In what areas of your life do you need encouragement and comfort today? Be honest with yourself and with God about these things.
Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica
2 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, 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. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: you suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
Paul’s language in this passage is tender and warm. Notice how he makes his genuine affection for them clear. He writes of the Thessalonians becoming 'dear to us' (v 8, NRSV), and uses the similes of a mother (v 7) and father (v 11) caring for their children to express his sense of closeness and compassion for the Thessalonians.
Love is Paul’s motivation to share the gospel – and his life (v 8). The two are fully integrated and interdependent, providing us with a model of what it means to express the full nature of God’s Word both in spoken and written language, and actions (see vs 9,12). Which do you find comes most naturally to you? How can Paul’s expression of love to the Thessalonians both encourage and challenge you?
The verb ‘dared’ at the beginning of the passage (v 2, NIV) frames this love with a sense of risk, as well as with an awareness of the opposition and trials that can come with obedience to God. How might God be asking you to step out in order to bring his message to others? Be reassured and emboldened, knowing that the Word of God is ‘at work in you who believe’ (v 13).
Who are you sharing your life and the gospel with? Let them know of your affection for them, and how you see God’s power at work in their lives.
Deeper Bible study
Consider this challenging question, especially regarding youth and children’s work: ‘Are you living UP to what you are handing DOWN?’
Today the people of Thessaloniki live under constant surveillance. CCTV cameras are everywhere. Every move made is recorded and can be reviewed. Rosie Millard wrote ‘these days the all-seeing being is the digital camera, which in the real world does indeed play judge and jury for countless little crimes, and some big ones’.1 Paul, however, had no fear of such scrutiny. Indeed, he called six times for the witness of the Thessalonian believers to his own integrity and twice for God’s (vs 1,2,5,9,10,11). Paul could be trusted; he was sound in both doctrine and behaviour. Of course, the apostle knew that he was a sinner, even describing himself once as ‘the worst of sinners’,2 but, as far as he was able, he set checks and boundaries in place so that he could not be justly accused of unrighteousness. So, he worked day and night not to be a financial burden on the infant church. He also rejected any kind of trickery (v 3), flattery or hypocrisy (literally, playing a part on stage, which would have involved the wearing of masks) despite having been accused of all those things by his Judaiser enemies. How would you feel if your every action, private or public, were to be screened in a cinema near you?
Paul’s integrity3 and that of his small team were a foundation for their methods. They were kindly and caring with the young believers. They were gentle with them, like a mother caring for her little children (v 7) and dealt with them like a father (v 11). This parental approach paid dividends in results, because the team’s words were heard and accepted as the words of God. Their familial style of teaching prepared the church for suffering too, as they found themselves the targets of Jewish hatred and opposition. Churches can usually be great theatre or great community – rarely can they be both.
Who has influenced you most greatly in your Christian faith? Pray for integrity and compassion in your dealings with others today.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Deuteronomy 4,5; Matthew 27
Pray for Scripture Union
Ask God to give wisdom to the regional teams in both the south west and the north as they meet today. The south west will be meeting with local mission partner South West Youth Ministries.