Ye are witnesses, and God also….
Let us meditate on Paul’s 2nd Epistle to Thessalonians, 2nd chapter (verses 1 to 10).
“Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe” (Vs.10).
For the apostle Paul, preaching the gospel was not an easy job. Before he preached the gospel to the Thessalonians, he had to pay a heavy price for it. He and his team suffered and were shamefully entreated at Philippi. The sufferings and the persecution undergone by them in Philippi did not deter them from reaching out to the Thessalonians. If we face hardships or persecutions while preaching the gospel in a particular town or village, our entrance into other towns or villages should not be deterred.
Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to accept the gospel was not with any ulterior motive of deceit or uncleanness or guile. He and his men did not want to deceive the Thessalonians with a false gospel – a gospel presenting only material blessings or divine healings. Their motive was very clean in the sight of God. No guile was in their motive. Their passion was preaching the undiluted gospel at any cost. They had gone to the Thessalonians with a heart full of love for them. They did not expect the Thessalonians to make arrangements to receive them with bouquets. After undergoing persecution in Philippi for preaching the gospel, they boldly entered Thessalonica.
Paul writes with much assurance that he and his team were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel. We may have wonderful theological background or training through some Bible college. It is God who has to put us in trust with the gospel. If we preach the gospel, not as pleasing men, but God, we will be put in trust by God. Many ministers of the gospel were entrusted with the gospel by God. But in due course, they became pleasers of men because they coveted popularity. They diluted the gospel. Is the God pleased with them today? Does God further put them in trust with the gospel? The gospel that we preach should not please men but should reprove of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.
The men and women chosen by God to go to distant nations or continents as His missionaries were put in trust with the gospel. They were tried by God through the furnace of afflictions. They preserved the purity of the gospel and did not dilute it for the sake of “popularity” or for “monetary benefits”. God expects His servants to preserve the purity of the gospel after entrusting the same to them.
Paul and his men did not use any flattering words to win the Thessalonians for Christ. They simply preached the gospel but in the power of God. The Thessalonians witnessed the life of Paul and his men.
Paul and his men labored and travailed night and day with their own hands. They did not live on the “tithes” given by the Thessalonians. They did not appeal to the Thessalonians for any donations. Thus they did not want to burden the latter. They labored day and night with their own hands without expecting any financial support from the latter.
Paul and his men lived a life of holiness and blamelessness before the Thessalonians. They did not want to be burdensome to the Thessalonians for preaching the gospel. They were gentle to the Thessalonians as a nurse cherished her children. For the preaching the gospel, Paul and his men became like a nurse to her children and also like a father to his children. . They did not display their oratorical skills to the Thessalonians. Nor did they preach the gospel with flattering words.
They were willing to have imparted unto the Thessalonians not the gospel of God but also their own souls because the Thessalonians were dear to them. It is easy to preach the gospel. It is easy to pray for the deliverance of the people from sicknesses and from the clutches of evil spirits. But it is very difficult to impart our own souls to the people whom we serve. Imparting our very souls means sacrificing our own comforts for the sake of the people to whom we minister. There are hundreds of missionaries in India who serve in God’s vineyard in an anonymous manner, undergoing great sufferings and persecutions. They live amongst the people to whom they minister. They live a life of penury. Many of them are away from their loved children who are staying in the hostels of mission schools like Santosa Vidhyalaya in Dhonavur, Thirunelveli Dt., Tamil Nadu.
Paul and his men did not seek glory of any man or the Thessalonians while preaching the gospel. They did not covet praises of men. They did not want “any testimony” from the people to whom they preached the gospel. Today we see in Christian magazines many testimonies that glorify the preachers. The preachers would expect the people who have received miracles through their ministries to make a mention that God had performed such miracles in response to their special prayers. But at the same time, I have also come across many testimonies of people who had received miracles in our mission fields. In such testimonies, to my great surprise, I did not find the names of those precious missionaries through whom God performed such miracles. These missionaries remain anonymous in the Christian world. They are like flowers that blossom in the morning and then wither being unnoticed by the gardener. God is glorified through such testimonies.
Paul and his men did not wear a cloak of covetousness. They did not covet any material thing from the Thessalonians as reward for the gospel that they preached. They did not want to be chargeable to the Thessalonians for the gospel preached by them. Paul cited God as a witness. Can we cite God as a witness to our ministry? Is our ministry at the sacrificial altar where we sacrifice all our worldly comforts to win the lost souls for Christ? Can we cite God as a witness to our transparency in financial matters? Can we cite God as a witness as to how we spend the sacrificial offerings being given by His people? Paul cited not only God as the witness but also the Thessalonians as the witnesses. The preachers of the gospel should lead a life of holiness and blamelessness. People should not find fault with their life style. It is not merely their message but mainly their life that should testify to the gospel of Christ. They are supposed to lead a simple life. They should be ensamples to the people to whom they preach.
Let us meditate on 1 Thes. 3: 1 to 6.
“But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you…” (2 Thes.3:6)
The saints in Thessalonica were persecuted by their own countrymen for their new faith after accepting the gospel preached by Paul. While preaching the gospel, Paul did not mince his words but told the plain truth that they would suffer tribulation for their faith.
Paul was true to the gospel he preached. When the Thessalonians faced the trial, he promptly sent Timothy to them. He could have simply told them that he would pray for them. But, in order to strengthen their faith, Paul sent his co-worker Timothy to them. He did not stop there. He then wrote this wonderful epistle to them. About afflictions, he writes, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto”. Paul writes in his epistle about tribulation, “...even as it came to pass, and ye know”.
