“Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone…“
The word “therefore” gives a deduction of the gospel team’s love for the Thessalonians (2:17-20). Because of his special association with the Thessalonians, Paul sends Timothy to encourage them in their trial.
when we could no longer endure it,
The word “endure” means in this context to hold back. He can no longer bear to leave the Thessalonians alone without help from the team. Unable to go to Thessalonica himself, he sends Timothy. Timothy was Paul’s troubleshooter. The church suffered severe persecution so they needed encouragement from someone from the gospel team.
we thought it good to be left in Athens alone
The Thessalonians expelled Paul from Thessalonica and he went to Berea. Later Paul travelled from Berea in northern Greece to Athens in southern Greece alone. He sent word back to Berea for Timothy and Silas to join him in Athens (Acts 17:15). Timothy and Silas did join him there.
In spite of his need to have Timothy with him, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to encourage them in their trials (3:3). The Thessalonians did not drive Timothy out of Thessalonica like they drove out Paul and Silas. However, this assignment was a very difficult mission. There is no evidence that Timothy protested against Paul in this task.
Paul could have used the full complement of his gospel team in a city like Athens. However, he chose to forego his need for others. The words “thought it good” means to be well pleased. This speaks to the motivation behind Paul’s decision. He did not make this decision grudgingly. He knew it was the right decision based on the well-being of the Thessalonians. He accepted the responsibility without complaint.
Timothy and Silas left Paul alone in the world center of philosophical intellectualism, the city of Athens. Philosophers from around the Roman world assembled there. The city was given wholly to idolatry (Acts 17:16). It is always best to operate with teams in this kind of situation. However, loneliness is just one of those hardships a “good soldier of Christ” bears for his people. Paul made no great impact in Athens. He wrote no epistle to the church at Athens. There is no record of any conversions in that city. Evidently, he did not penetrate that city with the gospel.
Paul moved from Athens to Corinth after Timothy left for Thessalonica. There he formed a church and wrote two epistles to the church there. Timothy later joined Paul in Corinth.
Ministry involves deep commitment to the people we serve.
Self-denial deprives the self of personal comfort for the sake of others. Ministry involves valuing the people to whom we minister to the point of self-denial.