Several verses in 1 Thessalonians 3 & 4 are meaningful as we struggle with influences that can undermine faith. In many ways it was a better atmosphere a few generations ago (in the western world), not only because moral standards were higher, but because the churches generally had a measure of influence for good and right living in the world.

It is not the case today, therefore greater effort is needed. It is vital to read and meditate on God’s word at some point each day. Paul was anxious about the state of the faith in the hearts of the believers and is comforted “now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love …” (3:6), adding “in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live if you are standing fast in the Lord” (verses 7,8).

In Paul’s day committed believers survived by helping each other. Paul told the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2). In Thessalonians we read, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another … that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12,13). The end of chapter 4 gives us details of Christ’s dramatic return.

We need to “establish” this attitude more and more. Paul does not say “establish” your minds in the sense of intellectual understanding, although that is important, but “establish your hearts”. In chapter 4 he emphasizes this, saying “you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another … we urge you brothers, to do this more and more …” (verses 9,10). Our chapters in Nehemiah show the tremendous teamwork he inspired among those rebuilding the gates and walls of Jerusalem. Chapter 3 lists 33 individuals and groups each working on the part of the wall nearest them. There are enemies trying to stop them, but Nehemiah says, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome …” (4:14).

There is a comparison here with what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians “… we are not waging war according to the flesh … the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We … take every thought captive to obey Christ” (10:3-5) – by that means we will “establish (our) hearts blameless”.