We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians this morning. We are going to be looking at the first five verses of chapter 3. As you look at these verses you can see the urgency and pain in Paul’s words. Twice he says, "when we could bear it no longer, when I could bear it no longer." Paul saw himself as a spiritual parent to these believers and, as a parent, he was concerned that their faith may fail in the midst of persecution. He wanted to see their faith developed and see them become more and more stable and mature in their Christian life.
Paul was so concerned for them because he had to leave them much sooner than he wanted to. We know from Acts that Paul, Silas, and Timothy had to flee from Thessalonica at night because of persecution.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Acts 17:10 ESV
Paul had planned several times to return to Thessalonica but was hindered by Satan. This could refer to the security taken of Jason in Acts 17:9, which most likely included a guarantee that Paul would not return to the city.
Therefore, when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 1 Thessalonians 3:1 ESV
"Therefore"—this opening conjunction connects this verse with the preceding chapter where Paul expressed his care for the Thessalonians. It would be better if there was no chapter division here and then we would make a much more obvious connection with the previous statement. At the end of chapter 2, Paul says,
For you are our glory and joy. Therefore, when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 1 Thessalonians 2:20-3:1 ESV
In other words, it's because of our love for you that we feel this way.
"Therefore, when we could bear it no longer"—Paul was having a very hard time dealing with the separation. It was Paul's parental fear for his Thessalonian children that his short time with them was not enough time to prepare them for the test of the persecution they were experiencing.
"Bear it"—is from the Greek stegeo which means "to protect by covering, then cover up with silence" much as a roof over a house both protects from the elements and conceals. From this it came to mean simply "endure." Twice he says in this chapter, "I couldn't endure it.
Why was he so concerned for them? It was because he knew they were under persecution. They were only a few months old in the Lord; they were just a baby church. And as such a young church, they had no mature leadership. He had been forced to leave them too soon. He was concerned they wouldn’t make it.
A lot of things in life can cause us anxiety, but Paul’s anxiety came from his care for the churches. Notice what he says in 2 Corinthians 11.
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28 ESV
Do you know the context of this verse? Paul is talking about all the physical suffering that he has gone through. Five times he received forty lashes, and three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned. Three times he was shipwrecked. When you look at the context of this verse, it makes Paul's care for the churches quite amazing. Paul was anxious, in a serious way, and was troubled with care for all the churches.
The word "anxiety" is from the Greek word merimnao which means "to be anxious about, to worry, be concerned for." What is interesting here is that Paul is doing what he commands the Philippians not to do.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV
"Do not be anxious about anything"—the Greek construction forbids the continuance of an action already habitually going on. The word "anything" is the Greek word medeis. It means "not even one thing." Here Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious—merimnao. This verb is the same one used by Yeshua in the Gospels when He said "…do not worry about your life." Both Yeshua and Paul are telling believers not to be anxious.
The word "merimnao" is also used in Luke 10.
But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, Luke 10:41 ESV
Yeshua was not telling Martha that she should not serve. He was pointing out that her anxiety was distracting her heart from serving in an acceptable way. She was overburdened and troubled about serving as though everything depended on her.
This word, "merimnao," is also used in 1 Corinthians 7.
and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:31-32 ESV
Over and over Paul tells the believers that he doesn't want them to be anxious.
As we have seen in these verses, Merimnao can be used to worry in a negative sense (to improperly be anxious or distraught over something). But, as seen in Philippians 2:19-20, it can be used positively for justifiable care and concern, in other words, to worry in a good sense (if it is possible to "worry" in a good sense).
I hope in the Lord Yeshua to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. Philippians 2:19-20 ESV
The word "concerned" here is merimnao. Timothy was Paul's son in the faith, and Timothy was a disciple of Yeshua. Paul said that Timothy was "like-minded." Tim was just like Paul; he had a love for other believers. He said that Timothy would be "genuinely concerned for your welfare." The word "genuinely" is the Greek word gnesios. It means legitimately or genuinely. In other words, Timothy has the heart of a true disciple. He genuinely cared for the Philippians. The word for "concerned" is again the Greek word merimnao, but here it is used with the sense of "to be anxious, worried, or burdened in a serious way; to be troubled with care." This is the word Paul uses in our text in,
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28 ESV
Paul uses the noun form here (anxiety). The care of the church was shared by Paul and Timothy. Timothy and Paul's anxiety was for the spiritual welfare of others, and that is biblical anxiety. Listen, believers, what we are forbidden to do in our own lives, be anxious, we are commanded to do for others.
that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:25 ESV
The word "care" here is merimnao. This verse states our Christian responsibility for other believers, using this identical verb, merimnao. Christian love is seen in being anxious, deeply concerned for others. It's amazing how often we see this reversed. We find ourselves guilty of anxiety over our own interest to the exclusion of the well-being of others.
Back to our text. Paul said, "We were willing to be left behind"—the word "willing" is the Greek word eudokeo which means "to be well pleased, to willingly determine, to think it a good thing to do." It stresses the willingness, the positive choice.
"Left behind"—is kataleipo ("to leave, leave behind" or in the passive, "be left alone or behind, be forsaken"). The word was used of leaving loved ones at death. It could carry the idea of being bereaved. The idea here is that Paul needed Timothy in the present work, but because of his concern for this church, he was willing to be forsaken. He was willing to be grieved to help them.
"At Athens alone"—the account in Acts doesn’t include all of the details, but we do learn that Paul first went to Athens alone, while Silas and Timothy remained in Berea (Acts 17:14). They joined him in Athens as soon as they were able, but Paul’s intense anguish in wondering how the Thessalonians were doing led him to send Timothy back to them.
Timothy had a Greek father and probably looked somewhat Greek. He would, therefore, have attracted no special interest in a Greek city, whereas Paul was immediately recognizable as a Jew.
And Silas went somewhere else in Macedonia, perhaps to Philippi (Acts 18:5). Therefore, Paul was left alone for several months in Athens and then in Corinth until these faithful workers were able to rejoin him in there.
The term "alone" is plural (we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone) but the meaning is uncertain. Acts 18:5 implies both Silas and Timothy were on assignment. This verse may be an example of Paul's use of "we" as an editorial plural, referring only to himself. We can’t be alone. So, Paul is using the word "we" here in a singular sense when he says, "When we could endure it no longer," "we thought it best," and "we sent Timothy." He is really just referring to himself. It's kind of a singular use of "we" which is not uncommon.
It was painful for Paul to send Timothy on this mission, but he did it because he was more concerned for the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonians than he was for his own comfort.
Paul is writing this letter from Corinth. He stayed in Athens for a while. Then he went to Corinth. When he got to Corinth, Timothy and Silas came back to him. It was after Timothy had come back that he wrote this letter because then he had the information he wanted and he could write back and say how thankful he was about the good report from Timothy.
and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 1 Thessalonians 3:2 ESV
Since Paul could not be with the Thessalonians himself, he did the next best thing. He sent his trusted companion and fellow worker, Timothy, to them.
"We sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ"—"Brother" is basically a technical term for a believer, one who has been born into the family of God by the new birth.
The Greek manuscripts differ here. Manuscript B has "co-worker" while manuscripts א and A have "minister." Minister denoted the lowly service of a slave. Most modern translations follow manuscript B. Possibly a scribe was shocked at Paul’s calling Timothy "God's co-laborer" so they changed it to minister. "Co-worker" is sunergo from ergon ("work, deed, task, employment"). It is preceded by the preposition sun ("with, together) This word refers to someone who is a team player.
Timothy was like a faithful son to Paul in his labors in the Lord.
I hope in the Lord Yeshua to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Yeshua the Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. Philippians 2:19-22 ESV
Paul was sending Timothy to them "To establish and exhort you in your faith"—Paul wanted Timothy to do two things–to establish and encourage the Thessalonians. Both are necessary, but establishing comes first.
"Establish"—is from the Greek word sterizo which means "to support, stabilize, establish, fix, strengthen." This word is used 14 times in the New Testament and in all but two of its uses, it is used metaphorically of providing some form of spiritual stability or strength.
