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1 Thessalonians 3 v 9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith

So far we have thought about 3 of five sections of the 3rd Chapter of 1 Thessalonians. We have noticed firstly how Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians was expressed by sending Timothy back to them – at great personal cost


Secondly he believed that he should be WARNING them of afflictions to come


They had already suffered great persecution in Thessalonica – when the missionaries were with them. They had continued to suffer after they had gone.

Thirdly in this chapter we have Paul’s reaction to Timothy’s return to Corinth – with information.


1. The Good News was DELIVERED.

Timothy brought wonderful news – good tidings about several aspects of their condition in Thessalonica.

The Good News was about

1. Their Faith.

2. Their Love

3. Their continued remembrance of the missionaries

4. Their desire to see the missionaries again.


2. The Good News was DELIGHTED IN.

Timothy’s report had brought several things mentioned in these verses –

1 It had brought COMFORT

2. It brought a CONFIRMATION that his work in Thessalonica had not been wasted.

3. It brought him COURAGE to rise above the hardships and opposition at Corinth

This morning we are brought face to face with Paul’s Response to the good news from Thessalonica.

What is our response when we get good news?

Do we clap? Do we shout for joy? Do we jump up and down on the spot with gladness? Do we go walking and leaping and praising God as the lame man had done when Peter and John had healed him?

There are many ways to respond to good news. Paul’s response was with


9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

We are going to see three aspects of Paul’s response

1. Thankfulness

9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you,

2. Joy –

for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

3. Prayer –

10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

All three are prayer as we shall see.

Matthew Henry says “It would have been a killing thing to the missionaries if the professors of religion (by this he means converted believers at Thessalonica) had proved unsteady or even proved to be apostates. In the event nothing was more encouraging than their constancy.”

It has been a great joy since being in the ministry, for people to ask about the state of the church at Whiddon Valley – and for us to be able to say how much encouragement there is in the fellowship and the work of the Gospel here in Barnstaple. It is not proud to speak the truth about the love of the saints here, of the harmony in the Gospel, and of the mutual benefit there is in belonging to such a church as this. We too can catch the same element of response to Good News as Paul expressed – thankfulness, joy and further prayer.

Let us now consider these three initial elements of Paul’s response to the wonderful news brought by Timothy from Thessalonica.


How many ways are there to say thank you? ‘Diolch yn fawr iawn’, if you are in Wales. ‘Merci beaucoup’, if you are in France or other French speaking countries. ‘Dankeshön’, in Germany – or ‘Gracias’, amongst the Spanish speakers.

One of the first things that one wants to know how to say when one is in a foreign land is how to say thank you! Paul asks a question in verse 9 and 10 – What sufficient thanks can we give in payment for this good news that we have received? How can we render to God adequate thanksgiving?

Can we imagine Paul sitting in a house in Corinth and listening to Timothy recounting the news of his journey to and from Thessalonica; of the people that he had met there; of the spirituality of the believers there; of their perseverance in the faith there despite continued persecution; and of the loving messages sent back via Timothy to the Apostle. How eagerly Paul would have heard every word! How he would have drunk in the news!

But this good news could have had the effect of giving Paul and Silas and Timothy an opportunity to indulge in some self-congratulation.

“Well – we did a really good job there. The church is flourishing so we must have got something right. The people are continuing in the faith – so we must have got our doctrine right. They are standing up to persecution – so we must have set them a good example – even though we had to leave! The Lord must be quite pleased with us!”

But notice that this was NOT what these men did. Their satisfaction was NOT in themselves – rather it was satisfaction in what GOD HAD DONE! Paul knew that it is not of human beings to do a spiritual work. Spiritual work is only done by the grace of God. No human being can ever save another human being from hell – only the Lord God through His son the Lord Jesus Christ can do that! No wonder Paul is thankful. A mighty manifestation of grace has been apparent from the news from Thessalonica.

THANK GOD! Says the apostle Paul! Thank God that He has continued His work started there in Thessalonica! And Paul’s thanksgiving is expressed rhetorically

9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you,

The word render in this phrase is interesting in the original language. It is ANTAPODOUNAI from the verb ANTAPODIDOMAI meaning “to give in return for, recompense.”

