1 Thessalonians 2: 7 - 12
"No one cares how much you know till they know how much you care.” God has blessed this church in many ways. What is the secret? Someone recently told me - “You speak the language of love. That’s the secret.” What a wonderful thought. Speaking the language of love ought to be the heart and soul of every church. But love has many faces—some soft, some stern. Love doesn’t mean the same thing to every person every time.
But this much is true. Love must be present for any church to prosper. That’s the meaning of the saying, “No one cares how much you know till they know how much you care.” In our text Paul explains what love looks like in the outworking of human relationships. Sometimes love is a like a mother—soft, gentle, kind, hard-working, and sometimes love is like a father—challenging, exhorting, setting a good example.
1. Like a Mother v. 7 - 9
A. We Were Gentle
This is a lovely picture of a young mother nursing her newborn. See how carefully she wraps him in her arms. Watch as she lifts him to her breasts. She knows the little one cannot eat on his own, cannot find food, and cannot survive without her. She must not only feed him, but the food must come from within her own body. To nourish him she must give of herself. The milk he drinks is her milk, drawn from her own body.
To be an apostle was an awesome responsibility. In the beginning it meant that you had seen Jesus personally and had been trained by him. Our Lord had chosen his own men and imparted to them authority to heal the sick, cast out demons and teach the Word of God. Ephesians 2: 20 - the church itself is built on the foundation of the “apostles and the prophets.” They were mighty stones on which Christ would build his church. It is no exaggeration to say that after Jesus' return to heaven, the apostles were the most powerful men on earth. They had power and authority God had given to no one else.
So when Paul say, “We could have been a burden,” he meant it quite literally. When an apostle spoke as a representative of the Lord, his word was to be taken seriously and his directives were to be obeyed (as long as they were in line with what the Lord himself had taught).
But Paul says, “We were gentle like a nursing mother.” This is a lovely image that goes against the grain of our mental picture of the Apostle Paul. Of all the words we might use to describe him, somehow the word “gentle” doesn’t come to mind. Strong–yes. Determined–yes. Zealous–yes. Impassioned–yes. But gentle?
Nonetheless there it is. Gentleness is not a quality often respected today. We tend to value tough, strong, assertive leaders. But none of us likes to be bullied. We’d all rather be loved.
I think many men would not feel complimented if someone called them “gentle.” Yet Jesus used that very word to describe himself. It seems to me that if Jesus felt comfortable calling himself “gentle,” we shouldn’t have a big problem with it.
After all, Jesus was no pushover. The same Jesus who embraced the children also took a whip and cleaned out the temple. Say what you will about it, but don’t call him a sissy. When he confronted sin, he was gentle like a tornado is gentle. But when the moment called for it, he could be tender and forgiving.
Gentleness is not weakness. It is power under God’s control. It is the ability to give of ourselves to help the hurting while at the same time confronting evil whenever necessary. That’s a tough combination, but our Lord pulled it off without a hitch.
B. We Loved You
It takes more than the gospel to save people. It takes the gospel plus us. People will listen to our message when they know we care about them. This is a much needed word in this day when the emphasis is on programmes, power, position and prestige. People today want a ministry, a title and public recognition. Few there are who will work quietly behind the scenes with no thought of reward.
Paul could have sung a song: “I left my heart in Thessalonica.” Ministry that changes the world costs everything you have. If you want to make a difference, you’ve got to do more than preach the gospel. You’ve got to lay down your own life also. You’ve got to give something you’ll never get back – your own life!
C. We Worked Hard
Every mother knows how difficult it is to take care of young babies. You never get enough sleep, you always feel tired, no matter where you go you never fully relax because part of you is listening to make sure your baby is okay. That’s how Paul felt about the Thessalonians. He exerted all his energy ensuring that their spiritual needs were well cared for.
D. We Were Not a Burden
You may not know that Paul was a tentmaker by trade. Everywhere he went, he found part-time work making tents, which meant that he worked during part of the day and preached the rest of the time. That one fact tells us that despite his high level of education, Paul wasn’t afraid of manual labour nor embarrassed to get his hands dirty, so to speak. He did it so as not to be a burden to the churches and so that no one could accuse him of being in it just for the money.
