The Lord works to shape the person who makes disciples in order that they would fulfil what he commanded when he sent them out to ‘go and make disciples’. He knows that the fruit of our ministry will be shaped by our attitudes and lifestyle. He desires the very best for us and those we work with so he draws the best out of us through life circumstances. In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul elaborates the character qualities that he sees as key. He writes of love, the sharing of our lives, the foundational emphasis on the Word of God and His heart for God. Backing up to the beginning of the passage he shares how the Lord has tested these qualities into being.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9 Paul tells of his love, and the price he was willing to pay on behalf of the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 2: 6-9 … As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8We 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. 9Surely 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.
- What were Paul and his team’s attitudes towards the Thessalonians?
- How was love expressed by Paul and his team?
- What is the difference between sharing the gospel and sharing life?
- How could you develop such attitudes in your ministry?
Paul was very concerned that the young Christians not only heard a message, but that they saw a message. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-11
1 Thessalonians 2:10-11 10You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
- What was the lifestyle of Paul and his companions?
- Holy, righteous and blameless can seem cold. How did the Thessalonians experience these characteristics?
- What expectation did Paul have that his life was part of the message?
- How could your life develop in these characteristics?
Paul was concerned that what He taught was not from him, but from God. When the Thessalonians took the message, they demonstrated that they had received it as God’s word through the price they paid from opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 13And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 14For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16in 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.
- What was the essence of Paul’s message?
- How could Paul tell the message was received in the heart?
- In your ministry, how could you ensure the message is Biblical?
Heart for People
The core of the message of Christ is love. Our ministry must be expressed with love or we have missed the point. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 17But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. 19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
- What evidence can you find of Paul’s heart for the Thessalonians?
- What difference does it make if there is heart or duty?
- How could God develop such a heart desire in your life?
Trials test attitude
The characteristics that we have seen in Paul did not just appear. The Lord worked through trials which exposed his heart attitude. The beginning of the chapter shows this. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2
1 Thessalonians 2:1You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
- What was the extent of the opposition? (Acts 16 & 17)
- What would motivate someone to persist in the face of opposition?
- How has Paul’s character been demonstrated?
- What pressures or blessings could expose our hearts in ministry?
Tested and Approved
The testing Paul has been through has taught him to live with pure motives. He writes of these motives the testing demonstrates that he left behind. 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6
1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 3For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.
- What false motives and methods are mentioned?
- How could such motives and methods slip into Christian ministry?
- Why might God be concerned that Paul is free of such motives and methods?
- What is Paul’s motivation? How is he sure?