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. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. (1 Thessalonians 3:4-5 NIV)
Paul has traveled to Athens and is being persecuted there. He may have been imprisoned as he makes it clear that he cannot leave and go to Thessalonica. It isn’t the persecution which is frustrating him, but the inability to know how his spiritual children are doing. If his faith was being tested by persecution he could be certain that Satan was not going to leave his children alone.
Paul seems to have a genuine concern for his children in the faith. Satan is real and is looking to tempt them to leave their faith behind. Paul expresses no concern for their physical well-being, but his words convey a passionate concern for their faith.
I could get in a car and travel from Athens to Thessalonica and back in a long day. I’d only do that if I wanted to have a face to face conversation. If my need for reassurance could be satisfied with a virtual interaction I could satisfy it instantly. In Paul’s case he had to send Timothy on a 300 mile journey that probably took several weeks one way. He cared enough that Timothy was sent.
As an elder in a congregation who is responsible for spiritual children Paul’s passion and concern challenge me. As a congregation we are not dealing with physical persecution, but the tempter is no less active. I pray for people’s physical health and that’s a good thing, but I don’t pray nearly enough for people’s faith.
My dad is dealing with some challenges right now. It was very reassuring when I visited a few days ago that he was able to say with confidence, “I believe”. In this case I knew he was expressing confidence in his eternal destiny. Still, I am grateful for his example of faith in the middle of trials and pray that his joy will be restored based on that confidence.
For my grandchildren:
How can I help you strengthen your faith?