If you read 1 Corinthians 9, he makes it clear that he doesn’t consider it wrong for a man to live off the preaching of the gospel. In 1 Timothy 5 he says that an elder who both rules and teaches is worthy of “double honour,” which presumes that elders would in fact be paid for their work. But he himself apparently worked in secular jobs wherever he went so that he would be free of any accusations about his motives.
2. Like a Father v. 10 - 12
Paul changes the image from a mother to a father. He points out 4 ways in which he was like a father to the Thessalonians.
A. We Set a Good Example
The word “holy” speaks of his life in the sight of God; the word “righteous” of his life in the sight of man; the word “blameless” as the result of being holy and righteous. He means to say that no one could make an accusation against him and make it stick.
Years later Paul used the phrase “above reproach” to describe the quality of life demanded of an elder in the local church. The Greek word describes a garment without any folds. When applied to personal character, it means that leader must be free from any secret or hidden pockets of sins. Said another way, it means that a godly leader is one whose life is such that there is nothing a detractor can “grab hold of.” The Living Bible - “a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.” It means that no charge could be brought against such a person that would withstand impartial examination. Leaders are often attacked, their motives questioned, their actions criticized. While such things do happen, a leader who is truly above reproach will weather the storm because there is nothing about him which a person could say, “Aha! I got you!” This means no questionable conduct, no secret sins, no deliberately unresolved conflicts.
B. We Encouraged You
The word “encourage’ means to come alongside someone who is struggling and to help them out. It has the idea of seeing a runner begin to stumble as they round the last turn and head toward the finish line. Instead of simply letting them fall and finishing the race on your own, you slow down, put your arm around them, and carry them to the finish line, even it means you personally lose the race. It has the idea of putting aside your own comfort for the good of another.
C. We Comforted You
Paul was constantly “sharing his insights.” This is a most positive statement. It reminds me of the little book The One-Minute Manager, which exhorts bosses to “Catch Them Doing Something Right.” Most bosses are excellent at finding fault, the truly great ones love to catch their employees doing something right. Paul was like a spiritual cheerleader who thrilled over every spiritual victory and consoled his new believers when they were defeated. Good fathers know how to cheer their kids to victory.
D. We Challenged You
Here is the ultimate goal of the Christian life: To live a life worthy of God.
Believer, you must not embarrass your God! He has called you to a glorious destiny. You have a ticket to eternity paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now live up to that high calling. Let every word you say and every action you take, let the things you and the things you refuse to do all reflect well on your God.
The last phrase of v. 12 brings before us the privilege and challenge of working for Christ. We are privileged to be part of God’s kingdom as it unfolds on this earth. More than that, we will discover in days to come how great this really is when Jesus returns to overthrow all human kingdoms and to establish his kingdom by reigning on David’s throne in Jerusalem. Whatever little glory we have seen now will pale by comparison with the glory that will be revealed in those days.
Our great challenge is to live worthy of that great calling. We are called to be kingdom people living in a foreign land, representing the King himself in a world that thought it best to crucify him. In his long absence we are called to stand in his place, taking care of his interests, spreading his Word, and inviting others to join his cause. This is a high and noble calling: Let us live so that no one will be surprised to discover who it is we represent.
Application: Remember, what you are is more important than what you say.
That raises one final question. What does it cost to have this kind of ministry? The answer is: It costs everything.
1. There are no hopeless cases with God. For some people it may take many months or years for the walls of unbelief to come tumbling down. But God can reach the down and out, the up and in, the outcasts and the high and mighty. When God gets ready to save a person, he saves them!
2. There is no power on earth greater than the power of love. It’s is God’s grace and our love that wins people to Jesus Christ. God uses the love of a good people to bring others into his family.
“No one cares how much you know till they know how much you care.” There are millions who are ready to listen if someone will begin to care about them.