1 Thessalonians 2:11-15
11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. 13 Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe. 14 And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. 15 For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity
It’s here in the midst of the groaning that Paul reminds us of the goal, to live our lives in a way that God would consider worthy. As leaders, we should be pointing people to focus on God’s goal especially during the trying times when people are tempted to turn away from God. That is why Paul provides us with several important leadership lessons in the midst of trying times. Paul starts in verses 11 through 12 by reminding us to:
If the goal is to lead people to “live lives worthy of God” then success can only come through service. We need to remember that the primary purpose of why we do what we do always has to do with people’s relationship with God. When people are right with God everything else falls into place. As Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Paul’s purpose was to please God as he reveals in verse 4, so it only follows that he would lead others to please God. Who without any doubt, lived a life worthy of God? The correct answer is Christ, God’s Son, Jesus. When we are leading people to live a life worthy of God, we are leading them to become more like the Lord. Yet so often as we lead others we make the mistake of making the goal for them to please us. But the goal of serving is to point people to the Savior not to self. Servants don’t get in the way of the Savior, selfishness does. Now there is a tremendous benefit to being like Jesus that we do not often think about. Being like Jesus, living a life worthy of God, does wonders for your self-image. Jesus Christ had a rock solid self-image.
He was secure in His identity Matthew 16:13-20
He knew he was loved by His Father Matthew 3:17
His positive sense of self allowed Him to withstand criticism Matthew 26:6-10
His positive sense of self allowed him to relate to those less fortunate, rather than building His image by relating only to the rich and powerful Mark 2:15-17
He felt competent and equipped by His Father to do what he needed to do Matthew 28:18
He could love others because he was secure in the love of His Father John 15:9
His relationship with His Father gave Him purpose in life Luke 2:48-50
He knew he belonged to the Father John 10:30; 17:21
He was affirmed by His Father Matthew 3:17
If we are going to lead people to be servants of God then they need to see serving in action, we cannot afford to be lazy leaders who preach principles they never practice. Now when we think about service how do we serve, what is the Process? According to Paul its relational based not rule based, in verse 11 he says “we treated each of you as a father treats his own children.” Today we are trying to lead without loving, we want leadership without relationship. But Paul says it’s not just relational its family, leaders take a personal interest in those they lead. Paul was their spiritual father and he related to them with a father’s affection rather than just a father’s authority. He came alongside and encouraged them. Encouragement is a powerful tool, which can have an incredible impact on the life of other people. It can enable them to hang in there when they feel like hanging it up. Instead of throwing in the towel and quitting, encouragement can cause people to dream big dreams. The word in our text that is translated encourage (parakaleo) means to stand beside, to exhort, to come to one’s aid. Leadership means standing in the gap. Do you stand beside or are you trying to lead from beyond? We all need people to stand in the gap and encourage us by cheering us on. What about you are you an encourager or a discourager? So how do we encourage others?
- With your presence
This requires that we show up, that we are present in other people’s lives. There is a great example of this in Acts 28:15. Paul had been in prison for over 3 years, he recently survived a shipwreck at sea, and now he had just arrived in Rome, still a prisoner. And unknown to Paul a bunch of his friends and fellow Christians traveled a great distance to be there to meet him when the ship came in… Luke records these words, “…at the sight of these men, Paul thanked God and was encouraged….”
- With your Touch
This requires us to reach out. Touch has the power to transform people’s lives. The following picture shows Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese together.
In May 1947, on Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. Reese, Captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts by the crowd. Who do you need to touch with God’s transforming love? Love has the power to silence not just the critics but the entire crowd.
- With God’s Word
This requires us to speak out. When it comes to our words Paul reminds us of their power. Whether spoken or written, words have the power to bring life or death. As Proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” Are your words comforting or cutting, are they filled with care or criticism? Paul calls us to come alongside and comfort, what does comfort show? That we care. Remember when you were little and you hurt yourself and you would run home get a band aid. Why did you go home because it was a place of comfort. There are times when we all need to be comforted, especially in the trying times. Paul doesn’t just use his words to comfort he also uses them to urge others on. Living a life worthy of God doesn’t just happen we need urging or motivating. So how do we urge them? A key to understanding this is the meaning of the Greek word in our text that is translated urge, it is a form of the verb martureo, which means to bear witness. The noun form of this word is where we get our English word martyr. We urge best by being an example. When we live a life that is worthy of God we give them an up close and personal example, of what it means to live a life that is worthy of God. Leaders don’t expect others to live it, if you are not living it. That do as I say not as I do stuff is a bunch of rubbish. What kind of example are you of living a life worthy of God? If others followed your example would God be pleased? Is the way that you serve causing others to focus on the goal or to get caught up in the groaning?