It is used positively and negatively in other verses in the New Testament. Positively we find the word in this 9th verse and in Luke 14 v 13

But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

And in Romans 11 v 34

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

There are some negative uses as in Romans 12 v 19

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 1 v 6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

Hebrews 10 v 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.

Now in turning it into a question Paul implies that NO thanksgiving within his power would be adequate with which to repay God for what He had done at Thessalonica.

We sometimes have something to be grateful for to someone who has done us a kindness. We are thrilled with what they have given to us or done for us and we say something like this “I really cannot thank you enough!”

The writer of Psalm 116 asks a similar question –

12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

Like Paul the psalmist feels unable to make adequate return to God – and this grieves Him.

However both do know how to proceed after expressing such inadequacy – the Psalmist says

13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. 14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

In other words I will be thankful and joyful in worship and praise of the great God who has done great things for me whereof I am glad! Being thankful leads to joyful praise – and thankfulness should glorify God.

Some people have lost the spirit of praise because they have neglected to be thankful. All of us have something to thank God for – His mercies are new every morning – we thought about this at the beginning of the year. His redemption is perfect – His love is unlimited – His power is exercised in our favour – He has not spared His own Son the Lord Jesus Christ but offered Him up for us all – He has gone to prepare a place for us – He has remembered our sins no more. The list can go on and on. But are we thankful?

We all have to admit that we come short in this area of thanksgiving. We are of course in good company – Paul himself confessed to such inadequacy – he could not thank God enough. We are all imperfect in our ability to be truly thankful to God because we take so much for granted.

But we may be encouraged this morning – that when we get to heaven – then we shall really know how to thank the Lord! We shall have all eternity to thank and praise the Lord for what He has done and for who He is. But we do not have to wait for heaven – we can start practising – now – even though we feel inadequate in our thanks!

2. JOY.

Joy, Joy, Joy, With joy my heart is ringing, Joy, Joy, Joy, His love to me is known! My sins are all forgiven, I’m on my way to heaven, My heart is bubbling over with His Joy, Joy, Joy.

So goes the old chorus that has so much truth in it. The Apostle Paul was filled with an overflowing and at the same time an inexpressible joy at the news of the church at Thessalonica.

for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

Joy and thanksgiving are connected strongly. Someone has said that joy is always associated with life whereas sorrow is associated with death. Rejoicing before God is thanksgiving too. Yet God Himself is the author of our joy.

In our sins we can have no real joy. If hell awaits us there is nothing to be joyful about. The world is full of joyless people. They have a form of joy – but it is false. It has to do with stimulated emotions – not with redeemed souls! The true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has joy unspeakable. When you know that God loves you, that your sins are pardoned and washed away by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ then that fills you with wonderful joy!

Is this your experience my friend this morning? Have you got real and genuine joy in your heart this morning? You cannot manufacture joy – joy is part of the gift of true salvation that comes from the Lord God by his grace. And that salvation comes through God’s grace leading you to repent of your sins, and turning to Him alone for forgiveness and pardon. He calls you today to get right with Him and to trust His Son’s wonderful work at the cross of Calvary – that work of paying the penalty for sin.

It may be that you are a believer this morning but joy is not the first thing you think about. Joy is in short measure even though you know you are saved. Yet the truth is this – joy is one of the compensating blessings that we experience even in the midst of suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ and in his service. We may be beaten down and burdened outwardly. Life may be very tough from our perspective. Yet my friend it is possible to be buoyed up, to be lifted aloft by an inexpressible inward joy – which actually is a foretaste of the glory that awaits us.

1 Peter 1 v 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

May we know this joy in every circumstance!

We said earlier that thanksgiving and joy were actually parts of prayer – which is the third aspect of Paul’s response to the Good news – and we remain with thoughts about prayer for the rest of this sermon and will continue with prayer next Lord’s Day.


10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

Even though Paul is struggling with the problem of how to make an adequate return for the blessings of the Gospel that he had heard from Timothy, – it does not stop him asking for more!

There is an intensity communicated here – night and day and exceedingly give us a clue to the nature of Paul’s joyful, thankful prayer! When we were in the last Chapter we noticed how chapter 2 v 9 told us that Paul and the others worked night and day with their hands at a trade. Yet in all that they found the time to plant a church, which cannot be done without much prayer – prayer night and day too! Surely this is evidence that Paul was a prayerful man – an earnest pray-er – over abundant and intense in prayer.

