Key verse: 1 Thessalonians 3:8
Big idea: The hope we have in the gospel brings us comfort in pain.
Paul and his companions had faced much tribulation and suffering. They had been threatened with death, imprisonment and undermined at every turn. What gave them endurance? What encouraged them when all hope seemed lost? 1 Thessalonians 3:8 tells us that it was the news that the Thessalonians stood firm. The grammar assumes that the "if" is true in 1 Thessalonians 3:8, so Paul is saying: "For now we live, since you stand fast in the Lord." What a pastor's heart! Paul and his coworkers do not despair of life - they "live" - because the church at Thessalonica is following Jesus. Paul believes their fruit shows that they genuinely belong to Christ and will be made like Him at the end. In comparison to that hope, all of the stresses and pressures of life are almost irrelevant.
Older kids: What is your biggest worry right now? If the worst happened, would it matter to you when you are 80?
Younger kids: Have younger kids hold something close to the maximum weight they can lift. Add a single piece of paper on top of it. Is the paper noticeable, compared to the weight? How do the weights of this life compare to the weight of the promise we have in Jesus?
We face many temptations to despair or doubt but we might wonder how many of them will matter in 50 years, much less 500. Do you think a slight difference in tax policy, a utility repairman arriving late, or an embarrassment will even be remembered in 50 years? Almost certainly not. Most of the things that we fret about are genuinely irrelevant. But forgiveness of sins, eternal life and certain glory for the people we love? That is an unshakable hope. So Paul could be beaten, he could be imprisoned and ultimately even executed, but he had hope and joy because his spiritual children stood firm in Christ.
Discussion idea: Why do you think Paul uses such strong language, "now we live"? Some pastors take the philosophy that they should not be concerned if people respond or not, as long as they have presented the truth. Does this match what Paul says here?
Prayer focus: Thank God that all of our biggest fears are a grain of sand alongside His goodness and love for us.