The Action Of Ministry
Paul came as a father, persuading, comforting and encouraging. We persuade others of their need for the gospel.
Alright, thank you very much, and hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Well, thank God we can be in the world but not of it. You don’t have to be tarred with the world’s brush just because you live in a dirty world. Hallelujah for that. Peter says “You who were kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” God is able to save you but He is also able to keep you, moment by moment by moment.
I remember my good friend, Merv Roselle, an evangelist whose name, of course, is known around the world. A great heart for missions and all of that. Years ago, I suppose this story would go back to one of the first times I heard him preach, actually, and that would be in the 1940’s; he was young and so was I. He told this story: he had been dealing with a gentleman who absolutely could not quit a certain habit. He just couldn’t. He cried and he prayed, and he tried and failed. Merv Roselle said, “I asked him, ‘Do you think that Jesus could keep you for five minutes?’ ‘Oh yeah, I think He could.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Let’s see if He can.’ So they prayed and then they waited, and five minutes went by, and this man had been kept from this habit. Actually, it was smoking.
Merv said, “Do you think God could keep you for an hour?” “Maybe so.” So they tried an hour, and sure enough, God kept him. And it began to dawn on this gentleman that God keeps you not a day at a time, or a lifetime at a time, but a minute at a time, and you pray yourself through the situation and you trust your way through segments of time.
You and I are looking at 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2, and Paul is telling something about his ministry among them. What good is it to go back and look back over your ministry to people? Well, it’s good for you and sometimes it’s good for them. Paul is telling these people at Thessalonica, “You know how I came to you. My ministry to you was not in vain there. Something happened. I was bold in God to speak unto you, and my preaching was clean, and it didn’t have any guile in it. I wasn’t manipulative, and I was responsible to God because I was put in trust with the gospel. I wasn’t trying to cultivate you or get something from you. I wasn’t trying to flatter you. I didn’t try to get some special recognition. “Neither of men sought we glory, neither of you nor yet of others.” “But,” he said, “I was gentle, like a nurse, and I was affectionately desirous of you. I was willing to give you my own life. I worked to support my own self so that I wouldn’t burden any of you, giving you the gospel of God. I behaved myself, holy and just and unblameably.” Now that’s as far as we’ve gotten in this review of Paul’s ministry.
We come to verse 11 of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you as a father does his children, that you would walk worthy of God who called you to His kingdom in glory.” He said, “As a nurse,” up there in verse 7. Now he says, “As a father.” My own memories, of course, are filled with the recollection of my relationship with Charlie Cook, my own father. Widowed at an early time in his marriage, my sister was eleven and I was just a little over one year old. Our dear mother slipped along into the glory, the victim, actually, of people’s not knowing what to do in her case of severe hemorrhaging after surgery.
Anyway, she was gone, and he took up the task, then, of rearing his two children by himself. My sister’s memories of those childhood years are entirely different from my own for one reason and another. But I have memories that relate to a man who was at once completely ruthless in his application of discipline and unspeakably tender in his love for his boy: a father. I got my share of spankings. I think there was only one spanking, as I remember, that I don’t think I deserved. That’s a pretty good average for a parent, if you only give one spanking out of place. I remember Jean Shepard (TV personality and storyteller) said the rule is, “Always beat a child while you’re angry enough to beat him.” Ha, isn’t that terrible? But I got my share of spankings and I think there was only one that I really didn’t deserve.
But anyhow, he would lay the board of education onto the seat of knowledge, as they say, and after it was all over, I remember he would gather me up in his strong arms and hug me and dry my tears, and assure me that he did indeed love me. It’s quite a set of memories there. And to me, he typified in many ways the verb forms that are used here in 1 Thessalonians 2:11. He said, “We exhorted.”