The verb sterizo is employed frequently in those contexts where someone is in danger of falling in some way or another. For example, "When the rich person totters," Sirach says, "he is supported by friends" (13:21). 2 Clement 2:6 speaks of how it is a great thing to establish those things that are falling, while Philo comments that those who are carried in different directions in their life are those who cannot be established. In the New Testament, "sterizo" points to the process of establishing someone in the faith, especially in the face of apostasy or persecution.
How was Timothy to strengthen them?
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Yeshua the Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages. Romans 16:25 ESV
If we are to stand fast in the Lord, we must be in the Scriptures. We cannot trust the Lord if we don’t know Him.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalms 9:10 ESV
His name refers to His character. If you know His character, you will trust Him. And the only way you will learn about His character is from the Word of God.
Timothy was also to "Exhort"—this is from parakaleo which has a prospective appeal meaning "to exhort, entreat to action," or it can have a retrospective appeal meaning "to encourage, comfort, cheer up, or help."
Timothy was sent to establish and exhort the Thessalonians' faith. But how does this fit with 3:13 which says that it was God would "establish your hearts"? Who is it, then, who establishes: God or Timothy? God uses his human servants (e.g., Timothy) to establish people in their faith. Such efforts, however, become effective only when God makes them effective. We are co-laborers.
that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 1 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV
"That no one be moved by these afflictions"—the word "moved" is from the Greek word sainō. This is its only use in the New Testament. It originally meant "to shake or wag the tail." It was used especially of a dog wagging his tail to get his way, to allure, etc. It came to mea, "to beguile through flattery or draw aside from the right path." In classical Greek (Homer), it was used in the sense of "flattered."
Satan told Eve that she would be like God if she ate of the tree and she fell for his lie (cf. vs. 5). But in view of the cause expressed in the words "by these afflictions," it is better to understand this in the sense of "shaken, disturbed, moved, agitated." "By these afflictions" refers to the sufferings they experienced at the hands of their countrymen because of their faith and stand for the Lord.
The goal of Timothy's establishing and exhorting is that no one would he unsettled or deceived by these trials. Without a good understanding of the truth concerning the place of suffering in the life of the believer, we are in great danger of being shaken in our faith.
"For you yourselves know that we are destined for this"—"for" is gar. It gives the reason that the Thessalonians should not be shaken by circumstances and turn back from their faith. Afflictions are not accidents. "Destined" is keimai which has the idea of "appointed." Our trials are part of God’s sovereign plan. Paul didn’t teach these new believers that miraculous healing and financial success were their right as "Kings’ kids"! He taught them, rather, that as Christians, we are destined or appointed for trials.
American Christian culture is sometimes obsessed with a "health-and-wealth gospel" that teaches that if people are faithful, God will favor them with material blessings and they will not suffer trials.
Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that their time of present suffering was in God’s control. These were afflictions they were appointed to. As part of the normal Christian life, believers have an appointment with affliction.
Ernest Best rightly comments: "Paul is not thinking of a period of persecution which will pass and the church return to normality; normality is persecution (cf. Acts 14:22)." (Best 1972: 135). The theology of suffering was a centerpiece in early Christian teaching. The exact opposite is taught by many modern theologies that promise prosperity and the absence of trouble as the fruits of true faith. But what happens to faith when suffering occurs if someone believes such false teaching?
Paul said the following to Timothy:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Yeshua will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
Please note that it is the "godly" who are persecuted. If you are not living godly, why would they persecute you?
For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 1 Thessalonians 3:4 ESV
"We kept telling you beforehand"—this is an imperfect tense which conveys repeated action in past time. Paul continually warned them about the persecution and suffering connected to the gospel.
"That we were to suffer affliction"—believers were destined to this. The Williams' translation footnote says "a picture of a loaded wagon crushed under its heavy load."
For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV
This restates his concern and the reason he sent Timothy, only now he also adds the dimension of the activity of Satan as the tempter. "The tempter" is one of the many descriptive titles of the devil that reveal both his character and his activities or strategies.
Specifically, he was afraid that their faith was faltering, so he sent Timothy to discover whether or not in some way the tempter might have tempted them with the result that their efforts might have been useless.
"I sent to learn about your faith"—Paul was anxious, he was concerned that the persecution may have weakened or destroyed their faith. Paul expresses the possibility of apostasy in the final part of the verse: "for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain."
