The following thoughts and questions are provided to help Sabbath school teachers and others in a small group discussion of the lesson for the week.
[Thought Questions for Friends Forever August 8, 2012]
1. The bond of friendship. Is there any doubt about the affection Paul felt towards the believers in Thessalonica? What does Paul anticipate more than anything else in the prayer that opens this week’s lesson? Was Paul justified in his love for these Christians in Thessalonica? Were they all blameless? perfect? What held them together?
2. They were Jews. Do you think that God’s promise of prosperity to the Jews of the Old Testament applied to the Jews of Paul’s day? There were “Jews” and then there were “Jews.” Why were the early Christian Jews of Paul’s day attacked and physically harmed by other Jews? No, no. What was the real reason? Was their hatred fed by a deep and dangerous brand of prejudice? We don’t go around slaying people who don’t understand our spiritual culture, but do we feel animosity towards these people? Isn’t that prejudice?
3. When friends part. How does Paul’s love for the believers in Thessalonica qualify him to be their leader and friend? Do you think that previous persecution and mistreatment of Paul by hostile people made his friendship with the Thessalonicans even more precious? Have you ever been homesick? Is being homesick something we should try to avoid when we’re away from loved ones? Is Jesus homesick for us when we wander away? How can we be Christ’s hope and joy?
4. Timothy visits Thessalonica. Read the first paragraph for Tuesday’s lesson and compare it with the Biblical version in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5. What was the reason for sending Timothy to the church in Thessalonica? Is it hard for you to understand that it was Paul’s great love for the people there that kept him from visiting them? Share your thoughts. What worried Paul most about the believers there? Did his fears come true? Is it better for you and me to stay out of the thick of things at church now and then? Why or why not?
5. Paul’s evalution of the visit. Why did Paul find such tremendous relief from Timothy’s report that the believers missed him? If the Thessalonicans could get along so well spiritually without Paul’s presence, why did he long so much to go back to be with them? Imagine life without telephones or e-mail. Can we today understand the ache in Paul’s heart when he was separated from his loved ones? Do you derive joy and a sense of well-being when you learn of something unselfish and Christ-like in the lives of those you love? Do others see Jesus in you?
6. Renewed prayers. How common was it for the early Christians to look forward to the second coming of Jesus? Was this just a phrase in Paul’s prayer or do you think he sensed the reality of Christ’s final but still future return to earth? How many times a day do you think about the time when we will all be joined together in the presence of an everlasting God? Raised to life when Jesus comes, what do you imagine that Paul’s first thoughts will be? And yours?
7. Cheering the missionaries. It used to be that SDA missionaries went overseas for terms of five years, many of them for four or more terms. Can we still share our prayers and our concerns for those who visit our believers in far-away lands as Paul did? Should we make cheering God’s workers wherever they are part of our earthly assignment? Through e-mail, letters, and telephone calls, can we be a witness of God’s great love for His children as Paul was on his many journeys?