His prayers were not merely formal – they came from his heart. He passionately yearned to see the believers again.

How can we tell? From the Greek word used for prayer in this verse. Instead of the usual word PROSEUCHOMAI Paul uses DEOMAI. DEOMAI means to pray because of a want or a lack rather than prayer in devotion. So his prayer springs from a sense of DEPRIVATION. Paul NEEDS to pray – so he prays accordingly.

Oh that it may be that we learn to pray like this – with a heart’s desire to see God moving. I have to confess that it is not often that my prayers are like this. I would be dishonest if I said otherwise – but I am challenged to be so stirred up in my soul that I WOULD pray like Paul – with a desire for souls, with a deep desire for God’s glory; with a sense of deprivation of evidences of grace that I would pray all the more fervently! Could I challenge you too my friends – let us earnestly desire to be in prayer like this!

What exactly was his desire that drove him to his knees?

i. He had a desire to see the believers face to face.

The Apostle really wanted to be amongst the Christians at Thessalonica and rejoice in their fellowship – not for himself – for self gratification – that he could look at them and take credit for their conversion – Oh No!

But for their sakes! He had a Pastor’s heart and Pastor’s desire for his flock – just to see them again.

Modern communications are all very well. E mails to Nicola and Zdenek are sent in a moment and replied to in a matter of minutes; letters, yes, hand written ones still come, take a little longer and are good to be received; and telephone calls have made a great difference to people to talk together though separated physically. But there is nothing to replace, and there is no substitute for, the stimulus of face to face fellowship with significant people.

We missed you when we were away. We prayed daily for you – we wondered what you were doing. On the Tuesday evenings we prayed while you prayed – and when you were studying the word we were reading and listening to ministry from a CD. This is a common experience – those bound together by family ties as we are in the church miss each other when parted.

But what a sense of joy and peace when we are all together again – assembled in God’s Name and in the house of God – seeing each other’s faces – in each other’s physical presence.

You know in heaven we will first of all see our Saviour face to face and have perfect joy because all will be present and correct – not one of God’s people who have been adopted into His family will be missing.

We shall see each other face to face never again to be parted. How wonderful and glorious – what a lot we have to look forwards to.

ii. He had a desire to build the believers up by ministry.

The time that the missionary church planters had spent with the Thessalonians had been limited and it had been impossible to give them all the teaching that they had needed. So he prays that they might be able to supply their deficiencies.

How would you feel if you received a letter like this? If someone famous wrote to us to tell us that he was coming to visit us – and while he was here he would put us right on a few things! Paul of course means to profit these Christians –

and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

The word perfect here is the Greek KATARKIDZOH and is used several times in the New Testament.

It is used in Matthew 4 v 21

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

And in Galatians 6 it is rendered restore –

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

The fishermen were not so much mending their nets as strengthening them and preparing them for future use.

KATARKIDZOH means to rightly order or arrange something. It refers to strengthening and maintaining as in Hebrews 11 v 3

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Here it is the word FRAMED that is a translation of this word. A frame encloses and puts things in order. It completes the picture.

So there were deficiencies or imperfections in the Church of Christ at Thessalonica! What a surprise – or was it?

As in every church there were things that needed to be done. Timothy’s report was good – but there were some issues to be dealt with.

1. The first was the issue of the Return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Second Coming. Paul prepares for chapter 4 v 13 to 5 v 3 – the teaching on the 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Secondly – the recent converts to Christ had been blessed with much grace – yet there was still more room for improvement. This is born out by the words that he used in Chapter 4 v 1

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

3. And thirdly it seems that some of the members had become disorderly and had needed the words of Chapter 5 –

1 Thessalonians 5 v 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

There were needs in the church – and Paul could not go personally though he desired to – yet he could pray. He could pray that these deficiencies would be supplied – however God wanted to do it!

My friends we too need to know our deficiencies. In our case we need to be ready to search the scriptures and to listen to teaching in order to be built up by ministry. When we know that we have shortcomings let us pray – for ourselves and for each other. We need the Ministry of the Word to help us. Perhaps we can see Chapters 4 and 5 of the letter as directed to setting us on the right road.

May it be so for the glory of our Saviour’s wonderful name! So let us with thanksgiving and joy approach the Lord in fervent prayer for His work this week, and until He comes again. Let us not get weary in well doing – for His Name’s sake.

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