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Feb 20, 2022

Comfort vs. Suffering

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6

Preacher: Jess Achenbach

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Category: I Thessalonians

Keywords: suffering, gifts, paul, idols, comfort, idleness


God's word is effective vs. 1 Know that suffering is likely and likely vs. 2 Don't follow leaders (or become one yourself) that use greed, flattery or heavy handedness vs 3-6.


1You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.

 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

You know we never used flattery,

nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else,

even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

  1. Vs 1. The Gospel is effective: Paul speaks of the results that they know about. Providing proof that there has been life change because of the gospel message that Paul and Timothy brought to Thessalonica.
  2. Vs 2. Suffering comes with sharing the gospel; however, God empowers us to do it in the face of opposition. Examples of application:
    1. Young moms/dads
    2. High school students
    3. Working folks
    4. Retirees
  3. Vs 3-6 Beware of (or becoming) false teachers with these types of behaviors:
    1. Flattery


  1. People pleasers
  2. Greed


  1. Praise from people


  1. Heavy handed leadership

The power of the gospel is transformative.  Open your bibles with me if you have them or you can follow along on the screens to 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2.  This morning we are going to read through the first six verses, and we’ll go back through and munch on it a bit.  Let’s see if the Holy Spirit will speak to our hearts and convict where we need to be convicted and encourage where we need to be encouraged.



Paul is writing this letter back to the Thessalonians.  We see in Acts chapters 16 and 17 the back story of what happened before and after this that John mentioned this last week.  Paul and Silas had escaped prison after casting the evil spirits from the servant girl in Philippi and made their way through a couple of towns to Thessalonica. All along the way they encountered pushback on the gospel, and they also saw great success.  It was only a matter of several weeks for maybe a month that they were there (we know this because Paul had three Sabbath days of preaching in their synagogue and it was after that the Jews there stirred up a bunch of trouble because there were not only God-fearing Greeks that were joining Paul and Silas’s group but also some of the Jews were being persuaded to join.  Feeling the loss of some of their members they began to persecute them in hopes that the gospel would be quelled.

So, Paul and Silas are sent away by the believers in Thessalonica for their own


safety and now Paul is missing them but has received a report from Timothy that the church there is doing very well despite all the suffering and persecution that they have endured.  This is his letter back to encourage them.

The first part of the book he is reminding them of their success and rejoicing in it and the second part is the challenge for them to continue to grow in their faith and good works.

We see in this very first verse of the portion we are looking at today he reminds them that the gospel message is transformative.  He says: 1You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results”.  Paul was using the tools that the Holy Spirit had gifted him with, evangelism, preaching and boldness to share the good news of the gospel and the people responded.  So much so that there were these riots.  The culture of Thessalonica was a polytheistic one with many different gods worshiped.  Today we don’t see the same blatant idol worship here in the States that they had but a more subtle one.  We aren’t seeing the riots because of we are sharing our faith and it is having such a fantastic effect on the culture.  We are seeing riots for political, financial and social reasons.

How can we look at this message and apply it to our lives today?  We are given the same Holy Spirit that Paul and Silas had. 

As we are going through the Timothy Initiative program, we are being challenged to start using the tools and disciplines outlined in scripture to do the very thing that Paul and Silas were doing here.  Boldly proclaiming the message of the gospel.

I thought of an analogy of our Christian life and reasons why we are not being effective, and it is embarrassing, but I am going to share it anyway.  Please feel free to judge me.

Candice and I have a bathroom that is off our master bedroom that is only ours.  It is nice to have a bathroom, but it was getting dated and we didn’t like the tub shower combo from 1985 that was in there, so we decided to do a remodel and take out the tub just having large walk-in shower with a couple of shower heads and make it a little sanctuary for us.  When you have five or six kids running around the house it is nice to have your own place.  So, in April I began to tear out the shower and as I broke open the wall, I found that the project was larger than I anticipated.  There was a chimney running through space where we planned to expand the shower.  I have to say, this wasn’t April of 2021, also, it wasn’t April of 2020.  This happened in April of 2019, so we are coming up on three years ago that we started demo.

So, I have slowly done little bits of the project here and there.  We had to get a new furnace and hot water heater to reroute the chimney out the side of the house, and then I had to go to YouTube university in order to figure out the plumbing and here we are.

Now I have the tools to do the job, but here comes the second embarrassing part of the example.  My garage is so cluttered with different projects and mess that it is very difficult to even get to the tools and supplies I need to work on the project.  These tools are great working tools, no problem with them, I just need to clean the garage so that I can find them and put them to work.

Paul brought the tools to the new believers in Thessalonica and there was life change.  They began to use the tools, scripture, prayer, fellowship, discipleship, preaching and sharing the gospel and it took over, and a productive church was formed.  But it was a church that was suffering from persecution.  We as believers here in Spokane and across the US are bowing at the idol of comfort and ignoring the mess that we have in our garages.  I have sinks and a vanity and toilet, all the tile is purchased and ready to be installed by the tools in my possession and yet every night, I feel so overwhelmed by the amount of work yet to do, I would rather play cribbage or watch a show or do taekwondo or whatever other activity so that I don’t get the work done.  These things in and of themselves are not wrong, but by putting my desire to do them ahead of my poor wife’s desire to have the clutter gone and the bathroom completed is wrong.

