A Ministry with Impact

// November 25th, 2018 // Sermons

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

There is saying….  You can listen online or download it and listen later…A Ministry with Impact…that goes, “No one cares how much you know till they know how much you care.”

A number of years ago, a mature Christian couple visited our church one Sunday.  I had never met them before, and have never seen them since.  I looked over at them from time to time during the service, and it was obvious that they were familiar with church as they were actively participating in worship.

After the service, they met me at the back…they said they were just visiting – they told me where they were from, but that didn’t stick in my mind – but they said, that they would always visit churches wherever they travelled and so they had experienced a wide variety of things, over the years.  They said, “But, you folks have something special in this church – we loved the music and singing, we were blessed through the personal nature of your corporate prayer, and the warmth…there is something very special in this church…God is here!”

What a wonderful thought.  We should be known for speaking the language of love – that should be the heart and soul of every church.  Love must be present for any church to prosper.  That’s the foundation of the saying, “No one cares how much you know till they know how much you care.”

In 1 Thess. 2:7-12, Paul explains what love looks like in the outworking of human relationships.  Sometimes love is a like a mother (v. 7-9) —soft, gentle, kind, hard-working; and sometimes love is like a father (v. 10-12) — challenging, exhorting, setting a good example.  So, first,

  1. Like a Mother – v. 7-9

In these verses he focuses on 3 character traits of mothers in nurturing their children…the first one:

  1. Gentleness
  2. 7 – “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” Some translation include the statement – “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you…”

This is a tender picture of a young mother nursing her newborn.  You take note of how she carefully wraps the baby and holds it in her arms. Tenderly she nurses it and takes care of the baby’s needs.  She knows the little one cannot eat on his own, cannot find food…babies can’t survive without her care.  To nourish this child, she must give of herself – her compassion, the giving of her milk, a sacrifice of her well-being so that the baby is properly cared-for.

To be an apostle was an awesome responsibility.  It initially implied that you had seen Jesus personally and had been trained by Him.  Jesus Himself chose and trained men and then He imparted them with authority to heal the sick, cast out demons and teach the Word of God.

Eph. 2:20 tells us that the church is built on the foundation of the “apostles and the prophets.”  They were the great foundation stones on which Christ would build His church.  After Jesus returned to heaven, the apostles were the most powerful men on earth – they had power and authority that God had not given to anyone else.

So when Paul says, “We could have been a burden…,” he meant it.  When an apostle spoke as a representative of the Lord, his word was to be taken seriously and his instructions were to be obeyed, as long as they were in line with what the Lord himself had taught.

But Paul says, “…we could have been a burden, but we were gentle like a nursing mother…”  This is a tender image that goes against the grain of our mental picture of the Apostle Paul’s character.  The word “gentle” wouldn’t be our first choice in describing Paul.  Strong–yes!  Determined–yes!  Zealous–absolutely!  Passionate–definitely!  But gentle?

Gentleness is not a quality often respected today.  We tend to value toughness, strength, assertiveness in leaders.  None of us likes to be bullied; we’d prefer to be loved.

However, gentleness is not weakness.  Jesus was not a pushover.  The same Jesus who embraced the children also took a whip and cleaned out the temple.  When he confronted sin, He was as gentle as a tornado.  But when the moment called for it, He could be tender, gracious, merciful and forgiving.

Gentleness is not weakness, it is our power under God’s control!  It is the ability to give of ourselves to help the hurting while at the same time confronting evil when necessary.  That’s a tough combination, but our Lord managed to pull it off.  The 2nd character trait relating to mothers…

  1. Loving
  2. 8 reads – We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”

The Village Missions motto is:  Preach the Word; Love the People!

Generally speaking, it takes the gospel plus us, for people to be saved.  People will listen to our message when they know we care about them.

Many people today want a ministry, a title and public recognition.  And, few are willing to work quietly behind the scenes with no thought of reward.

Ministry that changes the world costs everything you have.  If you want to make a difference, you’ve got to do more than just preach the gospel.  You have to be willing to lay down your own life.  Like a soldier on the battlefield, you need to give something you’ll never get back–your life!

I remember when our kids were little, when Ruth was nursing she would always have to be careful what she would eat, because it could have a negative impact on the baby.

Paul loved these babies in Christ so much that he was willing to sacrifice his creature comforts so that they might be brought to maturity.  O, we have so much to learn about this kind of sacrificial living!  Thirdly…

  1. Hard Working

In the first part of v. 9 we read, “Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you?

Every mother knows how difficult it is to take care of young babies.  You are sleep-deprived, you always feel tired, no matter where you go you never fully relax because part of you is listening to make sure your baby is okay.  That’s what Paul is saying he felt about the Thessalonians.  He exerted all his energy making sure their spiritual needs were cared for.

It is hard work being responsible for the spiritual well-being of others.  Some days I go to bed totally exhausted.  When I think back to my construction days – I worked long hours and would be physically spent at the end of the day.  When the idea of pastoral ministry came along, I would never have guessed that you could get just as tired as when you do physical work.  Paul says, “Do you remember how hard we worked among you?”  And then, #4…

  1. Not a Burden

The 2nd part of v. 9 – “Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship.”

Paul was a tentmaker by trade.  Everywhere he went, he found part-time work making tents, which meant that he worked during part of the day and preached the rest of the time.

Despite his high level of education, Paul wasn’t afraid of manual labor nor embarrassed to get his hands dirty.  He did this so he would not be a burden to the churches and so that no one could accuse him of being in it just for the money.

In 1 Cor. 9, he makes it clear that he doesn’t consider it wrong for a man to live off the preaching of the gospel.  And in 1 Timothy 5 he says that an elder who both rules and teaches is worthy of “double honor,” – this to say that such elders would be paid for their work.  But he himself worked in secular jobs wherever he went so that he would be free of any accusations about his motives.  Like a nursing mother, he wanted to be known as one who gave and didn’t take.  He didn’t want to be a burden.  In v. 10-12, Paul switches his illustration to…

  1. Like a Father – v. 10-12

In these verses Paul changes the image from a mother to a father.  Paul considered himself a “spiritual father” to the believers at Thessalonica.  While Paul had been there, the Spirit of God had used the Word of God in and through his ministry, and many people in Thessalonica were born again into the family of God.

And, spiritually just like physically – having children doesn’t make you a true father.  When you show your loving care for your children you prove genuine fatherhood; likewise, spiritually.  You don’t just share the Gospel like throwing seed on the ground and then walk away.  Paul shows four ways that he was like a father to the Thessalonian believers – first by:

  1. Setting a Good Example
  2. 10 – “You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers.”

The word for “devout/holy” speaks of his life in the sight of God; the word “honest/righteous” speaks of his life in the sight of man; and, the word “faultless/blameless” which is the result of being holy and righteous.  Paul is saying that no one could make an accusation against him and make it stick.

In 1 Tim. 3:2, Paul used the phrase “above reproach” to describe the quality of life demanded of an elder in the local church.  The Greek word describes a garment without any folds.

When applied to personal character, it means that the leader must be free from any secret or hidden pockets of sins.  It means that a godly leader is one whose life is such that there is nothing a critic could “grab hold of.”  The Living Bible used the phrase “a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.”  Knox wrote, “…one with whom no fault can be found.”

Leaders are often attacked, their motives questioned, their actions criticized.  But, a leader who is truly above reproach will weather the storm because there is nothing about him which a person could say, “Aha! I gotcha.”  This means no questionable conduct, no secret sins, no deliberately unresolved conflicts.  Secondly, like a father…

  1. Encouragement
  2. 12 the first part – “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging … you.”

The word “encourage” means to come alongside someone who is struggling and help them out.  It has the idea of seeing a runner begin to stumble as they round the last turn and head toward the finish line.  Instead of simply letting them fall and finishing the race on your own, you slow down, put your arm around them, and carry them to the finish line, even it means you personally can’t win the race.  It has the idea of putting aside your own comfort for the good of another.  Next…

  1. Comforting

The 2nd part of v. 12 says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting … you.”

The Cotton Patch Bible says that Paul was constantly “sharing his insights.”  This is a positive statement.  There is a little book called The One-Minute Manager – it exhorts bosses to “Catch Them Doing Something Right.”

A boss is usually good at finding fault, but the truly great employer loves to catch employees doing the right thing.  Paul was like a spiritual cheerleader who got excited over every spiritual victory and tried to help new believers when they felt defeated.  Good fathers know how to cheer their kids to victory.  That’s what Paul was doing…#4…

  1. Challenging

The last part of v. 12 – “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

The big objective of the Christian life is – To live a life worthy of God.  Don’t do anything that would bring embarrassment to our God or the people of God!  He has called us to a glorious destiny.  Jesus has paid the way for us to spend eternity in His presence by shedding His blood.  We need to live up to that high calling.  Let every word you say and every action you take, let the things you do and the things you refuse to do, all bring glory to our God.

Ruth’s dad was a livestock broker in the area where I grew up…I knew her family from when I was very young.  In our later teens, when we started dating, if any of the older people wanted to know who she was, I would just tell them that her dad was J.L. Peters – she’s J.L.’s daughter.

We are Christians – Christ-like ones – God’s kids!  Our great challenge is to live worthy of our great calling.

So what was the purpose for this motherly and fatherly ministry to believers?  Paul’s aim was that the “might walk worthy of God”.  Just as a father wants to be proud of His children, so the Lord wants to get glory through the lives of His children.  Paul ministered to them in such a personal way because he was teaching them how to walk and live.

Every child must learn how to walk…so Paul reminds them that they are to walk worthy of the calling we have in Christ Jesus.  God has called us; we are saved by grace.  We are a part of His kingdom and glory.  One day we will enter the eternal kingdom and share in the Father’s glory.  This should be adequate motivation to live for Jesus every day.

We are privileged to be part of God’s kingdom.  And, more than that, when Jesus comes back to reign and rule over all human kingdoms by sitting on David’s throne, we will understand the fuller dynamic of who we are…in Christ.  Whatever glory we have seen now will pale in comparison with the glory that will be revealed in that day.

Our great challenge is to live worthy of that great calling.  We are called to be kingdom people living in a foreign land, representing the King Himself in a world that thought it best to crucify Him.  In his extended physical absence in this world, we are called to stand in His place, taking care of His interests, spreading His Word, and inviting others to join His kingdom cause.  This is a high and noble calling:  Let’s live so that no one will be surprised to discover which side we are on!

The verb Paul used in v. 12 is in the present tense:  “who is continually calling you…”  Most translations don’t convey that thought very well – they make it sound like something that happened in the past.

God has called us to salvation, and He is constantly calling us to a life of holiness and obedience.  In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we read, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’”

Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica is a beautiful example of NT follow-up ministry.  Paul has shown us how to raise babies – which is what this church was.  We must be faithful stewards, loving mothers and concerned fathers.  If we are not faithful to God, we may find ourselves becoming a doting mother and a pampering father.  Children need discipline as well as love.

No wonder the church at Thessalonica prospered in spite of persecution.  Now wonder they shared the Gospel with others far and wide.  They had been born right – children of God; and, they had been nurtured right – they were the mature people of God.

What you are is more important than what you say!

So, what does it cost to take that kind of stand for Christ?  The answer is:  It costs everything. 

Are you living your life as if this is your eternal home?

Are we trying to build a kingdom on earth that we want to impress God with?

Would you be willing to risk everything you have worked for on earth so that God’s will could be done on earth as it is in heaven?

Then, we have this whole idea of building into the lives of others – being like Paul and pouring ourselves into people’s lives so that they might believe, and grow to maturity in Christ.  We need to see the value of living our lives as a “living sacrifice” so that others are able to reach this Christian maturity.

In what ways should we be like a mother to babies in Christ – treating them with gentleness, love, working hard on their behalf and not being a burden to them?

And, in what ways should we like a father to these babies in Christ – setting a good example for them to follow, encouraging them, comforting them and yet, stimulating them to love and good workschallenging them?

Let’s pray…

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