cutter
3:1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we were happy to be left in Athens alone.
3:2 We sent Timothy, our brother and God’s helper in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you in your faith,
3:3 so that no one would be deceived by these tribulations. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
3:4 Even when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were about to suffer persecution, just as it also happened, as you know.
3:5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to learn about your faith, concerned that the tempter had trapped you, and that our labor had been in vain.
3:6 But now Timothy has come to us from you, and brought the good news about your faith and love to us, telling us that you always have good memories of us, and that you desire to see us, just as we also desire to see you.
3:7 Thanks to this, brothers, we found comfort in you through all our distress and affliction because of your faith,
3:8 because now we live again, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
3:9 How can we adequately thank God for you, and for all the joy that we have felt over you before our God?
3:10 We have prayed night and day, more times than we can count, that we might see you in person and complete what is lacking in your faith.
3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our path to you,
3:12 may the Lord increase you and cause you to overflow with love for each other, and for everyone else, just as we also do for you,
3:13 so that your hearts are strengthened, and you are blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.
3:3 So that no one would be deceived by these tribulations: Although most modern translations substitute the words “unsettled” or “disturbed” instead of “deceived,” the major use of this Greek word is about deception. When we undergo tribulation, we are tempted to conclude it is because we are no longer in God’s will. Paul’s point is that any deduction along this line is a deception. He was destined/appointed to this tribulation (cf. Acts 9:15-16).
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Image credit: Bible by Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Oil Paint Filter