These small group studies of Thessalonians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 Thessalonians 3 Inductive Bible Study
I. Paul sent Timothy to follow up (1-5)
II. Paul is encouraged by the good report from Timothy (6-13)
What could they endure no longer in verse 1?
Since Paul was not available to follow up with the Thessalonians, what did he do instead?
What afflictions was Paul referring to in verse 3?
Why did Paul tell them ahead of time about the afflictions he and his team were going to face?
Should we tell the difficulties associated with being a Christian to others when we share the gospel even though this may discourage them from believing? Why or why not?
What feelings/attitude does Paul display in verse 5?
Who is the tempter?
Cross-References on Team
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – Two is better than one.
Ephesians 4:16 – The whole body is joined. Each part is working.
1 Corinthians 1:10 – Be united with the same mind and judgment.
1 Peter 4:10 – As each has a gift use it to serve one another.
Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens.
1. When we could endure it no longer – This phrase gives us a key insight into Paul’s heart for others and his motivation to share the gospel, make disciples, and plant churches. If he started a work and could not see it through, it physically bothered him. His concern for the Thessalonians meant he couldn’t bear leaving them so suddenly and without a good way to keep growing. They were like little babies suddenly thrown to the wolves. You can imagine how a mother would feel (and Paul used this imagery in chapter 2) to know her child was facing a wolf alone with no one to protect him. That is something how Paul felt (verse 5). Several important principles of ministry can be gleaned from this:
A. Follow up is necessary for new believers – When we share the gospel and someone believes, we shouldn’t just say, “Welcome into God’s family brother. Now go your way and serve the Lord.” It is our duty to help that person grow up in his spiritual faith. Paul and his team were the ones who shared with the Thessalonians and thus they felt this personal responsibility to help them grow. Yes, they knew God would take care of them. But they didn’t just sit back and wait for someone else to follow them up. Do you share the gospel with others? You should. If you do, do you follow up with those who hear it? Do not just entrust this job to the “church.” The church is big and people can easily fall through the cracks, even in a good church. Newcomers might be sitting in the pews not understanding the sermons, communion, baptism or a host of other issues. You should keep meeting with the new believer and help guide them to understand and obey the Word. Even if you ask someone else to help or introduce them to a fellowship/study, you can still meet with them outside of that study to give more help, encouragement, counsel, etc. Paul could not bear sharing the gospel and following up. He would not let the normal excuses (what are some of the excuses for not doing this?) keep him from finding a way to see that the Thessalonians were followed up properly. Can you endure to see new believers directionless because no one is following them up? Hopefully you can’t. In that case do something about it.
B. Real and effective ministry must come from the heart – Over and over in these chapters, we see Paul’s heart for the Thessalonians. He loves them deeply. He cares for them. He is thinking about them. They are not just a number on a mission’s report. They are not just a box that needs to be ticked. His love for them is what motivates him. Do you have this love for the lost? If you don’t care about the plight of the lost, then you should ask yourself if you are even a believer to begin with.
2. We sent Timothy – Because of the circumstances Paul could not go back to the Thessalonians himself. The first time he went there, a riot was stirred up. As the face of the growth of Christianity, this could happen again if he returned. Beyond that, he was needed in Athens. But that doesn’t mean that Paul ignored them. On the contrary he found a way to give them the help and encouragement they needed. What principles of ministry can we learn from this?
A. A team can do ministry more effectively than an individual. In what other cases can we see teams at work in the Bible? What passages support a ministry team? What are the advantages of a team as opposed to an individual? What if you want to have a team and there is no one to team with you?
Paul could not go, so he sent Timothy. One advantage of a team is that it creates more flexibility. A team can cover more ground than an individual can. Some members can go where others can’t (Timothy would be under the radar while Paul drew a lot of attention wherever he went.) Being on a team, does not mean that everyone is doing the exact same thing or even that they are doing everything together. A team is motivated by common goals and values. The church is a good example. Not everyone preaches and not everyone leads the singing. But each person who attends should be doing something to further the goal of glorifying God and edifying the body. Imagine a church where everyone wanted to preach. There would be no one in the congregation! Are you willing to be part of God’s team of harvesters in your city? What should you be doing as part of this team?
B. Timothy was sent with a specific goal – To strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians. This gave him a clear vision. At other times he was sent with a goal to appoint elders in local churches or pastor a flock. Proverbs 29:18. To be effective, we need to have a target, a goal. Ask God to give you a vision for the lost around you and then start to plan how you can help the vision to become a reality.
C. Even the great Paul had a time – Sometimes we think that Paul was a spiritual giant, and I guess he was. But even he didn’t work alone. He was almost always surrounded by a team who supported his work. Jesus surrounded himself with the disciples as well who helped in his ministry. If nothing else does, these two examples should show you how important it is to be part of a team.
