Paul's Heart for ministry
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The lesson we are studying today is out of a letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church after having a brief but fruitful ministry among and then making a hasty departure due to mounting persecution that had followed him from Philippi.
One thing that has always amazed me is the relatively short amount of time Paul spent in some of the places where he established churches. The fact that these churches continued and that individuals continued in their faith and thrived as believers is powerful evidence of the hand of God and of the power of the Holy Spirit.
All of these events take place during Paul’s second missionary journey and they are found in Acts 17. Acts 16 Paul meets Lydia and leads her and her household to Christ. But he also is nagged by demon possessed slave girl that follows them around giving an endorsement (v.17)… Paul is not amused and casts the demon out (v.18). Her owners are enraged over their loss of income and Pau and Silas end up in prison… Where God uses them to reach the Philippian Jailer and his family…. God is doing tremendous things thru the apostle despite the circumstances.
In the chapter we are studying today we see Paul writing to the Thess. From Corinth to encourage them and also to remind them that their ministry was different that the average traveling teacher of the day.
Many were hucksters making merchandise of religion and would travel from town to town bleeding the rich and them moving on once the vale of their conduct wore thin and their true character became exposed. That was not the case with Paul as he worked night and day so as not to burden the people.
Vv 1-2 Their ministry was not a failure… Some might have held that their departure was a sign of defeat. (see circumstances ACTS 17:1-13). Paul explained that even though they were only staying one step ahead of a wave of opposition yet in the mist of that hardship they were proclaiming the life giving Gospel.
Have you ever thought your serving was of little effect…
Vv 3-4 Their ministry was endorsed and examined by God…
Exhortation - Paul knew the message was life and death. He preached to persuade not to please their ears.
How was it evident that they were approved of God?
Heb 2: 3-4 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
The message they proclaimed was not filled with error, corruption or false motives… their only driving motivation was to please God regardless of whether or not man was pleased. Paul understood that when it comes to the Word of God all you need to do is turn it loose… God will then do with it as he pleases.
Vv. 5-6 They were not giving a sales pitch…
How many of you have ever bought something because you got caught up in a sales pitch… (when we were first married… fire alarms, food service, photo developing package, vacuum cleaner ). Oxi clean (orange cleaner), Sham Wow! – Magic tape that fixes leaks and repairs broken handles on coffee cups… Paul was not giving a sales pitch… nor was he on a glory trip... Demanding special treatment and glory.
My wife and I spent 9 years serving the lord as our vocation and it was disturbing to see individuals that demanded special treatment because God was using them in a high profile way in the ministry. On the other hand it was so encouraging to be around some of God’s choice servants who had no inflated view of themselves and only sought to serve.
Vv. 7-8 They were not making a power play among them…
Verse 6 ends with a reference to apostolic authority… How do we know that an Apostle wielded a tremendous about of authority?
Rather than lord that very real authority over them instead Paul chose to gentle. He chooses the image of a nursing mother to depict how they cared for the church. What a great image!
Rather than take and abuse as some are so prone to do to the flock of God… even today… instead they gave of themselves out of love and affection.
Vv 9-10 They worked by day and ministered by night so as not to hinder the gospel or to be seen as making merchandise of the people. One commentator indicated that Paul may have rented a booth in the market place by day working in the leather trade...
One of my favorite Passages…
2 Co 2:15–17 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
This was contrary to the norm. Even in our day we could point to those who have greatly profited by their involvement in the ministry Don’t be afraid to question things that don’t look right). Many have used their wealth and re-invested it in reaching people, but others have taken that wealth for themselves and spent it on pleasure.
Vv. 11-12 They painted the big picture… each of us have a place, a role to play in the plan of God. Do we think that way? Paul switches metaphors… earlier he described their ministry as the tender care of a mother. Now he writes of the exhorting and encouraging and imploring of a father.
How do fathers differ from mothers in the way they impact their own children?
Fathers challenge their kids to think and do beyond their comfort zone.
Exhorting – Stop that, Start that, I think you need to consider…
Encouraging – Nice Job, now lest see if you can do this… further faster.
Imploring - You need to wake up… stop being so…
Paul exhorts them to a better walk in light of the call of God and points them forward to the future kingdom and glory that awaits those who are in relationship with God.
V13 Paul commends them for the high regard they held for the Word of God.
Not as the opinion of men but for what it truly is… a life changing message from God.
God’s word is … living and active. It is performing a continual work in the lives of those who bath themselves in it… our responsibility is to be faithful in reading and meditating on that word.