3:1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know…
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Where do you find your strength? What helps you make it through each day? When faced with issues at your summer job, or too much work during the school year, or conflict with friends, how do you deal with it?
We looked at this text last week, but there is more it has to say to us! That is the great thing about scripture, you can return to the same piece again and again and always learn new things! What I am struck with today is this whole question of where we get our strength. I think our culture often tells us that our strength comes from deep inside yourself – you have the strength within you to do whatever you want, to be whatever you want to be. We are taught to be rugged individualists.
It is interesting then that in 3:2 Paul says he is sending Timothy “to strengthen and encourage you in your faith“. There is recognition that the new Christians in Thessalonica could not make it on their own. They needed help from others, from people more mature in the faith, from Paul and Timothy. The clear lesson is that each of us needs help from others to live as followers of Jesus in this world. In scripture there is no concept of individual Christians doing their own thing; there’s no “its just me and God.” Community is always central. As Christians, we rely on each other.
Do you have a community and mentors who you can rely on and learn from?
A few verses later, in 3:13, Paul prays that God would “strengthen your hearts”. Paul recognizes that simply sending Timothy is not enough. Community is vitally important, but without our Creator and Redeemer God strengthening us, as individuals and as a community, we will fail.
In whom or what do we get strength from? If it is friends, family, money, looks, intelligence, muscles, smooth talk or anything other than God, then we are putting our trust in the wrong place.
We need each other, none of us can grow as Christians alone. The Thessalonians needed Timothy and Paul to help them grow. We all need friends, mentors, small groups, and church communities. Within these places and people we can find strength for the journey.
Ultimately we are only able to find strength in these places and people because they too are strengthened by our Creator God. It is God’s Holy Spirit working as the lifeblood through the church community, pointing all of us to our risen king Jesus Christ. In the end, our strength as individuals and communities comes from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I leave you with Psalm 121 (the Message):
I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
3–4He won’t let you stumble,
your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life!
Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.
5–6God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.
7–8God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.