Your faith is always under fire. It is always being pounded, and that can happen in one of two ways.
Trials. “We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith so that no one would be unsettled by these trials” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).
The Tempter. “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 might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless” (1 Thessalonians 3:5).
Looking over this whole chapter, I am struck by the love Paul has for these believers and the depth of his commitment to them. He is desperate for news. “We wanted to come to you…but Satan stopped us” (2:18). Paul had to deal with something Satan did. Perhaps it was some plot against his life, or some sin, or scandal at Corinth. We don’t know. This was desperately frustrating for Paul. “When we could stand it no longer…we sent Timothy” (3:1).
Three Keys to Ministry
Think about someone you know whose faith is under fire from great trials or a particular attack from the tempter. How would you minister to this person? Paul gives us a model in his letter to the church in Thessalonica.
1. The Ministry of Presence
Paul would have gone himself. But when he couldn’t do that, he sent somebody else: Timothy.
Timothy goes to “find out” about their faith (v. 5). So Timothy asked people, “How is all that’s happening in your life affecting your faith? What are the biggest questions for you?” This is real pastoral care. He goes. He asks. And he listens.
Think about Christians you know who are under great pressure. What is happening to their faith? We need to practice godly vigilance for the spiritual good of others. And we need to ask them, “How is your faith? What’s happening to your love for Christ? How is this affecting your ability to pray?”
2. The Ministry of the Word
Paul sent Timothy, and then he wrote them this letter. This is no ordinary letter. It was written under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That was unique. We can’t write more Scripture for people whose faith is under fire, but we can read and apply the Scriptures (that have already been written) to their lives.
3. The Ministry of Prayer
Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith… (1 Thessalonians 3:10)
These folks are always in Paul’s mind and on his heart. What a strength it is when someone says, “You have been in my mind and on my heart. I’ve been praying for you.”
This is a ministry for all of us. Who do you know whose faith is under fire? Your calling is to strengthen and encourage them in their faith, and you do that through your presence, through the Word, and through your prayers.
These are the elements of true pastoral care:
- You go.
- You read the Scriptures.
- You pray.
And if you cannot go yourself, you make sure that someone else goes for you.
This is how you minister to a friend, a neighbor, or a family member whose faith is under fire. To whom might you minister today?