What exactly does Paul mean when he says, "and our labor would be in vain"? Vain is from the Greek kenos, which means "vain, empty, fruitless, without effect, without reaching its goal."
Paul knew that because of persecutions and temptations that apostasy was a very real possibility. Our Lord taught this same idea in the Parable of the Soils. He described the way that some fall away when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word.
And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: "Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:2-9 ESV
This parable gives us insight to peoples' responses to the gospel, and in the end, it is a very encouraging text. The parable of the soils comes first in each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).
A parable is "a placing alongside of" for the purpose of comparison. Dodd says, "A parable at its simplest is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to rouse it into active thought."
Yeshua's first-century audience was all too familiar with the problems attendant on growing food. Their primitive tools often made little impression on the hard and stony ground. The precious seed could so easily be wasted and they all grieved when the birds ate the seed before it could take root. If the grain grew too quickly without being deeply rooted, the weeds choked the seed. These were everyday experiences of life for many. They were a part of their struggle to survive. But the question was, did they realize that they were illustrative of what could hinder them receiving His all-important message?
The "sower" is Yeshua the Christ. Matthew tells us this.
He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. Matthew 13:37 ESV
Yeshua was constantly sowing the message of the kingdom. But I don't think we need to limit the identity in this parable to Yeshua. The sower can be any Christian proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
The word being sown is the Gospel message, the Word of God:
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Luke 8:11 ESV
This parable then is about preaching the Gospel. It shows us how people will respond to the Gospel.
Who is responsible to sow the seed of the Word of God? All believers. Anyone who understands this glorious Gospel is responsible to share it.
We have four kinds of soil in this parable. The first one is the hard soil.
And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. Mark 4:15 ESV
This kind of soil represented those with hardened hearts. They are those who have not been called, those to whom Yahweh had not given a new heart. They are dead in their sin and cannot respond to the gospel.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
We know that Satan is no longer in the picture, but men are still dead in sin and have no ability to respond to the truth of the Gospel.
Have you met people like this? You attempt to share the Gospel with them, and they just have no interest; they couldn’t care less. Yeshua warned us that the sharing of the Gospel would get this response.
Yes, this parable teaches us how people will respond to the Gospel, but we must understand that these soils can change. We were all at one time hard soil. So, we continue to cast the seed knowing that the result is up to God.
Most people see these next two soils as non-believers. They see only one out of the four as pertaining to those who believe the Gospel. That's not how I see it. I see these last three soils as believers. So, who is right? You'll have to study it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. Mark 4:16 ESV
The word "receive" is in the present tense and has the idea of "keep on receiving" (John 1:12). And the word "joy" is from chara from the same root as grace. It is a response to what God has given them. This person has believed the Gospel.
The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. Luke 8:12-13 ESV
Luke tells us that those depicted as hard soil do not believe ("they may not believe and be saved"). Those of the rocky soil believe, but only briefly ("they believe for a while") because temptation causes them to fall away.
And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. Mark 4:17 ESV
When affliction or persecution comes on account of the Word, because of their position as believers, they fall apart. Affliction refers to the problems of life that come as tests of the depth of doctrine. Persecution is opposition from others because of the Word in you. Both of these categories of problems can be great opportunities for the application of doctrine, but these rocky ground believers give up when the going gets rough. Paul was concerned that this might happen to the Thessalonians.
The words "fall away" are from the Greek word skandalizo. It occurs only in Biblical Greek and literature influenced by it. The verb is always used metaphorically with the meaning "to ensnare into sin" or "to take offence at," "to give offence to," "to anger." Thus, they are ensnared into sin because they find the word a stumbling block. This word is clearly used of a believer in 1 Corinthians 8.
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, [skandalizo] I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble [skandalizo]. 1 Corinthians 8:13 ESV
In this case, the word of the Kingdom is immediately received with the joy that one would expect from a liberating declaration of the word of God, especially when a sudden deliverance from bondage has taken place. But because the message does not become firmly rooted in the new believer's heart, when tribulation and persecution arise as a consequence of the message, the temptation becomes over-powering to forsake the way that they know for a way that begins to oppose it.
