Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

E48-365687Last week we looked at walking the walk of salvation. If you are a Christian, there must be change in your life. We saw how Paul was a mother, father, and herald to the Thessalonian church. This morning, we’re going to talk about the more sensitive side of Paul.

Grab your Bible and read 1 Thes. 2:17-3:10.

You’ll notice something pretty quickly. V. 17 gives us the surprising news that Paul and the others are not actually in Thessalonica. At some point during their time in Thessalonica, the missionaries were driven from the city. “Having been taken away from you for a short while” comes from the word where we get our English word orphan. Paul feels like he was ripped from them. Paul is actually writing from Corinth, but this was not their choice. They were gone in person, but not in Spirit. Paul believed their absence would be for just a short while. But the longer they were gone, the more they wanted to go back – especially Paul. Absence does makes the heart grow fonder. The more you love someone or someplace, the more you desire to see them or get back to that place. That just shows you how much Paul loved these people.

In v. 18 Paul says, “We wanted to come to you more than once, but Satan hindered us.” Remember back in Acts 16:6-7, “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” The Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus prevented them from going to preach the Gospel and now Satan is hindering them from getting back to Thessalonica. We don’t know how Satan hindered this. It could have been continued harassment from the Jews. Some think that he was prevented because of his thorn in the flesh which he called a messenger of Satan in 2 Cor. 12:7. Some think it was a legal ban that prevented his return. The reality is we don’t know how Satan hindered Paul. But we do know that Paul was able to discern the difference between the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus from the leading of Satan.

Look at v. 19. As further evidence, Paul asks some rhetorical questions: who is our hope? Who is our joy? Who is our consolation? Paul provides an answer that he believed the church already knew. He tells them, you are our glory and joy. It is because the Gospel did such a work in their lives. The source of joy a minister of the Gospel has in the Day of Judgment will be the conversion and salvation of souls and in the living for the Lord and the spiritual growth that is evident in their lives.

We saw that Paul was absent, but Timothy is there. After they left Thessalonica, they headed to Berea. Timothy and Silas stayed behind, but Paul went on to Athens where he preached at the Areopagus, then on to Corinth where he met Aquila and Priscilla. As time went on, he continued to think of the Thessalonians. He had a deep love for them. He was concerned because he didn’t know what was going on there, he had no news from Thessalonica. When he couldn’t stand it anymore Paul, “Sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.” (1 Thes. 3:2-3)

Notice Timothy was instructed to do three things. First, Paul told Timothy to, “Strengthen and encourage” which gives us the idea of making stronger in the faith. Timothy was to disciple and mentor them.

Paul’s second concern was, “so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions.” Disturbed comes from the word that meant a dog wagging his tail, then it came to mean flatter or fawn on and therefore deceive. Paul was concerned that in light of the suffering they endured might lead them astray from Christ. Paul even warned them that, “We have been destined for this.” Paul goes on to say in v. 4, “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.”We have to be real when it comes to sharing the Gospel. Salvation does not mean all our troubles go away. In fact the Bible is clear that salvation, in most cases, is just the beginning of trouble, but we learn how to effectively deal with our problems.

Paul’s third reason for sending Timothy was that when he, “Could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.” (v. 5) In v. 3, Paul said we couldn’t stand it, but now he says, I can’t take it, I’ve got to know what’s going on up there. So Timothy is dispatched on a strengthening and nurturing mission and to gather facts about their faith. Paul knows well the schemes of the devil, and he wanted to head off trouble by reminding them of their faith, and to remind them that suffering was inevitable.

Timothy provided a very encouraging report. Read v. 6-10. Timothy brought good news about their faith and love. Good news here means evangelized and it’s the only time in the N.T. that it does not mean the Gospel. It’s the good news about their faith and love. Faith and love gives us the idea of complete godliness. The Gospel was effective in changing their lives. Come to find out the Thessalonians have some fond memories of their own and would like to see Paul again.

In Paul’s distress and affliction, this news brought him comfort because their faith was real. It was effective. It was life changing. It was sticky. Paul goes on to say that they can really live as long as the Thessalonians stand firm in the Lord. This report brought such joy to Paul. Paul had been preaching the truth for a long time. The Thessalonians were doing just what Paul had preached to them. It’s not that he doubted the power of God, or the power of the message. I tell you, every preacher wants the message to be powerful and effective, and desires the message to be applied in their lives. 3 John 1:4 says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” That was Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians’. Timothy’s report confirms that the Word of God preached by Paul was effective. The proof was in the Thessalonians’ lives.

Timothy’s report caused Paul to say in v. 10, “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith.”

How well do you receive the message preached? Do you conclude that it is applicable for you or do you ignore it? Is there a group of people or a person that you love so much that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to find out how they’re doing? Who are you impacting?


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