When we preach the gospel, do you speak the plain truth that those who accept Jesus Christ would face tribulations for their faith and that they are appointed thereunto? Today many people have forsaken their faith and backslidden just because they had not received any miracle or healing. The other side of the coin is that many people after receiving miracles or healings have forsaken their faith because they had faced afflictions afterwards. These people had been mentally prepared only for receiving miracles in the name of Jesus Christ and not for facing tribulations.
Have we strengthened the faith of those who had faced tribulations by personally ministering to them? Paul first preached the gospel to the Thessalonians. Then he strengthened their faith by sending Timothy to them and then by writing an epistle to them. These days, we preach the gospel to the millions through our crusades/Television channels. But where are the Timothy’s for comforting and edifying them when they face tribulations? What steps have been taken by the evangelists to take care of those who have accepted their message of gospel? We preach to the millions but minister to the hundreds and that too, only those who come forward to support our ministries financially.
Timothy after edifying the Thessalonians brought a good report on their faith and charity to Paul. Thessalonians after facing tribulations started growing in their faith and also in their charity work. They started giving to God.
Paul praised the Thessalonians for their remembrance of him and his men and for their great desire to see him. The new believers should be ministered in such a manner that they may be motivated to remember and love those who had brought them the good tidings. Paul also expressed his desire to see them. Seeing face to face for fellowship is very necessary in our Christian life. These days, the people to whom we minister are not able to see us face to face because we have no time to meet them. Even in this electronic age of fast communication through internet, we do not care to read their emails sent to us because we are busy in His vineyard – busy making tours overseas.
The tragedy in our Christian ministries today is that we do not train and build co-workers for sharing our vision and for shouldering responsibilities of our ministry. Many Christian ministries have only “subordinate staff” as in commercial organizations. These subordinate staff are not trained and equipped in a similar manner as Paul trained and equipped Timothy for the ministry. They do not raise up Timothy’s. They build their ministries on their own names and personalities.
If we have co-workers like Timothy with us, they can open our email In-boxes, pray and minister to the thousands of people who seek our prayers and guidance through emails. We will never leave this job to our “Webmasters”. Every co-worker will be a webmaster with us. Every co-worker will be an evangelist with us. Every co-worker will be a prayer warrior with us. Every co-worker will go and preach the gospel to the millions in place of the evangelist concerned. How long the poor evangelist will preach the gospel? How long an evangelist with his/her frail health will travel to many places in the nation and in the world? Paul deputed Timothy to the Thessalonians. He could have gone there. But Paul did not choose to go to Thessalonica in place of Timothy.
Paul called Timothy “our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (Vs.2). Timothy was not a subordinate minister or a worker or a ministerial assistant. He was a fellow laborer and a minister of God. We should call our office staff or those who labor with us as “ministers of God”. They are also coequal with us in God’s ministry. If we build our organization on our co-workers and not on our names or our own children, our organization will not be infested with the worms of corruption.
Last year, I had sent a letter with my books to a popular minister of God in the South India. I am yet to receive a reply from him. I was told that he was very busy going to different parts of India and abroad. Where are the Timothy’s? If we want to do everything ourselves without delegating our authority to our co-workers in our ministries, we will get exhausted in due course, both physically and spiritually.
Let us meditate on Thes.3: 5 - 11
"Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see our face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?" (Vs.10).
How much Paul and his men loved the saints of Thessalonica from the depth of their hearts! They did not covet any material assistance from the Thessalonians. Nor did they pray to God for opening the hearts of the Thessalonians for ministering to the needy missionaries who brought the good tidings. They prayed night and day exceedingly for God to enable them to see the faces of the Thessalonians. The only desire of their heart was to see the Thessalonians. What for? It was to perfect which was lacking in their faith.
Paul was hopeful that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ would direct their way unto Thessalonica. Paul just trusted the Lord for meeting the people of God whom he loved.
We should desire in our heart to meet the people in person to whom we want to minister. Our motive should be pure. It should not be to seek their financial help for our ministry.
Paul writes that they desired to see their faces so that they might perfect that which was lacking in their faith. We should have personal fellowship with the people to whom we minister so that we may edify the latter or perfect that which is lacking in their faith. These days, many ministers of God arrange special meetings with their sheep so that the latter may be induced to donate to their coffers. It has been always the desire in my heart to meet everyone personally whom I minister so that I can edify or comfort the person concerned who needs my ministry.
Nowadays many ministers and pastors are so busy with their tight schedule of meetings that they have no time to have fellowship with the apostles and prophets in the body of Christ or to have fellowship with every sheep of their congregation. They think it is enough to preach a message to them in a big gathering. Their only ministry is to preach and not to minister. What is the malady that afflicts our Christian ministries today? It is not the lack of funds or resources. It is the lack of "co-workers" with them who can do the ministry in their places. A busy evangelist or a busy pastor has virtually no time to minister individually to the people who seek his ministry. But if he has a body of ministry of "co-workers" who are coequal with him in the ministry, every sheep can be ministered to in a personal manner. We build our ministry on our own images but do not develop co-workers. We do not equip the saints for the ministry. We want to do everything ourselves.
Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to strengthen the faith of the Thessalonians because he could "no longer forbear" when he came to know that the Thessalonians were facing afflictions for the sake of their faith. He feared that if the Devil, the Tempter, temped them, his labor would be in vain (Vs.5). A true minister of God always guards the faith of his sheep against the temptations of the Devil. For this purpose, he does not only pray but also meets or sends someone in his place to the afflicted soul. A true minister of God like Paul should take all precautions to preserve and edify the faith of the sheep under his care.
Paul then prayed to God for opening a way for him to see their faces just to perfect that was lacking in their faith. Dear servant of God, let us dedicate ourselves today to the ministry of seeking personal fellowship with the sheep over whom God has appointed us as overseers.
- Job Anbalagan