Now I used to resent the fact that he would lecture me. Of course, he was working all day long, so he wasn’t home during the day and I was in school, and then I would come home from school and get supper – that was my job, to cook supper and wash the dishes. So then, after supper (we didn’t call it breakfast, lunch, and dinner; it was supper at night) he would, if he had something on his mind, say, “Now, I want to talk to you, boy.” And I had to stand there at attention while he lectured me. I used to get so weary of it; Physically weary from standing still for a long time and mentally and emotionally weary from being told where I was off the track. But this is part, actually, of being a parent. Somebody has to tell the small person where they’re making mistakes.
Paul said, “We exhorted.” Now, that’s the Greek word parakleio, which is translated “exhort.” It also means “persuade.” And it has in it, also, a note of love and comfort. The Holy Spirit is called The Comforter, and that’s the noun form of this same verb. Parakleitos, I guess, is the noun, and this is the verb, parakleio. The Spirit of God is the one who teaches us and comforts us and who shows God’s love to us in a persuasive manner. What Paul was doing for these people and what you and I need to do in our ministry, is not just talk at them or preach at them, or lecture them, but to persuade them that the will of God is for them, and that they need to obey God in a matter. He said, “I exhorted; I used persuasion.” The next verb you have here in verse 11 is comfort. Now that’s the Greek verb paramutheomai, a long verb in the middle tense which means to encourage and console.
They say that a great many children are hindered in their growing-up years by parents who do nothing but criticize them and tell them they’ll never amount to anything. My father said that his stepmother would say to him almost daily, “Charlie Cook, you’ll never amount to anything.” Well, that’s bound to put some scars on a person’s psyche, I’m sure. But you and I, if we do our job right as parents, are going to encourage people. We’re going to assure these folk under our care that we believe in them and that we think they can accomplish what they ought to as young people growing up in the world. He said, “I encouraged you and I consoled you.”
And then he said, “I charged every one of you.” Now that word “charged” means “called up as a witness; to beseech in God’s name. And I remember (you’ll pardon these personal references, but they are very close to my heart and memory, and maybe they’ll help you to identify with some things as well) on one occasion especially, I was bound and determined to have my way about something.
I don’t know whether it involved the use of the family Model-T or whatever it was, but I was a senior in high school, and that would make me about fifteen. I graduated just short of my sixteenth birthday. So I was fifteen years old, and full of bounce to the ounce, you know, and I was arguing about something. And I remember my father saying to me, “You know, it would be a lot easier for me to say yes to you, my boy,” but his eyes were about to spill over with tears because he was so deeply moved, and he said, “I’m responsible to God for you, and so although it would be easier to say yes, I have to say no.”
Well, you see, the idea of being responsible to God for the growth and well-being of somebody is an awesome concept, and one that may well indeed give us pause and make us consider decisions in a different light than we would have otherwise. Take a moment here just to ask the question, those of you who are parents and grandparents, “How well do we fit into this description of what Paul says here, “As a father?” Do you use persuasion, or do you just give a command and have a fracas if it isn’t obeyed? Persuasion: that’s one verb there.
Do you encourage people and let them know you believe in them? I picked up some medication at the drug store just last night, actually, and I noticed that the pharmacist had a beautiful sunburn, so I smiled at him and said, “Hey Jim, you’ve been out in the sun!” “Yes,” he said, “My kids are in Little League and there were two games back to back, so I spent five hours in the sun yesterday.” Ah, you see, it means a lot when Dad shows that he cares what’s going on. And when his boy or girl comes up to bat, he says, “Come on now, you can hit a homer. Hit it out of the park!” We need to encourage the people for whom we’re responsible. Then, because you are responsible to God, you’d better remind the folk, and yourself with them, that He is your witness, your supervisor, and that you’re following His commands. Well, those are some concepts, aren’t they? And if you’re a pastor or missionary or Christian worker, the same logic applies: Persuasion, encouragement, and calling God into the act makes a lot of difference in the ministry.
Dear Father, today, oh may we be people who do well in our relationships with those for whom we’re responsible. In Jesus’ name I pray this, amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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