Paul, Silas and Timothy had started the church in Thessalonica in 50 AD, but he had to flee through Berea, and then onto Athens alone. Timothy joined Paul for a few days in Athens, but Paul says twice “when we could stand it no longer” (1 Thes. 3:1 and 3:5), he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to check on the faith of the Thessalonians. Paul preferred to be left alone in Athens, than to deal with the pressure of knowing the Thessalonians were facing persecution while there was no one there to support their faith.
The Greek verb stego is the word used twice by Paul and translated “We/I could stand it no longer.” The word stego referred to holding water out of a vessel, a boat or a house. Just like a water tight roof repels rain during a storm and the seams of a boat prevent water from seeping into the boat, Paul was trying to hold off the pressure of his concern for the Thessalonians’ faith and his desire to check on them.
Paul wanted to help strengthen their faith during a time he knew would include persecution. Paul says he held his desire as long as he could, but finally the seams of his soul gave way and the roof of his emotions couldn’t hold out the. At this point Paul sent Timothy to encourage and strengthen the Thessalonians. Thus, Paul, the Jewish rabbi, was left alone in the Greek city of Athens, the center of Pagan philosophy.
It was easier for Paul to be left in a foreign city, among conflicting philosophies, and in a pagan culture, than to deal with the pressure of not knowing how the Thessalonians’ faith was holding up under apparent persecution. So, Paul sent Timothy to help the Thessalonians, which relieved, for a time, the pressure of Paul’s concern for them. The pressure of Paul’s concern for the well being of his churches was a strong driving force in Paul’s ministry and the motive behind all the letters he wrote:
“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” – Second Corinthians 11:28