Because the message is simply received with joy and not developed, there becomes nothing that can be relied upon in a time of trouble that will cause the believer to remain steadfast. It's not that the trouble is too great for him to bear, but rather, it is that the root has not been sufficiently developed for him to be able to withstand what comes upon him.
Therefore, the shallowness of Christian experience and teaching is probably best understood as being an attribute of this believer's life who has nothing to draw on in the day of trouble.
Although the message is received, it isn't developed (although it's accepted with open arms as being the liberating message of God). The believer does not run after the measure of the fullness of the Gospel. Do you know believers like this?
Verse 17 describes the behavior of the followers who abandon Yeshua and flee when the guards come to arrest Him (Mark 14:50), even though He had predicted they all would (Mark 14:27).
Saving faith is not the end as many would assert. Though it's the only way to come into a relationship with Christ and to be washed clean through the work of the cross, it must be remembered that that is the first step in a long journey.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19 ESV
The sole point is that the life of the recipient of the message of the Gospel hasn't just the one seed growing in his life. There are others developing alongside. In this soil, the word germinates and takes root and appears to initially flourish well because of the good soil.
But the cares of the world pull away from the things of God. Each of us has to be aware that within a very short time, we can find ourselves so taken up with what's temporal that we forget about those things which are eternal.
Here is the believer who doesn't have his priorities straight. Instead of having a passionate desire for the Word, his life lusts after other things. These are believers who never come to maturity. They don't apostatize. They continue in the faith, but their growth is stunted. They don't follow the words of Yeshua in Matthew 6.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV
The kingdom is not first in their lives because they have many other interests that draw them away from fellowship with the Lord. One of our problems here in America is that we are lured away by the "deceitfulness of riches."
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV
Paul gives us here a stern warning against loving money. The Greek word used here for "pierced" is peripeiro. It means "to penetrate entirely (i.e., to pierce through"). This gives us a vivid picture of PAIN!
Riches promise what they cannot give—true heart satisfaction. They become a god that rule men's lives. When men are not wealthy, they see riches as something greatly to be desired, something for which all else can be forfeited (Proverbs 15.27). Wealth lures them on with false promises and destroys lives (Proverbs 1.19; 28.20).
Do you know any believers like this?
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." Mark 4:20 ESV
Finally, there's the seed that falls on good soil, soil free from hindrances. This is indicative of the person who hears the word of the Gospel and understands it and who allows it free development in his own life so that he forsakes those things that would hinder growth. Finally, fruit will be born that is useful to the farmer who sowed it (this is why Yeshua should be seen primarily as the sower).
The word "accept" is from the Greek word paradechomai. It means "to accept near." The word is received or welcomed alongside of you as a trusted companion. In the ancient world and even in the Near East today you never let someone you do not trust come alongside of you. So here the Word is trusted to come alongside.
As every farmer knew, some seed sown would produce a harvest. That was why he went on sowing. Thus, there were those who would hear the word and would take it to their hearts so that it could not only give them new life but would mold their lives. There would be fruit in abundance.
What is fruit? Fruit is the result that the Spirit produces (Christlikeness). Fruit is not something that is attached to the branch or fastened on from without. Rather, it is the organic product of the inner life. Too often attention is directed to the outward services and actions or the results of these services. Good fruit is a Christlike life produced by the Spirit through us as we abide in Christ.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 ESV
So, we see here that as we abide in Christ, the fruit is produced by Him through us.
In spite of all the problems that he faced, the farmer could be sure that some would grow and flourish, and when it did, it would produce in abundance. In the end, the message is positive. A harvest is guaranteed. The seed will bear fruit in receptive hearers.
Please remember what I said earlier. These soils can change. It is central to our Christian faith that change is possible. I know of people originally of hard soils who have trusted in Christ. I know of those of Rocky Soils and Weedy soils who have become fruitful. These soils are not necessarily permanent conditions. In light of this, how’s your heart condition?
Yeshua is describing for us different responses to the Gospel. Be encouraged and remember the greater the sowing, the greater the harvest.
This was Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians. He wanted them to be good soil that would produce fruit. So, he sent Timothy to them to strengthen and encourage them. Likewise, we need to strengthen and encourage one another, especially when we see others going through persecution or suffering.