Text: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
For the joy of freedom in the Son
For those tempted in weakness
For those tempted in their strength
The Thessalonian church is among Paul’s dearest, and there is clear love between him and the people there. Yet Paul is worried: he has reports that the mission church he has left behind in Thessaloniki is struggling. But there is good news! Timothy has come with a report that the faith and love of that parish continues.
However, we see that Paul’s concern is not completely gone. There is an odd verse—a question—where Paul asks the Thessalonians for guidance so that he can pray appropriately for them, because he still senses there is something lacking in their faith.
Most commentators have been puzzled by this verse and wonder what is weak in the Thessalonians that Paul would want to shore them up. But there is another possibility: that the Thessalonians are strong, and their very strength is becoming a problem. The way Paul phrases the question is suggestive—what thanksgiving can we raise to God? How can we glorify God, and in so doing supply what you really need?
We often talk of strengths and weaknesses and think that a key activity in human life is to shore up or overcome weakness. But our strengths are equally dangerous: those things at which we are best, like a towering tree or a mighty mountain, can cast a shadow, create a place of darkness that prevents us from seeing the truth about ourselves. It is for this reason that the Scriptures warn so much of the spiritual danger that the wealthy or the powerful face: their very strengths hid the need they have for God, make it less likely that they will call on the name of the Lord. At one point in their ministry, the disciples are dismayed that a particular demon resisted them, and Jesus wryly replies “this type can only be driven out by prayer.” Jesus is clear: it is not your power, but your willingness to go to your knees that will drive out a being that exists on the strength of its pride.
Easter joy ~ Pr. Dave Brooks