Discipleship + Thanksgiving

This is a study on 1 & 2 Thessalonians that I created that focuses on the ideas of discipleship and thanksgiving. Both ideas are key in being a follower of Christ. This study is designed to equip believers not only in discipleship relationships, but in learning to give thanks in all circumstances. Always giving thanks and being constant in prayer is foundational for being an effective “disciple maker” and servant of Christ Jesus. I hope this resource is a helpful resource for you!

1 Thessalonians: Background

Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians from Corinth around 51 AD, and sent it to the Thessalonian church after hearing an update on their growth from Timothy. The Thessalonians came to faith from paganism, and were facing much persecution. Paul wrote the letter to encourage the new believers in their hardship, give them further instructions on godly living (especially in regards to not being idle), and give assurance that Christ would be returning soon. More background can be found in Acts 17:1–9. 

Give Thanks: 

  • 1:2-3 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 2:13-16  And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 
  • 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
    • Giving thanks has a much greater impact on our faith then we care to admit. Choosing to thank God in all circumstances inspires a life filled with prayer and hope. It is a choice we must make, even if it feels uncomfortable. Always giving thanks, continually mentioning others in prayer, remembering God’s faithfulness from the past all the way to the present--these are all powerful ways to live a more holy, sanctified life that is truly centered on God’s goodness rather than our own suffering. 

Discipleship: 

  • Pray constantly for those whom you are discipling 
    • 3:10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  
  • Look for fruit in the other person’s life: how are they responding to Gospel truth? 
    • 1:4-5 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
  • Model a walk with God that is worth imitating 
    • 1:6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 
    • 2:10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed
    • 3:7-10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Encourage them to share their faith and become models of faith for others

  • 1:7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 
  • 4:13-18 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope 
  • 5:11-13 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other

Speak the truth in a way that is loving and glorifies God, not yourself

  • 2:3-5 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.
  • 2:6-7 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. Instead, we were like young children among you.

Give of yourself sacrificially 

  • 2:8-9 Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

Exhort like a father

  • 2:11-12 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
  • 5:4-8 We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
  • 5:14-15 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Endeavor to see people again (stay in contact)

  • But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

Focus on the goal: sanctification

  • 4:1-8 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
  • 5:22-24 Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Do not quench the Spirit: let God be as creative with other people as He was with you, and remember that you can do nothing to change someone’s heart. It is all up to the Holy Spirit.

  • 5:19-22 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
     

In 1 Thessalonians, what relationships do you see… 

Between prayer and discipleship? 

Prayer and thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving and discipleship? 

2 Thessalonians: Background

About six months after writing the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul sent a second letter in response to further information about the church. The structure and ideas are very similar to the first letter: Paul is still in Corinth, and he encourages the Thessalonians to persevere in persecution. However, this letter is stronger in rebuke. Paul rebukes them for being idle, and for believing a teaching that Jesus already returned and they missed His second coming. 

Give Thanks: 

  • 1:1-4 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
  • 2: 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Even though the Thessalonian church was recently taught to not believe false teachers and “test the spirits”, they believed a false teaching that Jesus had already returned. Paul could have chosen to be upset with the church, but instead of growing angry he chooses to give thanks for them and empathize with them. He prays for them and points out what they are doing well, giving thanks for their strong faith in Jesus Christ. 

Discipleship: Repeated themes from 1 Thessalonians

  • Pray constantly for those whom you are discipling 
    • 1:11-12 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ
  • 2:16-17 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
  • 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

Model a walk with God that is worth imitating 

  • 3:7-10 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Exhort like a father

  • 3:11-15  We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.

Give of yourself sacrificially 

  • 3:8 we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 

Focus on the goal: sanctification

  • 1:4-5 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
  • 1:11-12 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
  • 2:15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
  • 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
  • 3:13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

In 2 Thessalonians, what relationships do you see… 

Between Paul’s first and second letter to the Thessalonians?

Between prayer and discipleship? 

Prayer and thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving and discipleship? 

Modeling, imitation, and ultimately sanctification?