So here is my first question to you for application.  If you are a believer, has the gospel message truly permeated your desire to put Jesus Christ on the Thone of your life?

In the analogy of my bathroom and the messy garage, the bathroom is the good works that I am called and empowered to do, and the mess covering up all the tools is my sinful nature ignoring the commands that God has called me to do.  Continuing to bow to my own selfish desires, the will of the Father is not playing out in my life to the full extent of my abilities.

Praise God this isn’t what was happening in Thessalonica.  The believers there were living in obedience and because of that the church continued to grow long after Paul and Silas left.  Paul has gotten this report from Timothy about the health of the church, and he is fully aware of the persecution that they were going through, but he is encouraging them to press on reminding them of the persecution they endured when there. 

When we are doing the will of God you can expect opposition even suffering.  The hard part of living a spirit filled life is to do as James says in chapter 1:2. “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds”, because we have become so accustomed to this comfort temptation.

I want to give you a little Lauren Report.  In December she was here talking about her mission trip and many of you are supporting her in both prayer and financial ways.

She is serving in Peru at an orphanage right now.  She left January 11th and really had no experience living in a third world country.  And although she was born in Japan and lived the first couple of years there, she doesn’t have any memory of that or international travel at all.  For the first time in her memory, on her own she flew down to Peru. It wasn’t an easy trip however she made it there and a day or so later her bags did as well. When she arrived everyone at the orphanage had Covid-19 and so she immediately was put to work going to the market buying supplies and taking care of sick kids.  After arriving she found out that while they sometimes have running water, they do not have warm water, so began the process of learning how to take quick cold showers.  Since it is the summer vacation there (they are on the other side of the equator) all the orphans went on a trip into the mountains and half of them including Lauren developed salmonella and had to return to the orphanage early.  It was there that she got a bad sunburn, a bad cold sore and bitten up by some mosquito type but that leaves painful swollen spot for three to four weeks.  From the sounds of it, things were overall a bit discouraging, and while she speaks Spanish, the orphanage is run by a Swiss German woman and so the day-to-day conversations are conducted primarily in Swiss German.

Verse two says:

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

While this isn’t persecution, I would classify it as a willing suffering.  Suffering to follow God’s calling on her heart to take care of orphans.  She cast aside the junk in her garage to start using the tools the Holy Spirit empowered her with and a vision that God is calling her to. 

By Paul and Silas’s example that is stated in verse two, we also should willingly suffer and be treated outrageously and dare to share the gospel in the face of strong opposition.

There is a difference between suffering and opposition though.  For me, suffering creature comforts for the sake of the gospel is easier in some ways than facing strong opposition from people.  While Lauren might be discouraged and I am sure the evil one is trying to use that to undermine her attitude or willingness to serve – and I am not trying to downplay how frustrating that can be; when we are faced with personal opposition by people purposefully intending to harm us or shame us, to push down the gospel spread, these relational issues are hard to bear up under.

So, my question to you would be, are you facing suffering or possibly opposition for the sake of spreading the gospel?  If you are a student, are you sharing your faith, and being mocked for it?  As a young parent interacting with friends that are not believers, are you stepping out of your comfort zone to share the gospel message?  For those that are in the workforce, do you take the risk of possible censure or demotion or even firing for being bold for Christ?  As a senior saint are you spending time with people in your life being the light that we are called to be?

Well, maybe you haven’t ever been challenged to share your faith.  I know we hear it all the time, but realistically, how often do we think about sharing our faith?  It is almost a bad word, there are so many jokes in popular culture about sharing how Jesus can change your life.  Most people think of Mormons or Jehovah’s witnesses when it comes to people sharing the gospel.

What I love about this Timothy Initiative is that it walks us through the process of doing the sharing of the gospel.  It has us practice what to say and how to transition from day-to-day conversation to asking real questions about people’s faith. It comes down to practical instruction.  So instead of me standing here telling you to share the gospel, it teaches you how to do that, both with strangers on the street to personal relationships.  Being able to tell someone what your life was like before you knew the Lord, when you met Jesus, and now what your life if like after.  It is the personal experience that you have had on life change.

We see this in Paul’s writings to other churches as well.  He points back then up and then forward.  What was your life before, then you were taught about Christ now, then going forward live differently?

Ephesians 4:17-24 in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus he says, “17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

As Christians this is our calling.  He goes on in Ephesians chapter 5:15-16 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.

In essence, get rid of all the junk that is covering the tools we have blessed with for good works.

Let’s continue to read through what Paul writes in the next four verses.

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

You know we never used flattery,

nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else,

even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

Here is a list of things he says they didn’t do in order to get the Thessalonians to follow Christ.

