Welcome to the STC Sheffield daily podcast on this Bank Holiday Monday. My name is Helen and I’m going to be continuing our journey through the book of 1 Thessalonians this week.
On Sunday 5th April, 2 weeks into lockdown, the Queen addressed the nation in a televised speech. She finished with these words:
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return; we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
Just over a month later, on Friday 8th May, the country commemorated VE Day. Amid the bunting and the socially distanced street parties, across gardens and through open windows, our neighbourhoods were filled with the sound of Vera Lynn singing, “We’ll meet again. Don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”
And now here we are, about to enjoy another Bank Holiday, and still those words seem so powerful and poignant; a real reflection of the mood of the nation.
But if there was ever a passage that speaks into our hearts and minds right now, into this situation of longing to see our friends and our family again – then today’s Bible reading is surely it.
So I’m going to read all of 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3 vs6-10 now, rather than at the end of the podcast:
“But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”
Paul, and those in the church at Thessalonica, long to see one another again. The Greek word that Paul uses here is ‘epipotheo.’ This doesn’t translate as, ‘it would be nice to catch up some time;’ instead it is a word that conveys a real intensity of feeling, a yearning to be reunited.
I know many of us can relate to this.
In verse 7 Paul says that this separation is causing him distress. Again, we shouldn’t read this as him just being a bit upset. The word used means ‘crushing trouble,’ ‘a choking and pressing care.’ Paul is utterly miserable.
And this situation is not even of his own choosing – his travel plans have been constrained due to the threat of persecution, and he has had to surrender his desires to circumstances that are beyond his control.
The constraints upon us are due to a virus and government policy, not persecution, but everything else about Paul’s context and his anguish sounds remarkably familiar.
So, what is God wanting to say to us through these 5 verses?
Firstly, let’s look at Timothy.
Timothy is not experiencing lockdown in Athens, like Paul is, and this means he is able to bring Paul good news about the faith and love of the Thessalonians.
We read that this good news is an encouragement to Paul; but more than just cheering him up, he was re-invigorated, he experienced new strength. A new heart was put within him, enabling him to rise above the difficulties that he faced.
And this happened because someone shared good news of faith and love with him.
So, where is God calling you to be like Timothy today?
If you know someone who is shielding or really struggling with lockdown, what news of faith and love can you share with them?
Alan and I are encouraging people in Community Church to share good news stories, testimony, and answers to prayer as often as possible. We’re not doing this because we are trying to say that everything is just fine. We’re doing it because in Revelation we read, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.”
Words of good news, of faith and love, have the power to overcome the feelings of distress, the sense of crushing, that the Devil would like to choke us with.
How can you share good news today? How can you play a part in helping someone to rise above the difficulties of the situation that they face, and experience a new strength?
Perhaps, however, you don’t feel able to be a Timothy today…….because actually you just feel like Paul.
And that’s okay.
How is God calling you to respond like Paul did?
From a place of misery and distress, Paul turns first to thankfulness, and then joy.
In verse 9 he writes, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you.”
Paul’s confinement to Athens has not changed, but we see that his heart has.
Thankfulness and joy are a choice made in the heart and reflect a spiritual state of mind, rather than an earthly feeling or situation.
In 4 days time, we’ll reach the deadline for cancelling our summer holiday, and I will really need to choose thankfulness and joy, as I can assure you that these will not be the first feelings that come to mind as I think about our confinement situation.
If you feel like Paul today, ask God to re-invigorate your heart so that you are able to choose thankfulness and joy.
And finally, Paul prays.
He prays real and honest prayers.
In verse 10 Paul describes his prayers in an unusual way, which one commentator explains as giving “the impression of a man struggling to put into words a feeling too deep for words.”
Paul is real and honest with God about his deep desire to be reunited with his friends in Thessalonica, and he prays earnestly night and day about this.
And it’s fine for us to pray that we can see our friends and family again too. God knows the deepest desires of our hearts, even when it is difficult to put this into words.
So, what is God saying to us today through these verses?
Firstly, to share good news of faith and love with others
Secondly, to choose thankfulness and joy
And finally, to pray earnestly that we will meet again.
Heavenly Father, show us ways of sharing good news of faith and love with others, help us to choose thankfulness and joy, and Lord we ask that you would bring the breakthroughs that are needed so that we can all meet again. Amen
BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 3: 6-10
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.