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.
When it comes to leadership lessons during trying times lastly Paul speaks to us about being:
- Single-minded vs 17-20
Paul points us to people and reminds us to make them a priority. Paul dealt with the Thessalonians as a parent, exhibiting the characteristics of both a mother and a father. The phrase “torn away” or “separated” is a very powerful image and literally means, “When we were made orphans.” There will always be a pull that tries to separate and sever relationships. Yet even though he was absent in body he was still present in heart. Today especially when it comes to parenting the opposite is true, many of us are present in body but absent in heart. Paul made people a priority, notice that his greatest hope, his most joyful aspiration, and his crowning achievement was to see people in the presence of the Lord Jesus when He comes in His glory. If we could ask Paul what really fired him up, if we could find out what kept him going when things were tough, his answer would be something like this: I will do anything I can to make sure no one is left behind when Christ returns! What about you are you making people or possessions your priority? Do you get more passionate about relationships or riches? What will you have to show when your life on earth is over and you stand before Jesus Christ? A good job, a college degree, money, a nice car? There are only two things in this world that are eternal, the Word of God and people. Loving leaders understand what really matters, they push through the tough times because they are passionate about people coming to Christ. What about you are you missing what matters most, are you getting caught up in earthly things instead of eternal? It’s here in his passion for people that Paul reminds us that there will be problems. Paul wanted to stay with the Church in Thessalonica, It was a young church that Paul started, but Paul left because of persecution. Paul was unable to return even though he wanted to. What prevented him was the prince of darkness, Satan himself. Look there will be problems in leading, sometimes ministry does not agree with desire. Desires are often emotionally triggered but duty is related to need, goals, and calling. We need to remember that Satan can and will use our most powerful feelings against us. To use our feelings to stay when we should go, or use our feelings to go when we should stay, or even use our feelings so that we never start. A great question that we need to ask ourselves is what things in our life are ministry driven, and what things in our life are emotion driven? Now the phrase “Satan stopped us,” is a military metaphor for an army that sets up a roadblock in order to impede the enemy. It can also refer to the breaking up of a road so that it becomes impassable. Every time Paul tried to return to Thessalonica he ran headlong into a satanic obstruction. We don’t know specifically what Satan did to keep Paul from going back to Thessalonica. It could have been opposition, legal difficulties, illness, travel complications, or a direct spiritual attack. But we do know that Paul attributed the blockade to Satan himself. We must remember that Satan is real and that he loves to attack Christian relationships. But we also need to remember that impassible does not mean impossible. There were actually some good things that came out of this roadblock. First, the Thessalonians were forced to rely on God, not Paul. Even though Paul couldn’t go to them, the believers still grew because they relied on God. Second, because he couldn’t go, Paul, ended up writing a letter to them that became part of Scripture. Literally, millions of churches over the past 2,000 years have benefited from reading and applying the books of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. If Paul wasn’t faced with a barrier we might never have had this section of the Bible. What Satan intended as a roadblock actually ended up being a building block. No matter what barriers you are facing right now remember that God is bigger than the barrier. Don’t let Satan sidetrack you, don’t get so focused on the problems that you lose sight of the people. Ask God to kindle a passion in your heart for people so that they become a priority in your life.