Explore the Bible Study: Encouraged

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All of us have faced a situation in which we desired to hear a good report. Usually that desire was prompted by the fact that we knew the report might not be so good. Perhaps it was as simple as a report regarding car repairs, or something major like a medical report, or perhaps the news of how a family member or friend is doing. Anticipation or concern drives our emotions to hope for the best report possible. The Apostle Paul desired a good report regarding the church at Thessalonica because he loved them as a parent would love a child. The Explore the Bible Study: Encouraged, will focus on the report he received and the encouragement it gave him as-well-as the encouragement he gave in return.

While Paul was ministering in Athens, he sent a letter of encouragement along with Timothy to the Thessalonians. He desired for Timothy to bring back a report  regarding how things were going. Timothy returned with a report that was even better than Paul could have expected. The Thessalonians had remained strong in their faith, despite ongoing persecution. They had not forgotten Paul, and they wanted him to return as much as he wanted to rejoin them (1 Thessalonians 3:6-7). This prompted Paul to express even more encouragement to the believers in Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 3:4-13 reveals the heart of one who truly cared for others. We can learn from Paul’s actions and response to a good report regarding how to be an encourager of others and how encouraging reports from others can be an encouragement to us.

Concern Should Prompt Encouragement – 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5

Paul begins 1 Thessalonians 3:1 with the phrase, we could no longer stand it. He repeats it again at the beginning of verse 5. Paul truly cared for the Thessalonian believers, and he did not want them to be shaken by the pressures being exerted upon them. It appears that Paul was so distressed that it weighed upon his heart heavily. Perhaps he had lost sleep and felt the continuous burden of worry over what they might be facing. He was so concerned that he desired to send Timothy to both offer encouragement and to bring back a report.

How would you feel if someone personally asked, emailed, texted, or called you and asked how things were going with your walk with the Lord? Or if you have been shaken by your afflictions or been tempted by the tempter? Would you be offended or encouraged? What kind of report would you give them? 

Have you ever felt this concerned about another believer? How did you respond to them?

Hopefully, if someone were to receive a report from you regarding your walk with the Lord, it would be similar to what Paul heard. Let’s see how Paul responded to the good report.

A Good Report is Encouraging – 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8

Timothy’s report contained good news! Their faith and their love had grown. Not only did they grow spiritually, but relationally they still had an unfading love for Paul and his companions. Paul wanted to see these believers, and they wanted to see him. All this encouraged Paul and his companions as they faced distress and affliction themselves.

What would a report of your walk with the Lord include? Are you growing in your faith in Christ? Do you love brothers and sisters in Christ so much that you long to see them? Would a report about your faith encourage others to remain strong and continue living their faith?

This good news from Thessalonica not only encouraged Paul but also prompted more actions of encouragement.

Response When We are Encouraged – 1 Thessalonians 3:8-13

Encouragement produces more encouragement! The encouraging report encouraged Paul and his companions, resulting in their hearts being filled with joy. It wasn’t a selfish joy but a joy that was raised in worship before God in prayer because they recognized it was God’s work and not their own that produced such fruit.

In addition to praise, the encouraging report prompted Paul to pray more earnestly night and day for them. 

  • His prayer included a request to God to see them face to face and to continue to help them grow in their faith. 
  • He prayed God would cause them to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone. The word "increase" means to have more than enough. He was praying that there would be more than enough sacrificial love to sustain them through the persecutions they might face. He also prayed that their love would overflow—would be excessive or exceed beyond measure. Paul was praying that the sacrificial love this church expressed for one another would be of such significance that no one would be able to measure it.
  • He prayed their hearts would be made blameless in holiness. To be holy means to be set apart or to be unique. We are called to be different from the surrounding culture. 

Paul’s prayer was intended to express his desire to strengthen and improve their spiritual condition, not to give them something that was missing.  The Christian life is an ongoing process of sanctification—becoming more and more like Christ. The Thessalonians’ salvation was secure, but Paul was concerned about their continued transformation. The hope of Christ’s return provided the motivation for Paul’s prayers and for the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth. At the coming of our Lord Jesus, our sanctification will be complete as we stand before the Savior.

Which element(s) of Paul’s prayer speak to you personally and why? How would you respond if you knew someone was praying for you as Paul prayed for these believers?

All believers need encouragement to remain faithful to Christ. We live in a time where criticism is more prevalent than encouragement and where relationships are more conditional than sincere. It seems we can easily walk away from others, even in the church, without ever considering how we could encourage one another. Perhaps it’s time we consider how we can encourage one another for the sake of the gospel. Take time this week to reflect on this encouraging report Paul received, and how he responded. Pray that the Lord will cause you and your church to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone and that your heart will be made blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Who could you encourage this week? If you don’t feel your walk with Christ is something that would encourage others, what needs to change?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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