Summary: In this sermon, we learn how to grow spiritually through our growing pains.
A. How many of you had growing pains when you were growing up?
1. I remember going to my mom as a little boy and I would describe some pain I was having in my leg or my side.
2. Usually, she would look it over, ask a few questions about it, then say, “Well, it’s probably just growing pains.”
3. I’m sure that if the pains persisted she would have had it looked into by a doctor.
4. But the pains usually went away quickly and so I guess they were just growing pains.
B. In truth, growth is painful.
1. It is amazing to think about how much change has to take place for us to grow from a newborn to a full-grown adult.
2. We start out at about 20 inches tall and then the average American adult grows to 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall (that’s 64 ½ inches). And that’s over three times bigger than we started.
3. A 7 foot tall man is 84 inches tall, which is four times bigger than he started.
C. Growing spiritually can also be painful.
1. When we first become Christians, we are like newborns, and there is a lot of growth that must take place before we will be full-grown spiritual adults.
2. Unfortunately, spiritual growth can be stunted.
3. Spiritual growth often comes in spurts, but is best when it happens over the long haul.
D. In the hot tropical rain forests, huge plants and trees grow quickly, sometimes almost overnight.
1. But these trees have soft wood, and they fall prey to insects and diseases and live only a short time.
2. In the rugged mountains, however, growth is slow.
3. Plants and trees must endure high winds, and intense cold, but they grow strong and tough with knotty, hard wood.
4. Spiritual hardships and lessons have value we often can’t appreciate at the time, but they can make us grow strong over the course of time.
E. As we turn our attention to our text from 1 Thessalonians and our sermon series from the letters to the Thessalonians, let’s be reminded of what we have learned so far.
1. Paul went to Thessalonica on his second missionary journey and helped plant the church in that city.
2. Unfortunately, because of persecution, Paul was forced to leave after only a few weeks.
3. Nevertheless, the Thessalonians quickly became a model church because of their faithful service, their open receptivity, and their evangelistic influence.
4. In our last sermon, we learned that the Thessalonians had become a model church because Paul had conducted a model ministry while he was with him.
5. That model ministry included Paul ministering as a faithful steward, a loving mother, and a concerned father.
F. Today we want to notice how this model church and model ministry had to face growing pains.
1. It was not easy to be a Christian in Thessalonica, and it was not easy for Paul to minister in those first century cities.
2. Those early Christians and missionaries faced persecution and suffering.
3. Yet in the midst of what they faced, they also experienced growth and joy.
4. Let’s spend some time exploring and applying the text to see what we can learn about the spiritual growing pains we face.
I. Exploring the Text
A. I Thessalonians 2:13 - 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 the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
1. Paul had already expressed his appreciation for the Thessalonians when he opened his letter saying, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.” (1:2)
2. Here Paul wants to share the reason he had to constantly thank God for them.
3. What was that reason? It was the way that the Thessalonians had received the word of God.
4. When Paul, Silas and Timothy had brought them the word of God, the Thessalonians could clearly see that what they preached was not the word of man, but was indeed the word of God.
5. The word that Paul used when he said they “accepted it” implies an inward welcome and embracing, not just a surface acceptance.
6. Unlike the words of men, the Word of God is not empty, nor powerless.
7. So Paul pointed out that this Word of God was at work in those who believed.
B. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 - 14 For 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,