71. I Thessalonians 2: “Ministry Killers”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening
Service on 2/16/2017
(edited March 2021)
We studied I Thessalonians chapter 1 about a year ago, just in case anyone recalls. Hey, I wouldn’t, but I take notes on these things! 😊 Anyway, tonight we will belatedly follow that study up with a look at the second chapter of I Thessalonians.
In chapter 1 we saw that despite the many external problems that were present at Thessalonica, the church there was thriving spiritually. The new church had been receptive to Paul’s missionary message of Hope in Christ and now they were quickly growing in their faith in the Lord. Even back in chapter 1 we saw they were already hearing about Christ’s return and Heaven.
Now in chapter 2 the Apostle Paul, seeing their great potential, begins to instruct them about earthly matters. About internal dangers to the Church. Namely, three BIG faith and ministry KILLERS!
And NUMBER ONE is: ME! That’s right. Me, you, or any believer if we are not careful:
Verse 1: “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:”
The problem is, irregardless of the most noble intentions, success in spiritual matters, can breed pride. And pride is well nick-named “vanity” when it comes to God’s will and His work. For pride will, in the end, weaken the ministry and bring only emptiness. Paul had great success at Thessalonica, and Praise God, he did it with humility and it wasn’t in vain!
Verse 2: “ But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.”
Paul had been surrounded at that time by resistance, unbelief, and antagonism. Jailed at nearby Philippi, then persecution by some of the Jews at Thessalonica which went so far as to try and put Paul to death. But God saved his life and, I’m pretty sure, used the experience to humble and focus him. Our trials can do that for us too, if we let them!
Verse 3: “ For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:”
O, I need to hear this today as I attempt to serve Christ in my own little way. Do you? We all need to take care that our ministries don’t start rotting from the inside out! And pride can easily do that, I know it for a fact. I’ve seen it in others and in myself!
Verse 4: “ But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”
No matter your achievements, talents, or gifts in the Church today, you have only been loaned a part of the Gospel Ministry. It still is, and always will be, the Lord’s and not yours or mine to possess or brag about. It’s enough, isn’t it, in fact it is wonderful, when He entrust us with a small portion of HIS Ministry!
Verse 5: “ For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:”
How easy it is to use the Word of God and His Work to serve selfish purposes. I confess that I have done this many times and also ignored the needs of others while doing it. Sometimes on purpose and other times without realizing it at all until later when the Holy Spirit revealed to me how wrong I had been. Listen to what Paul says:
Verses 6-8: “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”
If you can’t give yourself to others, you probably won’t be able to give them Christ either. You can’t play games and hold back in this Ministry. You can’t always play it safe. Not if you want to be effective for Him!
Verses 9-10: “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:”
Paul and his helpers at Thessalonica went way out of their way to make sure they kept GREED in check. I recently spoke to an older man who I would easily consider to have been a part of one of the greatest Gospel music groups ever to originate in this area. He told me in detail the amazing story of a very blessed ministry. But he paused near the end, his voice broke, and he asked me if I wanted to hear about how that ministry came to end. I said “OK” and he laughed a little and said, “I probably shouldn’t tell you.” As he proceeded, he sounded almost traumatized even though it had all happened many years before. Their ministry as strong and effective as it had been for so long, in the end, was brought down from within, as he told it, by pure vanity and greed. I’ll never forget the regret I saw on his face and heard in his voice that day. Never. Paul continues:
Verse 11: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,”
Paul wasn’t looking for a job at the Church of Thessalonica. He saw himself as a loving nurse and father figure to them all. His goal was to be part of their extended spiritual FAMILY. And that was his only goal there.
Ministry Killer NUMBER TWO is PERSECUTION by UNBELIEVERS:
Verses 12-16: “ That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”
Notice that the wrath of God is not specifically aimed at the Ancient Jewish unbelievers who plagued Paul’s efforts to evangelize the Gentiles, but also to Gentile unbelievers who were trying to subvert the brand-new faith of other Gentiles. We must assume that unbelief and the persecution it spawns in our day are no less repugnant to the Lord.
Truthfully, instead of fearing what unbelievers can or might do to us or our ministries, we should probably pity them. But, like Paul, we don’t need to be fatalistic or suicidal about it. Several times Paul had to flee the region of Thessalonica. To flee for his life, he would leave them and stay in touch by letter (that is, in fact, what we are reading right now):
Verse 17: “But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.”
That brings us, in closing, to Ministry Killer NUMBER THREE, and that is flat out SATANIC INTERFERENCE:
Verse 18: “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”
True ministry brings showers of blessings to those who minister as well as to those they serve. But, to be totally realistic about it, every true minister also gets a bullseye painted on him somewhere by the Devil. I mean, c’mon, if it was a problem for the Apostle Paul then surely we must be vulnerable, too.
Let’s learn a final lesson tonight from Paul on fighting this final ministry killer. When confronted with hellish interference, notice that Paul’s response was not to focus on Satan at all. Look at Paul’s next statement:
Verses 19-20: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.”
When you can do nothing else, you focus on GOD’S LOVE and your concern for others, even before concern for yourself. You can’t just grit your teeth and try to dispel dark forces away, no matter what you do, or pray, or say. Paul knew he couldn’t. But he knew Who could. And so must we, as we try to serve Him today. Let’s pray.