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)

Acts on Prayer – Does Your Real Life Back up Your Prayer Life?

Acts 16:25-26

(25)  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

(26)  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for practicing their faith. In the verses before, Luke records how Paul, in the name of Christ, cast a demon out of a young slave girl. This girl had “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (16:16). When Paul cast her demon out “her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone,” and they had Paul and Silas arrested.

During the brief “trial” that followed, Paul’s accusers said that the apostle was teaching unlawful customs that were potentially harmful to the Roman Empire. Funny, they never mentioned how Paul had run them out of business and that’s why they were upset.

Unfortunately for Paul and Silas, their accusers had home field advantage, and the multitude, rather than digging into the real facts of the case, believed the hype instead. Riding on that wave of popular opinion, the magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned.

In response, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns of praise to God. They prayed and they praised! It’s important to note that their songs weren’t songs that pined away over their predicament. They were songs that glorified God and the other prisoners heard it (16:25).

As hard as it may be to do, we need to be in the habit of counting it all joy when we fall into manifold trials (James 1:12). Why? Because the world is watching. They need to see what a difference Christ makes. We also need to be of that mindset so that we can maintain an attitude of prayer (instead of despair) when trials come into our lives.

1 Peter 4:19 “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

Paul and Silas could pray and sing because they knew their lives were in God’s hands. Their job was to continue serving Him wherever He put them. If that was in prison, then so be it. So often we allow our circumstances to dictate our actions and attitudes. We especially let it affect our prayers. “Oh, I can’t pray now, I’m too depressed, or too discouraged, or too….” It’s exactly those times we should praying!

Now the miracle that followed was the earthquake God brought to free Paul and Silas, but equally miraculous was the fact that none of the prisoners left (16:28). Had that happened the jailer would have had to pay with his life and it would not have been a pleasant death. It’s why he opted for suicide over the much more slow and painful state-imposed death penalty (16:27).

But really the greatest miracle was the response of the jailer after the earthquake and the almost-prison-break: “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

We can tell the world about Christ all day long – and we should – but what the world really needs to see is lives lived all out for God so that they see the words really mean something. Why do you think God sends us and not angels to spread the Gospel? Because people need to see that this is really life changing!

You know who else needs to see our words of faith lived out in our lives? God. Do you think just anyone could have prayed and sang praises to God and gotten those kinds of results? No. It was men who were completely sold on God who got those results, men whose lives backed up what they professed.

So, we need to ask ourselves: does my real life back up my prayer life?

Acts on Prayer: Lessons from an Old Ford Wagon

I once owned a maroon Ford LTD Wagon. I’m pretty sure it was brand new once. It wasn’t when I bought it, though – for $300.00. It was beat up and worn. The back end sagged because the suspension was shot, and the tailgate had a barrel lock on it because it was designed to swing open like a door, and sometimes if you accelerated too fast, it would swing open and try to take a swat at other vehicles like an old lady with a purse. Continue reading

A Good Name can be a Life Saver

In Bible times a name often represented your character:

1Samuel 25:25 “Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal [fool] is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send….” – Abigail pleading with David on behalf of her husband.

Your name also represented your reputation:

Genesis 18:19  “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” – The Lord discussing His assessment of Abraham

Having a name backed by a strong testimony is a precious treasure. It needs to be valued above all else:

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving [favor] rather than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1) Continue reading