Acts 16:1-40, Acts 17:1-24, Acts 18:1-5
Editor’s note: You’ll notice the Scripture reading for today is longer than the others and comes from the book of Acts. These chapters in Acts provide context for our study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and give us a foundation for understanding the Apostle Paul’s relationship with this church.
Have you ever been through a tough season, one where you wondered how much more you could bear? Have you ever felt alone in your calling? Have you ever worked at something you believed you were supposed to do, but were met with more opposition than welcome? Have you ever gotten so tired you wondered if you could press on? I have.
When the Apostle Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I have to believe he knew that feeling. He had given his recent years to proclaiming a simple but polarizing message: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah” (Acts 17:3). The Holy Spirit was working through Paul, but the road to spreading the gospel was tough.
When Paul arrived in Corinth during his second missionary journey, he was beat up, weary, and ready for some encouraging news. Up to that point, he had been driven out of nearly every town he’d visited. It is a miracle of the Holy Spirit that the opposition he faced had not worn him down to nothing.
But it wasn’t all opposition. He had seen a few churches take hold along the way. One of those churches was in the port city of Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. Today’s reading from the book of Acts gives us the narrative of Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonians—how he planted that church, how the new believers there took his message about the Messiah to heart, and how they stayed hungry for the gospel, learning from Timothy in Paul’s absence.
Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians are like so many of his other letters: filled with theological clarification and instruction for how to live the Christian life. But it doesn’t take long to see that these letters are also a little different from the others, filled with words of affection for these believers who have been a tremendous encouragement to Paul.
The legacy of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians is evidence of the Spirit’s work in the world. Were it not for missions like the one that took Paul to Thessalonica, we would not have the gospel today. And were it not for the Holy Spirit’s work, those missions would have failed to build anything lasting.
So when you’re struggling, wondering if you can go on, remember this: the Holy Spirit is at work in the world still. How can we know this? Because Jesus promised He would send the Spirit as our helper in this life (John 14:15-31). When your faith is in Jesus, the Messiah, you are not alone—you are never alone.
In the face of impossible odds or unbearable weariness, God is at work. May the Lord encourage your heart as you read these letters and the story surrounding them.
Written by Russ Ramsey