1 Thessalonians 3:4
When the apostle could no longer control his longing to see his converts, he sent them Timothy by way of relieving his solicitude in their behalf. His love for them was manifest in all the circumstances of this mission.

I. HE SACRIFICES HIS OWN IMMEDIATE COMFORT TO THEIR BENEFIT. "We thought it good to be left at Athens alone."

1. Though Timothy was most necessary to him in the ministry, he parted with him for their good.

2. Athens, as a seat of boundless idolatry, exercised such a depressing influence upon him that he needed the stimulus of Timothy's society. Yet he denied himself this comfort that he might serve them.

II. HE DESPATCHES TO THEM THE MOST HIGHLY ESTEEMED OF HIS FELLOW-LABORERS. "Our brother, and minister of God, and fellow-laborer in the gospel of Christ." He selects one best fitted to serve them by his gifts, his experience, and his knowledge of the apostle's views and wishes. The various titles here given to Timothy help to honor him before the Churches, and to challenge the abiding confidence of the Thessalonians.

III. THE DESIGN OF TIMOTHY'S MISSION. It was twofold: "To establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith," and "to know your faith."

1. The necessity for his mission. The afflictions which they were enduring for the gospel.

(1) These afflictions had a most disturbing tendency. "That no one be disquieted by these afflictions." The converts had newly emerged from heathenism, and therefore the apostle was more concerned on their behalf. Yet, as we know from the Second Epistle, they remained firm. "We ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure" (2 Thessalonians 1:4).

(2) These afflictions were of Divine appointment. "For yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." They were, therefore, "no strange thing." They come by the will of God, who has determined their nature, severity, and duration. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." The afflictions were not accidental.

(3) They were clearly foreseen by the apostle. "When we were with you we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction."

(a) It is the duty of ministers to forewarn their converts of coming affliction, lest they should be offended thereby.

(b) Converts, when forewarned, ought to be forearmed, so that they may not sink under them, much less forsake the gospel on account of them. "For the light afflictions are but for a moment, and work out an exceeding weight of glory."

(4) Satan is the main source, of danger in these afflictions. "Lest by any means the tempter had tempted you. The apostle was "not ignorant of his devices," and was apprehensive lest Satan should get an advantage of his converts by moving them from the hope of the gospel, and causing them to relinquish their profession of it.

(5) The only security against Satan's temptations - faith; for this "is the victory that overcometh the world" - this is the shield "wherewith they could quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."

2. The manner in which Timothy's mission was to be discharged. "To establish you and to comfort you concerning your faith."

(1) In relation to the Thessalonians. Timothy would

(a) establish them by giving them a fresh exhibition of the truth with its manifold evidences. The strongest faith needs confirmation. The apostles were in the habit of confirming the souls of the disciples (Acts 14:22).

(b) He would comfort them concerning their faith by exhibiting the example of Christ, the glory that must accrue to God from their steadfastness, and the hope of the coming kingdom.

(2) In relation to the apostle himself. "To know your faith." One object of his sending Timothy was to put an end to his own anxieties and doubts on their behalf, for he might fear that "his labor would be in vain." He might hope the best but fear the worst, for he was most deeply concerned in their welfare. - T.C.







When we were with you we told you
I. MINISTERS SHOULD WARN YOUNG CONVERTS OF THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN. They must be taught that a suffering hour will come, and they must expect it. Otherwise there will be inevitable disappointment, and unbelief will be engendered in other matters and perhaps apostasy.

II. WHEN CHRISTIANS HAVE RECEIVED THESE WARNINGS THEY SHOULD FOREARM THEMSELVES.

1. The greatest calamities may be mitigated by forethought and prudence.

2. There are promises of Divine grace of which the Christian should possess himself before they are wanted.

3. Otherwise, in spite of the strongest caution and the most efficient provision, Christians will sink under their trials.

III. THE HEAVIER THE TRIAL THE GREATER THE REWARD. For our light affliction we shall have an eternal weight of glory.

(W. Burditt, M. A.)

