Summary: We are called to share our lives, serve out of a pure heart and seek to bring out the best in others.
God called us to be obedient followers. The Apostle Paul was such a follower. He wrote to the Thessalonian believers, “You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord”. Paul lived like Christ. The Message translation goes like this: “In imitating us, you imitated the Master.” That’s the kind of followers we want to multiply. That’s why we see the word “biblical” in our mission statement: “Glorify God by Multiplying Biblical, Committed and Loving Followers of Jesus Christ.” The challenge is for us to live our lives in such a way that when people live like us, they are actually imitating the Master Himself. Let us open our Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 to see how Paul lived and served among the Thessalonians.
First, to live like Christ means to be SACRIFICIAL. We must SHARE our lives. Verses 1-2 says, “You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We 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.” In short, the time Paul spent with the Thessalonian believers was not a “failure” or waste of time even if he faced “strong opposition” there. The word “insulted” refers to “outrageous treatment... which is calculated publicly to insult and openly to humiliate”. That’s what Paul suffered in Philippi. “By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black and blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.” That did not slow them down. They continued to preach the Gospel.
Paul sacrificed a lot in serving the Thessalonians. “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you... Surely 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.” Paul supported not only his needs but also of his companions by making tents as he ministered to them. The Message goes like this: “You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you.” When I read those words, I remember our life as a family in the first church I pastored. My wife Ellen had to continue working in a government corporation for the church at that time cannot really support us. To be exact, I got P1,500 a month.
I know also of people here in our church who served the Lord at their own great expense. You gave not only your money but also your valuable time and abilities. When a Filipino-Chinese friend learned that I accepted your call for me to pastor here, she prayed for me a lot. She told me that it’s hard to serve in a Filipino-Chinese church because the members own businesses or they usually lead companies. So, according to my friend, they tend to boss even pastors around. But here in our church I find businessmen working alongside me. Thus, I would like to thank you for your sacrificial support.
Paul described his ministry this way in verse 7: “we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” The word “caring” describes birds covering their young or her eggs with their feathers. Paul also used this word to describe how Jesus cared for the church. The mother-child imagery stresses “personal involvement and concern.” According to the MacArthur Study Bible, “Paul’s affection for the Thessalonians was like that felt by a mother willing to sacrifice her life for her child as was Christ who was willing to give up His own life for those who would be born again into the family of God.”
And why would Paul do that? Verse 8 says, “We 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.” Brothers and sisters, God called us to share our lives with each other. “People do not care how much we know unless they know how much we care.”
Second, to live like Christ means to be SPOTLESS. We are to SERVE out of a pure heart. Verses 3 and 5, “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you... You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.” When we serve in the church, we must serve not for what we can get out of it. According to the MacArthur Study Bible, “Paul used 3 distinctly different words to affirm the truthfulness of his ministry… that ‘his message’ was true and not erroneously false. His ‘manner of life’ was pure, not sexually wicked. His ‘method of ministry’ was authentic, not deceptive.” We serve not to impress but to express. When we serve, we must make sure our motives are right.