The impure motives which are:  Tricking people, using flattery, it wasn’t greed for money or for praise of people, and it wasn’t by heavy handed leadership that they spread the gospel, but they were obedient to share the word and allow the Holy Spirit to call the hearts of men to Himself.

We can see in our country today lots of poor examples of leadership whether that is in business, politics, or even the church.  We constantly hear reports of church leaders that are using church funds for their own gain, or the power of celebrity status and falling away.  Even the heavy-handed leadership that recently caused a large group of churches to disband here in the pacific northwest.  Paul didn’t use this method, and I it is also a warning to watch out for that in two different ways.

The obvious one here is to not follow leaders that use these types of tactics.  Let’s not support or associate with pastors and teacher that use these methods.  The larger warning is to not fall into these behaviors ourselves.  These are traps that we can fall into if we follow our own desires and do not stay focused on the prize.  Clearly these are attractive.  When we want to see results whether at a job, in ministry or even within our own family dynamics, sometimes we face challenges where we are not getting the results we want fast enough or in the way that we think things should happen.  So, we begin to manipulate the situation, not trusting God to make the changes in the timeline or pattern that we think should happen.

If we are not practicing the fundamentals, it is easier to fall prey to those temptations.  If you have ever played an organized sport like basketball, soccer or hockey you know that the coach has the team run drills that embed the basic skills into your muscle memory.  In basketball dribbling drills until you think you are going crazy, or in hockey puck control.  The reason for this is so that when you are in the middle of the chaos of the game you don’t have to think about the basics you automatically do them.  The same is true for walking the Christian life.  If you are not in the word, praying, listening for the voice of God, or in fellowship the chaos of life can distract you and lead you astray.  How much harder is it to be willing to suffer or face persecution if your foundation is shaky?

I want to close with the story of two students that were attending the school my father taught at in Indonesia. 

The bible school where he taught was also a vocational school where the students worked to build hydroelectric projects.  They would move from their tribal homes to the coastal region where the school was and go through the bible course and they would plant gardens so there was sustainable living.

The first students name was Bukuerip.  He completed the biblical studies and was still living at the school with his family.  Although many of the students came from formerly warring tribes, they were united in the body of Christ and put aside the past.  As a kid I would play with all the students’ children, I had a go cart and we would ride it around and play in the jungle and steal fruit from the gardens.  One day I was riding home from school and a bunch of the kids were playing in a huge tree, even the little kids were high in the branches.  I stopped and told them they should get down, but the didn’t listen.  When the principal of the school came by, he demanded and so they began to come out of the tree.  No one really knows how but the young son of Bukuerip fell and broke his arm.  About six months later he got sick with malaria and died.  Of course, the broken arm was not the cause of his malaria, but Bukuerip blamed the children that were from the families of the other tribe.  So, he grabbed a machete and spear and went to the office where he sliced the arm of one of the parents.  Bukuerip demanded that he be able to kill one of their children in retribution.  He also wanted to have his own church. He then went and cut down some banana trees and started destroying the gardens of the other students.  My father went to find out what was going on and he calmed down a bit.  We had just built the coffin for his son, but when asked what the fuss was about, he picked up the spear and tried to pin my dad.  Eventually the police came and resolved the situation, but eventually they gave him a church to pastor just to get him to leave.

The other student was called Tikimus.  They called him the mouse because the Indonesian word for mouse is tikus and sounded like his name.  He wasn’t blessed with a lot of technical know-how and while he was in the hydro program the only thing, he was good at was sharpening the machetes and cutting the grass, so he did that nonstop.  His attitude was great, and he had a love for the Lord.  After graduating from the biblical studies side (He failed the technical side) he and one other pastor with two friends left to go into a troubled area on the south coast.   Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation and sharing the gospel is illegal.  However, they felt the call of God into this area.  It was here that they faced great opposition to the gospel from the military and the local tribal leaders, yet they persisted.  One of the friends was in the forest and came back to see Tikimus and Pak Johannes being led at gunpoint.  He followed them for several miles until he witnessed the solders force Tikimus and Johannes to dig a large hole where they shot and killed them.

While both students faced suffering, one the loss of his child, the other with a scholastic struggle because of a simple mind, their responses were totally different.  One used the gospel to gain a position of prestige and power and a higher quality of life as a pastor. The other followed the call of God to a dangerous place to be obedient and boldly share the gospel even though it cost him his life.

I don’t know what ever became of Bukuerip, what I do know is that I hope to someday have the same boldness and obedience of the Mouse, little Tikimus. In order to get there, I need to be practicing the fundamentals, shedding the behaviors, uncovering the tools so to speak so that I CAN be effective for the Kingdom of God. I want to someday hear those words “Welcome home good and faithful servant”

I Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Go in God’s peace. 

If you need to break spiritual chains and uncover your spiritual tools so that you can use them, perhaps you need some help.  If you are hearing God’s calling on your heart today, don’t wait, please come down to the front and pray with one of the team here.