Summary: Certain characteristics will be clearly evident in one who is truly born from above. Paul saw them in action in the Thessalonian church
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;
MAKING YOUR PASTOR GIVE THANKS
I didn’t include verse 1 of this chapter in my text for this sermon but I should have. Our text begins with Paul saying ‘We give thanks to God’ and we’re going to spend our time learning why he said that. But there is something in verse 1 that establishes his fundamental motivation for giving thanks to God concerning these Thessalonians. Look at verse 1.
“Paul and Silvanus [that’s Silas] and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; Grace to you and peace.”
Who are the recipients of his letter? They are those who comprise the true church in Thessalonica. They are ‘in’ God the Father and they are ‘in’ Christ. See it? Paul is addressing himself to the elect of God – in verse 4 he reminds them that God chose them – so he bids them grace and peace, knowing that only a true, Spirit-born and filled believer can have or know God’s grace and peace, and he rejoices over them! He assures them that he gives thanks to God for them always!
Now I want you to think about this for a minute and not let this thing escape your notice today, because this is an expression from a pastor’s heart and it is not unique to the Apostle Paul.
Paul and the others had come to Thessalonica at an earlier date; not much earlier, for these were all still young believers in this church, and some had been saved and a church had been started and he had taught them for a while. But then jealous Jews who were in the city had driven Paul out, so after a short time Timothy and Silas had gone back and received this great report about the Thessalonica church that we read about in the early verses of this chapter. So Paul is rejoicing and thanking God for them.
What I want you to know and understand today is that a pastor’s heart can be greatly encouraged or sadly broken by the people God has sent him to for ministry.
Years ago I was placed by God in the midst of a congregation of people for a full year. Now I don’t say this to boast, I was doing my job and the task God gives every minister of His. For a year I preached the gospel very clearly to this congregation. I taught them the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. I taught them the meaning of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and many other things. I prayed for them when they were ill and visited them when they were troubled. I even visited one or two in jail. But at the end of that year when the Lord finally let me leave, there was only one person in that congregation whom I was convinced in my heart that they were even a true Christian.
It was a long, sad year. But this is what I want you to see. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me; that isn’t my point at all. I want you to understand that the reason I had no reason for rejoicing over that congregation is because in a year of knowing them and toiling over them I cannot remember one time witnessing any physical act or hearing any Biblically founded confession that would tell me any of them were even born again.
I saw plenty of evidence of worldliness, but nothing of the signs Paul is talking about in these verses we’re coming to; the signs that made him rejoice and that make any pastor rejoice because as he works and prays and teaches and counsels and leads his people to springs of living water, he witnesses the working of the Holy Spirit in hearts that belong to Jesus. And how can he witness that working? By the evidentiary fruit the Spirit is bearing in the very lives of the people he is striving to lead!
Ok, so I know I started on a bit of a down note but I won’t leave you there. I just wanted to plant a seed of thought in your head that you might reflect upon later and step back and ask yourself if your pastor has reason to rejoice over you or to be saddened by you. Whatever you find there will be between you and Jesus to work out.
Just let me give you this nugget to take with you and I’ll move on.