1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
But now when Timotheus came from you to us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity…
I. THE GOOD NEWS.
1. The faith and charity of the Thessalonians. This was good tidings to St. Paul. The gospel was good tidings to all who felt the misery of sin, to all who had been distressed by the strange, perplexing mysteries of life. Tidings of a Deliverer, of an atonement, of the gracious help of God's Holy Spirit, of eternal life to come, were full of joy and gladness to the Thessalonians. Out of that first great joy sprang other gifts of joy. The apostles had no greater joy than to hear that their children were walking in the truth. They had so entered into the full meaning of that short prayer, "Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven," that they had learned to share the holy joy wherewith the blessed inhabitants of heaven rejoice over one sinner that repenteth. Good news to them did not mean this or that earthly success, but the growth in grace of Christian souls. Are we thus affected when we hear of the victories of the gospel, of missionary triumphs abroad, of converted sinners, of holy deaths at home? It is a sure index of our spiritual state. If we know ourselves the deep blessedness of communion with God, we shall count it good news indeed when we hear of other souls being drawn into that holy fellowship. The glory of God is the one highest object to which all true Christians look, and each redeemed soul brings new glory and honor to the great Redeemer. The deeper, the purer our joy in the growth of holiness around us, the nearer our approach, while we are yet on earth, to the holy joy of heaven. Timotheus brought news that the faith of the Thessalonians had not wavered in the fiery trial, that their charity was living and fervent. It was glad news indeed to St. Paul.
2. Their remembrance of the apostle. St. Paul had a tender human heart; he writes these words, as Bengel says, with a fresh joy, with the tenderest love. The steadfastness of their faith was the chief part of the good news; but also their personal love for the apostle was very precious to him. To hear that they loved him still, that they desired greatly to see him, that they remembered his presence, his words, his affection, was very sweet to him.
II. ST. PAUL'S DELIGHT.
1. He was comforted. He had need of comfort and encouragement. Since he left Thessalonica he had met with great perplexities and disappointments at Athens; and now at Corinth he was working amid many difficulties, much harassed by the persecutions of the Jews, toiling hard for his daily bread. He tells them of his necessities, of his affliction. But now he was comforted; and it was their faith that brought him comfort, that encouraged him in his work. How these words must have pleased the Thessalonians, who so loved the apostle! To hear of their faith was good tidings to him; to be told that that faith had given him such deep comfort in his troubles must have been good news to them.
2. Their perseverance gave him new life. He knew what it was to die daily, to bear about always in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. But if death, as he says, was working in him, there was a new life that more than balanced it; a new life, full of warm, glowing feelings, full of high hopes and eager aspirations. And that life was nourished and sustained by the continued progress of the gospel. The tidings of their faith gave him a sense of life, a spiritual energy, a joy analogous to that joy in the mere sense of living which we experience sometimes in the bloom of youth and health. But his joy was wholly spiritual; the life of Christ in other souls seemed to stimulate the energies of the same Divine life in himself; he felt the water of life within him springing up with renewed freshness, as he listened to the glad words of Timotheus telling him how the Thessalonians were standing fast in the Lord. They were in the Lord, as he was - in the sphere of his gracious presence, of his Divine working; and to be in the Lord is life, for he is the Life. Spiritual life consists in union with him, without whom we can do nothing. The Thessalonian Christians were in him; so was St. Paul. Their life and his life came from the same Source. The knowledge of their faith and love, their spiritual life, quickened the Divine life that lived in him.
III. HIS THANKSGIVING.
1. He thanks God for them. He regards thanksgiving as a return due to Almighty God for his mercies. So the psalmist, "What shall i render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?" He fulfills his own precept, "In everything give thanks." Thanksgiving is the outflow of a loving heart. The love of God is the very essence of religion; and the more we love him, the more fervent will be our thanksgivings. St. Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians, for their faith and love: for faith and love come from God, who is the Object of faith, who alone can increase our faith; who is Love, from whom, the highest Love, cometh all pure and holy love.
2. He thanks God for his own joy. Holy joy is the fruit of the Spirit, the gift of the Spirit, the foretaste of the joy of heaven; it must issue in thanksgiving. St. Paul's joy was full and complete. He thanks God for all the joy wherewith he was joying. There were no shadows to darken its brightness; he had heard of no backslidings among the Thessalonians. And it was pure; it could bear the all-seeing eye of God. "We joy before our God," he says. There was no element of selfishness, no earthly pride, no lower motive, to defile it. Such joy in the salvation of souls is indeed heavenly; it is like the ineffable joy wherewith the blessed rejoice before the throne.
3. He adds prayer to his thanksgiving. Prayer and thanksgiving ever go together; they act and react upon one another. Prayer leads to thanksgiving; thanksgiving lends increasing energy to prayer.
(1) He prayed night and day. The quiet of the night is a time for holy thoughts. The psalmist thought of the Name of God in the night season, and received comfort. The Christian prays; he watches with Christ as he lies yet awake on his bed. He prayed night and day. While working at his daily labor, the hard work of weaving the goats' hair, he ever prayed. So it is with Christians now. They
"Ply their daffy task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls some holy strain repeat."
(2) He prayed exceedingly. "Above measure," the words mean literally. The more we pray, the more we love prayer. The prayers of the Christian increase in fervor, in earnestness, and in delight, the nearer he draws to God. Prayer occupies more and more of his time; it tends to assume more and more its proper place as the great work of life, the most important part of each day's business. St. Paul's love for the Thessalonians deepened the importunity of his intercession.
(3) He prayed that he might see their face. To see a good man's face, to hear his voice, to touch his hand, is a source of true pleasure. St. John trusted to speak face to face with his Christian friends, "that our joy," he says, "may be full." So was it with St. Paul.
(4) That he might be enabled to do them good. He had been but a very short time with them. He wished to give them further instruction, to fill up what was lacking in their knowledge. Christians may be living near to God, but there is always room for further advance in knowledge and in holiness. A saint of God like St. Paul can always do us good. Learn:
1. To rejoice in the spiritual progress of others.
2. To thank God for it.
3. To take delight in intercourse with holy men. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: