Sunday, 8 June 2008

Musings from 1 Thess 2

At the Perth Children's Convention, we were taught from the following passage of Scripture, and it has been weighing on my mind ever since.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-12
We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.
As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know 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.

This passage speaks primarily about the actions of Paul and his fellow-workers when they lived in Thessalonica (in Macedonia) among the Christians there.

*Gentleness (v7) like a mother
Loving the Thessalonians, who had become dear to Paul (v8)
Hard working (v9)
Enduring hardship (v9)
Holy, Righteous, Blameless (v10)
Dealing with them as a father does (v11)

*Caring (v7) like a mother for her children
Shared (v8) and Preached (v9) the good news of God with them
Shared their lives (v8) with them
Worked night and day so as not to be a burden (v9)
Living according to God's holy standards of righteousness so that no-one could accuse or blame them (v10)
Encouraging them (v12), like a father with his own children
Comforting them (v12), like a father with his own children
Urging them to lives worthy of God (v12), like a father with his own children

I can see a progression through this passage:
(1) Love for others which shows itself in gentle care for their needs.
(2) Sharing everyday life with loved ones and at the same time talking to them about the gospel.
(3) Working hard and being patient through trials so that the loved ones [new believers] may be served as far as possible.
(4) Supporting the loved ones [new believers] by encouraging them when they need strength and support for the road God calls them to, comforting them when they experience difficulties and urging them on when they want to 'rest on their laurels' or 'stay in their comfort zone'.

This is the same progression that Jesus used with His twelve disciples and other followers:
(1) Jesus loved his disciples and cared for them, protecting them from persecution while He was with them. He provided for their needs and safety so they need fear nothing if they relied upon Him. Notable examples of this include the time when Jesus calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee and the multiplication of loaves and fish to provide for the masses who followed Him. Jesus love was also shown every time he healed those who came to him: the lame, the blind, the deaf, the mute, the lepers, those possessed by demons, the woman with a bleeding problem, even the dead were brought back to life through Jesus' miraculous, caring words or touch.
(2) Jesus was with his disciples throughout His ministry, enabling them to see how he lived his life as well as teaching them. They listened to His public preaching and also were able to ask Him questions and hear deeper teaching from him at other times. For example, the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, includes some of Jesus' public teaching. Jesus' instructions to the Twelve, recorded in Matthew 10, was given to His chosen apostles.
(3) Jesus persisted with His ministry, even when it was physically demanding (taking respite and refreshment through times of prayer). He walked away from rebuke or turned it from Himself with wise answers, until the appointed time came. He suffered mightily for the sake of those who would believe and trust in Him, at times such as in the desert after His baptism, in the Garden of Gethsemane and many times in between. Most critically He suffered on the cross when He atoned for the sins of all who trust in His name.
(4) Jesus gave great encouragement to His followers while He was with them, but His greatest provision in this area was through the coming of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus, before His death, had promised would be a counsellor and comforter to His disciples. In Acts 2:38-39, Peter told those listening at Pentecost to "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call." The Holy Spirit was first sent from God to all believers at Pentecost, but continues today to be a seal upon the hearts of those who are called and place their trust in Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins and the promise of eternal life.

I think this passage provides a model for godly, practical evangelical effort in my own times as well as in the times of Christ and the first Christians. It is based upon Paul's own "Discipleship Curriculum" as he reflected upon it in 1 Thessalonians 2:6-12 and accords well with the ways that Jesus discipled His followers. In summary, the model calls for:
(1) Love for others shown in gentle, caring ways.
(2) Sharing everyday life and explicit teaching of the gospel.
(3) Hard work and patient endurance of suffering.
(4) Giving encouragement, comfort and counsel in accordance with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, to build up the believers and keep them on the path of sanctification, as they become ever more like Christ Himself.

No comments: