Who Is This Proverbs 31 Lady, Anyway? (P. 4)

Proverbs 31:16-20

(16)  She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

(17)  She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

(18)  She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

(19)  She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

(20)  She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

This lady has good business sense.

“She considers a field and buys it.” Clearly her good stewardship carries her beyond her home to the point where she is able to conduct her own business. It sounds here like she is into real estate and agriculture. What is interesting to note is her independence. This is a business decision she Continue reading

Paul the Loving Mother (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)

The central characteristic of the steward of is faithfulness. The central characteristic of a mother is gentleness. A mother has a bond with her child that is unlike any other. She has literally poured herself into the life of that child. She has a vested interest in that little one because she has invested so much. It’s that level of care that God expects us to put into the lives of others.

Love means self-sacrifice

Paul was always careful to use his authority in love. Like a mom, he made sacrifices to help raise his spiritual children to maturity, even if it hurt him personally (2 Corinthians 12:15).

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

(7)  But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

(8)  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.

Nourishing involves teaching

When Paul talks about “a nurse cherishing her children,” the picture is that of a mother nursing her baby. Practically speaking, this kind of “nourishing” means taking a new believer under your wing and showing him or her how to get into God’s Word and apply it to their lives. In education there is this phenomenon called the “curse of knowledge.” It’s when a teacher becomes so well-versed in his subject that he forgets how he got to that level of knowledge, and forgets to convey those steps to his students. He then teaches on the assumption that his students already know most of what he knows and ends up teaching over their heads. A sure sign that this might be happening is when the teacher starts asking questions like: “Why don’t you people know this already?” It’s probably because the teacher forgot to teach the steps leading up to that knowledge.

When I first became a believer, I heard lots of people say: “It’s important to have your devotions.” I had no idea what “devotions” was. They might as well have said, “It’s important to remove your own appendix.” I didn’t know how to do that either! It would have been nice if someone had just sat me down and walked me through the process.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I learned how to “have devotions,” and while the practice might differ from person to person, devotions involves reading a passage of Scripture, praying over it, thinking about it, writing down what it means in your own words, and then learning how it applies to your own life – and how to make it a blessing to others. This blog is a devotional exercise on my part.

Discipling others means properly discipling yourself

Another important lesson we can learn from this picture of motherhood is that what she nourishes herself with has an effect on her child. If mom likes spicy food and then goes to feed baby with her milk, baby is likely to have an upset stomach and a fitful night. Those of us who have responsibility to minister to others must likewise watch what we take in doctrinally. If our spiritual nourishment is not good, it can affect how we disciple others. It is not our place to indoctrinate new believers with our opinions. They need what God thinks, not what we think.

We also need to beware that we do not harp on the externals. You may be called of God to help a new believer who used to be a drug addict. For them a step in the right direction might be downgrading to cigarette smoking. Don’t focus on the smoking. Focus on helping them to grow their relationship to God. Our goal is for our spiritual children to be right, rather than just to look right (2 John 1:4).  As we help them to grow in their relationship to God, the external issues will very often take care of themselves.

Helping others grow in grace, requires grace

When Paul exhorted the Galatians about those who were struggling spiritually, he reminded them of their responsibility to their struggling brother and to themselves.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

First, we need to make sure that we are faithful in keeping ourselves in good spiritual health. Paul puts the discipling ministry on those “which are spiritual.”

Second, we must go in with meekness. It’s very easy to pour yourself into the life of a struggling believer with a “holier than thou” attitude, or the what-were-you-thinking mindset. Who’s to say that one day the roles won’t be reversed, and you’re the one in need? Meekness means understanding that I am just as susceptible to spiritual struggles as anyone else.

Third, we need to be watchful as we minister to others: “Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” When I was an emergency medical technician (EMT), one of the things that was constantly drilled into our heads was to survey the scene. Our trainers would tell us: “You don’t want to become part of the problem.” It’s possible even as a rescue worker to become part of the accident scene. All it takes is stepping into the situation at the wrong time, or in the wrong place. When ministering to those in need, it’s possible to become so emotionally invested that you don’t see things from God’s perspective. It is very important that when we minister to others who are either new in the faith, or struggling in it, that we remain spiritually objective. That requires grace, and grace comes through prayer and keeping ourselves close to God.

We can be disciple makers just like Paul

God gave us Paul as an example so that none of us could say that living all out for Christ is impossible. Paul’s life proves that it is possible. We just need to follow his example. Like Paul, we need to stay close to God so that we capture God’s perspective, and God’s burden for mankind.

Paul The Faithful Steward (1 Thessalonians 2:1-6)

Being a role model to others is not something we necessarily choose, but it’s something we all do whether we recognize it or not. Even if we do not serve in the pastoral role, we all have a responsibility to shepherd those whom God brings into our lives.

Other than Christ Himself, what better example do we have of how to shepherd than the apostle Paul? Of all the things he suffered in his service to Jesus Christ, he said his greatest burden was “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).

The Faithful Steward (2:1—6)

Paul saw his ministry as a matter of stewardship, both of his God-given talents and of the people God gave him to serve. I have to remind myself that my life in Christ is matter of stewardship. Too often I see it as consumership: What can I get for me? What’s in it for me? How can I satisfy me? None of that is Christ-like. Jesus Himself came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). I am at my best when I am remembering that what I do is a ministry of stewardship of all the God has blessed me with.

Paul understood this clearly:

“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” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

He understood that his talents and abilities were a gift from God; his opportunities were a gift from God; and that the people to whom he ministered were a stewardship responsibility from God.

As stewards of what God has given us, we own nothing – not even ourselves (Psalm 100:3). Yet at the same time we possess everything that belongs to our Master. What we have to remember is that even though we have everything the Master possesses, it is still the Master’s. Joseph is a good example of this kind of steward/master relationship (Genesis 39:1-6). He had authority over everything in Potiphar’s house. That kind of power can be abused, but Joseph was faithful, and at the critical moment when his stewardship was challenged by the advances of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph remembered his accountability to God as a steward, and did the right thing (vv. 7-9, 12).

We need to remember that one day God will hold us to account for our stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). Those of us who are found faithful will be rewarded, and those of us who are not will suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). Just like it was to Paul, the gospel is now entrusted to us. That means we must live lives that reflect our faith, and that we have responsibility to share our faith with others.

The Manner of His Ministry (vv. 1-2)

Faithfulness is a key characteristic of a steward. A good steward can be trusted with his master’s goods, and he can be trusted with his master’s message.

Paul was a faithful steward. Despite the literal beating he took in Philippi, and the unjust jail time he and Silas suffered, despite the “bad press” he likely received once he got to Thessalonica for having been put in jail, he and Silas still preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Thessalonian people.

Paul says he preached “with much contention.” It’s an athletic phrase that means “a contest, a struggle.” He knew going in that his ministry would be a tough one. He was going against the grain of Jewish tradition, and he was going against the grain of the popular world view. He kept at it anyway, because he wanted to be pleasing to God more than anything.

The Message of His Ministry (v. 3a)

“For our exhortation was not of deceit….” Paul did not serve an ulterior motive. He did not have a hidden agenda. He was not preaching his opinion. He was preaching the clear truth of the Gospel and he was basing it on what Scripture taught. Six times Paul mentions the gospel, and when Luke describes the apostle’s preaching ministry, he describes it as one in which Paul taught on the clear teaching of Scripture (Acts 17:2-3). Paul makes that clear by his own words:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

(3)  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

(4)  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….

The Motive of His Ministry (3b)

“…[N]or of uncleanness…” Paul’s motives for preaching the gospel were pure. He was not out for personal gain, and he preached the truth in love. It is possible to have the right message and the wrong motives. You’ve seen people like that yourself. Often they are holding signs with messages of condemnation and judgement upon others, and their presentation of God’s truth comes across as abrasive. Paul advocated “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a). The does not mean he compromised his message, or God’s character. It means he spoke the truth in hopes of winning his listeners to Christ. Sometimes that meant using stern words, but Paul was never “holier than thou” in his delivery.

Paul also did not use his ministry as some sort of money-making scam: “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a [cloak] of covetousness; God is witness” (v. 5). Even in Paul’s day there those who used religion as a means of playing on people’s fears for profit.

Paul was always careful in how he supported himself (1 Corinthians 9:1—18). He even refused taking donations for his own ministry, choosing instead to support himself by being a tent maker.

The Method of His Ministry (vv. 3c – 6)

The word translated “guile” in this passage means to “bait a hook.” Paul did not use tricks or gimmicks to win people to Christ. When his critics accused him of being a cheap peddler interested only in making money, Paul gladly and boldly pointed to the testimony of his life and actions to refute their claims (1 Thessalonians 2:5)

In his first epistle to the Thessalonians he appealed directly to his personal dealings with them. Throughout that letter you see the phrase “as ye know,” or statements like “for yourselves, brethren, know” (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:1, 5, 11; 3:3-4; 4:2; 5:2). These are not the statements of a man with a hidden agenda. As witnesses of the gospel today, we need to be real like Paul was, and our message needs to clear. If we are trusting gimmicks, tricks, or flattery (another form of lying) to win people to Christ, it means we are not trusting the power of God’s Word to win hearts, and if we are not trusting God to do His work, how can we trust others to trust Him?

(Primary source material: Be Ready by Warren Wiersbe, pp.44-46)

The Perfect Church Part 4: Real Hope

Jesus Christ brings to the world something it desperately needs: Hope. And by hope, I don’t just mean wishful thinking. I mean real hope. In Scripture when the Bible uses the word “hope,” it’s referring to something we can expect with confidence, a sure thing. (Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

For the believer that hope includes a guaranteed home in heaven, and the sure return of the Lord Himself. That kind of hope should be overflowing our lives. It should be contagious. Continue reading