Summary: The way to serve the church, the way to serve God in the church, is to build it up by proclaiming the gospel, by helping those who come to faith to grow, and by encouraging them to become mature believers who in turn can bring others into the kingdom.
Bill is a 19 ½ year old Uni Student. He’s been a Christian for some 5 or 6 years, having been converted through his youth group. He volunteers as a leader of the youth group on a Friday night. His friends call him Blue because he has red hair.
Violet is a 67 year old retiree. She’s still energetic enough, in bursts at least, to be keen to continue her ministry in the church, leading a small group and doing lots of pastoral care.
Ruby is a little over 29. At least that’s all she’ll admit to. She’s an IT specialist. She too leads a small group and is involved with the outreach ministry in her local church.
Norm Black, known as Jack to his friends, is a father of 3 teenagers, an accountant, and in his late 40’s. He’s just old enough to be considered a baby-boomer but young enough to think of himself as a Gen-Xer. He’s a leader of the men’s group at his church as well as being a member of vestry and one of the small groups in the church.
All of these people have something in common. They’re all people with a ministry in God’s Church. And they’re all people who want to know how to serve God better, how to serve God’s church better.
So for them a letter like 1 Thessalonians, where Paul spends a lot of time defending himself by explaining what motivated him in his preaching of the gospel can be a great help.
So what I want to do today is to think about what those four people, along with us, can learn from Paul’s example that will help them in serving others with the gospel.
You can make a fairly good guess from the things Paul says in the first few verses of ch 2 what the accusations were that these people were making. "He was a weakling. He ran away at the first sign of trouble. We haven’t seen or heard of him since. Obviously the only thing he was interested in was having us support him while he swanned around looking important. And as soon as a bit of opposition arose he headed for the hills; ran off in the dark of night! He was more interested in his own safety than your welfare."
Well, that was probably something like what they were complaining about, because here’s how he answers it. First:
He appeals to their memory of what happened.
He says: "You yourselves know, brothers and sisters." Notice how that phrase, "You know" or "You remember" is repeated over and over again: v1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11. Sometimes when we’re the object of false accusations we get carried away with defending ourselves rather than stopping and asking a couple of simple questions, like: "Are there any grounds to these accusations?" "Do others see things the way this person sees them?" You see, the accusation may totally unfounded. It may all be in the mind of the accuser. If we look at the facts of the situation we may see that the way we acted was OK.
That’s what Paul says here. He says "Think back to what actually happened. Was my coming to you a waste of time? Was my message just hot air? Did I run at the first sign of danger, leaving you without my support? Of course not. In fact if you think back to when I came to you, it was just after I’d been thrown into gaol in Philippi, put in the stocks, beaten, humiliated. But that didn’t stop me from preaching the gospel to you, facing the possibility of further opposition, further suffering. In fact I preached with great courage in the face of that opposition."
What’s more the way he spoke to them was with openness and frankness. That’s the idea behind that word ’declare’. There was nothing underhanded or manipulative in the way he presented the gospel. There was no deceit or impure motives or trickery in the way he spoke. That’s why he can repeatedly call on their memory of what happened. This is a lesson for us isn’t it? Let’s make sure that we minister in God’s church with such an openness and integrity that we can look back later on and say "You know what we were like. You know the way we lived among you. You know the sorts of people we proved to be." And in case you think you can get away with some lower standard than this, remember that people notice what you do as much as what you say, if not more so. But secondly,
He explains his own motivation
In fact he comes up with 4 metaphors, 4 pictures to do this.
He says "we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel." He speaks because God has given him that charge. God has entrusted him with this great treasure the way the owner of a property might entrust it to a steward. So not only does he not do it for personal gain of some sort, that’s the negative in v3, he does it because God has entrusted him with it. He’s someone whom God has tested and approved.