1 Thessalonians 2:11-20
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 16 as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last. 17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. 19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.
After revealing serving as the first leadership lesson we need to learn during trying times Paul now reminds us of the importance of being:
If we are going to serve then we have to take the place of second because God is first. When we make self first then the temptation we be to try and get people to follow us instead of following the Father. Pride always wants to point people to self, but a heart of humility will always point people to the Savior. In verse 13 Paul points out that the people received God’s message. The goal is to help people hear what God has to say, we want them to accept His word, not ours. What about you are you preaching and proclaiming Christ or self? Some in hearing the word of God look no further than to the ministry or words of men. Instead of being in awe of the Almighty they become enamored by men. We should not only receive God’s word but we should respond to it because unlike man’s words that are often foolish, fickle and even false, God’s words are faithful and never fail. As we talk about accepting His word this reminds us that it needs to be shared. Paul shared the Word of God, he shared his life. As the word of God was shared they accept it, if the Bible is the Word of God, then we must bow in submission to it. We should never say, “I know what the Bible says, but…” If we know what the Bible says, then there are no ‘buts.’ If you’re doing something right now and you know what the Bible says about that activity, you already have God’s answer. It’s not up for a vote. Stop waiting for God to let you know something different than what He has already said in His Word. Paul takes this one step further in the last phrase of verse 13: “…this word continues to work in you who believe” The power of the Word of God is tied to a believing heart. The Word “work,” is where we get our English word “energy.” The word is energized within us, as we believe it. When we hear the message outwardly, and welcome it inwardly by faith, it will rejuvenate us and produce a harvest in our life. It’s not just about accepting the word but activating it. Acting upon it. Notice that the evidence of the word of God at work in Paul’s life was thankfulness. Are you hearing the word of God, are you receiving it, are you believing it, are you seeing it in your life? When you are leading from second place you will rejoice because of the power of the word of God to change lives. In Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called His disciples together and reminded them of the difference between servant leadership that serves in second place, and that of selfish leadership that wants to live in first place. Servant leadership lets Christ be in control where selfish leadership looks to control people. What about you does your life display a loving leadership or a lording leadership? Next, Paul remind us of a challenging lesson when it comes to leading and that is that we will:
- Suffer vs 14-16
To the extent we experience the power of God’s Word within us, we will collide with a world that rejects it. When the Word of God is within us, the enemies of God will be upon us. The cross is the Christians mark, which means that as servants our paths will be paved with sacrifice and suffering. Today we want the blessings that come from the cross but not the burdens. But as long as we fail to see that suffering is part of the package and not just a raw deal we will be disillusioned and ultimately disappointed in our walk with the Lord. Now the word “countrymen” is a very unique word that is used nowhere else in the New Testament. It means the people closest to you, persecution is always worse when it comes from your own people. It’s difficult when we face persecution from people but it becomes particularly painful when those people are our friends and family. People are going to put you down even those who are close friends and family. But don’t get hung up on the hurts hand them to God and let Him sort them out. Look suffering for one’s faith is not just to be endured, it’s to be expected. Paul encourages the Thessalonians in their suffering by reminding them that they’re not alone. They were suffering just the same as all the other churches. Sometimes when we go through the pain of persecution we can start to think we are all alone that nobody else understands out pain, but the truth is there are many people who are walking the same path of persecution as you. Today I want you to take some time to pray for the persecuted church. Pray for those who are experiencing suffering for the sake of the gospel.