We all know in a general way that this word means affliction, sorrow, anguish; but it is quite worth our while to know how it means this. It is derived from the Latin tribulum which was the threshing instrument or harrow, whereby the Roman husbandman separated the corn from the husks; and tribulatio was the act of this separation. But some Latin writer of the Christian Church appropriated the word and image for setting forth of a higher truth; and sorrow, distress, and adversity being the appointed means for the separating in men of whatever in them was light, trivial, and poor, for the solid and the true — their chaff from their wheat — he therefore called these sorrows and trials "tribulations," threshings, that is, of the inner spiritual man, without which there could be no fitting him for the heavenly garner.

(Abp. Trench.)

Thus God schooleth and nurtureth His people, that so through many tribulations they may enter to their rest. Frankincense, when it is put into the fire, giveth the greater perfume; spice, if it be pounded, smelleth the sweeter; the earth, when it is torn up with the plough, becometh more fruitful; the seed in the ground, after frost and snow and winter storms, springeth the ranker; the nigher the vine is pruned to the stock, the greater grape it yieldeth; the grape, when it is most pressed and beaten, maketh the sweetest wine; fine gold is the better, when it is cast in the fire; rough stones with hewing are squared and made fit for building; cloth is rent and cut, that it may be made a garment; linen is bucketed, and washed, and wrung, and beaten, and is the fairer.

(Bp. Jewel.)

Wesley was one day walking along a road with a Christian man who was relating his troubles, and at the same time saying he did not know what he should do. As his companion was expressing his doubts they happened to pass a stone fence over which a cow was looking. "Do you know," asked Wesley, "why that cow looks over that wall?" "No," replied the friend in trouble. I will tell you, answered Wesley, "because she cannot look through it." And that is what you must do with your troubles, look over and above them.

(W. Baxendale.)

Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things. Far up the mountain sides lies a block of granite, and says to itself "How happy am I in my serenity — above the winds, above the trees, almost above the flight of birds! Here I rest age after age, and nothing disturbs me!" Yet, what is it? It is only a bare block of granite, jutting out of the cliff, and its happiness is the happiness of death. By and by comes the miner, and with strong and repeated strokes he drills a hole in its top, and the rock says, "What does this mean?" Then the black powder is poured in, and with a blast that makes the mountain echo the block is blown asunder, and goes crashing down the valley. "All!" it exclaims as it falls, "why this rending?" Then some saws to fashion it; and humbled now and willing to be nothing, it is borne away from the mountain and conveyed to the city. Now it is chiselled and polished till, at length, finished in beauty it is raised high in the air to be the top stone on some monument of the country's glory.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I have seen a tree proudly crowning the summit of a naked rock, and there, with its roots spread out over the bare stone, and sent down into every cranny in search of food, it stood securely moored to the stormy crag. I have wondered how it could grow up there, starved on the bare, naked rock, and how it had survived the rough nursing of many a winter blast. Yet, like some neglected, ragged child, who from early childhood has been familiar with adversities, it has lived and grown and held itself erect on its weather-beaten crag when the pride of the valley has bent to the storm; like men who, scorning to yield, bravely nail their colours to the mast, there it maintains its defiant position, and keeps its green flag waving on nature's rugged battlements.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

How is it, brother? I do not ask you whether you like the cup which you are now drinking; but look back twenty years. What has made you so versatile? What has made you so patient? What has made you so broad, so deep, so rich? God put pickaxes into you, though you did not like it. He dug wells of salvation in you. He took you in His strong hand, and shook you by His north wind, and rolled you in His snows, and fed you with the coarsest food, and clothed you in the coarsest raiment, and beat you as a flail beats grain till the straw is gone, and the wheat is left. And you are what you are by the grace of God's providence, many of you. By fire, by anvil strokes, by the hammer that breaks the flinty rock, God played miner, and blasted you out of the rock, and then He played stamper and crushed you, and then He played smelter and melted you, and now you are gold free from the rock, by the grace of God's severity to you.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Crossing the ocean, I used to hang over the side of the Java to watch the stroke of the wave against the ship's cut water. I noticed, when it was foggy, and we were making only seven or eight knots an hour, there was but little stir in the water; but when, in fair weather, we went fourteen knots an hour, the ocean tossed in front of the prow and boiled on either side. So, just in proportion as a Christian makes headway in Christian enterprise, in that ratio will there be commotion and excited resistance in the waters. If nothing has been said against you, if you have never been assaulted, if everybody seems pleased with you, you are simply making little or no progress; you are water logged, and, instead of mastering the wave, the wave masters you.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

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