Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith. 1 Thessalonians 3:1–2 (NAS).
Despite all his hardships and afflictions, Paul’s thoughts were not trained on himself, but others. But reading his letters, it’s obvious he needed an entourage around him to function effectively. Here he tells of making the ultimate sacrifice of a trusted associate to satisfy his need to know if the Thessalonians’ faith had held firmly since he’d been with them.
As a mother never loses her concern for the welfare of her children, even when grown, Paul as a pastor only wanted the Thessalonians to remain strong in their faith in the face of opposition, uncertainty and temptation. When Paul listed all the slings and arrows that beset him in his ministry in his second letter to the Corinthians, he concluded, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? (2 Corinthians 11:28-29).
Timothy’s report back proved his basic concerns to be unfounded, yet knowing the true nature of the enemy, Paul wanted and needed the church to excel still more.
Perhaps our faith is holding, but cracks in our firm foundation can develop due to relentless opposition, nagging uncertainty, or alluring temptation.
Permission to jump ahead in the letter to some pretty good advice for shoring up the underpinnings of our faith.
16 Rejoice always;
17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit;
20 do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
22 abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22