3. They told the Thessalonians in advance about the afflictions ahead – Paul and his team faced a lot of adversity. Hearing about the adversity surrounding Paul’s team, could have been very discouraging for the new believers. It could have potentially weakened their newfound faith. Questions might have sprung up in their mind “How could a loving God allow His workers to face so many problems?” Doubt may have seeped in. So what did Paul do about this? He told them ahead of time about the afflictions ahead. This certainly came with a bit of risk. Telling them about this either before or right after they believed, could discourage them and make them question whether it would really be worth it to follow Christ. Many evangelists will not mention those potential persecutions and/or some of the costs/sacrifices of following Christ because it discourages some people from making professions of faith. However, Luke 14 is clear that a real disciple should count the costs first before making the decision to follow Christ. If you give a potential disciple the whole picture at the beginning some will surely choose to put off a decision (A friend of mine last week shared the gospel with two ladies. They both wanted to believe. They had heard a sermon in the morning that believers should not marry unbelievers. As an example of the cost of following Christ, she asked them if they still wanted to believe knowing that meant they couldn’t marry an unbeliever. Only one of the two said yes.), but those who still choose to believe are much more likely to stick with their decision later. At the same time it is almost deceptive if we conceal the costs of following Christ only to spring those things on the unsuspecting later. It is almost like an Amway scheme or other trick salesmen would try.
4. Verse 5 – We see again Paul’s great concern for the Thessalonians. What does this passage teach us about the principles of ministry and caring for others?
A. Love sprouts action – Many talk the talk of love. But Paul’s team showed it through action. His love for them meant he HAD to do something about it. He couldn’t sit still and let things remain as they were. It was like he had a bubbling fountain inside of him that couldn’t be contained.
What report did Timothy bring to Paul?
How did the Thessalonians think of Paul and his team?
What is one thing that kept Paul’s ministry team going in the midst of their afflictions?
What does Paul mean, “for now we really live…”?
Why was Paul so thankful? How did he feel about the report that Timothy brought?
What can we learn about prayer from their examples?
What can we learn about how to treat others?
What can we learn about thanksgiving? Joy? Suffering? Ministry? Teamwork?
How could they grow in love? What “wish” did Paul have for the Thessalonians?
1. Timothy brought a good report – The Thessalonians were doing well. Their faith and love continued.
2. The Thessalonians reciprocated Paul’s feelings – In the last couple of chapters we have been looking at the concept of modeling. Generally disciples will follow the example of their mentors much the same as the popular secular idiom, “like father, like son.” Paul modeled this Christian affection and kindness. The Thessalonians saw Paul’s sincere care for others and they also learned to care for others in this way. This should both motivate us to be a good model for others. It also shows us that you reap what you sow. Generally if you treat others with kindness they will treat you with kindness. This is not the main motivation for why we should be kind to others, but it is a very nice result. Are there people who would long to see you if they didn’t see you for a long time? If not, maybe you are not friendly enough!
3. Paul’s team was comforted in the middle of their affliction – Paul faced many persecutions. Sometimes you might wonder how he could persevere in the middle of so many trials. Here we learn the “secret” formula which motivated Paul to keep going when the going got tough. What is it? The secret formula was “love for others.” He did not do those things for himself. He didn’t do it for the money (there wasn’t much.) He didn’t do it for the fame. His fame caused riots and put a target on his back. Hearing that his work was not in vain, that it made a difference for eternity, this is what strengthened him during times when it would have been easy to succumb to discouragement. See Romans 8:18. Paul was not motivated only by the hope which he would one day experience, but by the difference he could make in the lives of others.
4. For now we really live if you stand firm – Paul’s own life could be filled with joy and excitement if he saw them doing well. His example demonstrates the true meaning of unselfish living.
5. Verse 5 – With Thanksgiving coming up next week, it is only appropriate to discuss a biblical view of thanksgiving and here we see it. What do we learn about thanksgiving from this verse? You can see that Paul is thankful to God for the good news he heard. He didn’t attribute the Thessalonians’ success to himself or Timothy or others. He gave credit where it belonged. But beyond that, you can see what truly inspired Paul to be thankful. He was thankful about the Thessalonians spiritual growth. When was the last time you thanked God for someone else’s spiritual growth? For many of us, it may have been awhile. While we should thank God for physical blessings such as food, job, home, passing exams, health, etc. it should be spiritual growth and successes which get is really excited. And if it is those things which get you excited, you will also be motivated to pray for and work for that spiritual growth in others’ lives.
5. Verse 5, joy – Along with that thought, you can see what really brings joy to Paul. It was to see others doing well in their spiritual walks. This is exciting! Do you want to live a joyful life? The world would say make more money, travel more, get fast cars. God would say, work for Him and be used by Him. Some paintbrushes are used for painting outhouses. Some are used for painting Picasso’s. Which would you rather be? Well, God can use us to paint beautiful paintings. Will you let him?
6. Night and day – What can we learn about prayer from verse 10? If we are concerned for others, it is not enough to pray for them once or even once in a while. Paul’s team prayed night and day. If we truly want to be used by God, this is where it starts, on our knees.
7. What can we learn from the content of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians?
A. The content of prayer should not be centered on material things, but on spiritual things.
B. It is God who causes growth, both in love and holiness.
C. It’s OK to share your prayers for people with them sometimes. This could be a great source of encouragement for that person to know that you are praying for them.
D. If you want people’s lives changed, you must ask God to do it.
E. Jesus will come again. This should be at the forefront of our minds when praying. Our time is limited so what we pray for is also urgent.