This morning we are going to look at 1 Thess. 2:1-12 – This being Next Generation Sunday, we are going to discuss some principles for investing in the next generation – Specifically, we’ll look to this passage to answer three questions: Why should we invest? What should we invest? How should we invest it?
Before we read passage, let me give you some background – 1 Thessalonians is first of two letters Paul wrote to church at Thessalonica – Paul planted church at Thessalonica on second missionary journey – Paul and Silas were traveling throughout region proclaiming gospel and planting churches – At Thessalonica, a group of both Jews and Greeks believed in and received Gospel
As Paul was discipling these new believers, some Jews in city who didn’t believe Gospel became jealous and angry – In fact, so jealous and angry that they formed a mob and set city in uproar as they searched for Paul so they could imprison him or kill him – But Paul and Silas escaped by night – Paul was separated from these young Christians physically, but his heart was still with them, so he sent Timothy to check on them – Upon hearing Timothy’s report, Paul wrote them this letter
One of his purposes in writing letter was to defend integrity of his ministry – Apparently, angry mob at Thessalonica had turned their focus to young believers – They were trying to undermine new faith by discrediting Paul and, subsequently, his Gospel message
Thus, in part, Paul wrote letter to defend himself and the Gospel – That is his aim in passage we will look at this morning – In his defense, though, we find some defining principles for how Paul understood Gospel ministry – He tells us why he invested, what he invested, and how he invested the Gospel into this new generation of believers at Thessalonica
Let’s read passage, identify the why, what, and how of Paul’s Gospel investment in the next generation, and talk about application points as we think about investing in the next generation – 1 Thess. 2:1-12
1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
First, let’s look at the why of investment
Paul makes it very clear those things that were not his motivation for investing – His motivation did not come from: an error in thinking or believing, impurity, an attempt to deceive or please people, an attempt to acquire personal wealth or glory – This was the motivation for many of the notorious traveling philosophers of Paul’s day – But these things did not motivate Paul
This is what motivated Paul – This is why Paul invested: 4 just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts – Paul invested because he had been approved by God and entrusted by God
Word “approved” occurs in past tense – The approval process had been completed – Other senses of this word translated “approved” include “examined, tested, or scrutinized” – We should have a pretty good idea what those words mean – We live in a world of quality control and approval ratings
If you are like me, you buy a product online based largely upon the reviews – Sellers can take nice photos and write convincing descriptions but I really want to know is whether or not the product has been examined, tested, scrutinized, and approved by someone else – I want to know that it is going to pass the test
There is a press right now to find a vaccine for COVID but the process takes a long time because you can’t just mix some concoction together and start injecting it into people’s bodies – It has to be examined, tested, scrutinized, and approved
Paul says that those who’ve trusted in Christ for salvation have been approved by God – We still have very real flaws and imperfections – We are still prone to failure and shortcoming – But, now, grace of Christ stands between our flaws and imperfections and the holy, scrutinizing eyes of God so that, when God does his examining, he finds no flaw to disqualify us from His approval – By the blood of Christ, we are examined, tested, scrutinized, yet approved by God
I’m guessing that some of you just need to hear that this morning: that through the blood of Christ you have been approved by God – You need to be reminded that your life doesn’t prove your love for God, Jesus’ life proves God’s love for you – Rest assured, in Christ you have already been approved – Period – Allow your heart to be nourished by that truth
But, here’s the deal – Things get approved for a reason – We don’t spend time and energy examining, testing, and approving something simply to bury it in a pile of junk in the closet – We have things approved for a purpose – Here’s our purpose: we were approved by God “to be entrusted with the Gospel”
“to be entrusted” literally means that someone has put trust “in” you or “on” you – In other places in NT this Greek word is translated “to believe in” – As in, someone “believed in” Jesus – Now stop and try to wrap your mind around what Paul is saying here: Paul is saying that God…GOD! – The all-mighty, all-knowing, holy, righteous, good, redeeming God of the universe has in some sense put trust “in us” or “on us” to invest the Gospel into the lives of others
So, rest in the reality that you have been approved by God – And then, with grace of God’s approval in your heart, remember that you have been approved for a purpose – You have been approved so that you might be entrusted with the Gospel – Approved, then entrusted, in that order – Because the weight of being entrusted will crush the person who doesn’t understand that they’ve already been approved
If we can grasp this: that we have been approved and entrusted, we will discover the fuel for Gospel ministry and investment in the next generation – It is the why of investment
Second, let’s look at what we should invest
Take a look at v. 8 – 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Paul says that he invested two things: the Gospel (the totality of the biblical truth about God) and himself – Both are crucial for healthy investment – If you share much of the Gospel and nothing of yourself you will most likely leave the other person feeling like one more item on your to-do list – You may help them know their Bible better but you won’t give them an example of believing it – On the other hand, if you share much of yourself and nothing of the Gospel you will end up making a disciple in your own image rather than the image of Christ – They may become your friend but they won’t likely become a disciple of Christ
God, Himself, thought it best not just to tell us the truth but to come to earth, rub shoulders with us, and to show us the truth – Jesus was delighted not only to give us the truth, but His very self – God invested the truth and His very self – Paul invested the truth and His very self – We would do well to invest the truth and our very selves
Investment happens through more than a Bible study – Investment happens while you are working out at the Y, folding laundry, driving to school, sharing a meal, studying together – If you want to be better at investing in others, you probably don’t need to start doing something new, you probably just need to do the things you are doing a little differently
Why Paul invested, what Paul invested – Finally, how Paul invested
v. 7 – Paul invested like a mother invests in her children – But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
If you are a mother or you’ve been around a mother, you probably don’t need me to help you with the imagery here – To see a mother nurture her child, especially a newborn child, is one of the most profound pictures of sacrificial love that I have ever seen – The mother has deep affection that leads to genuine sacrifice, then her genuine sacrifice leads to even deeper affection – G.K. Beale, “The mother must take the initiative to pattern her life around the life of the newborn in order to properly meet the child’s needs. Ultimately, she sacrifices her needs to meet the needs of her offspring. She is ‘delighted to give of her life’ to her children because she loves them.”
We see that kind of delight in language Paul uses: “affectionately desirous of you…very dear to us…cared for you…” – Paul invested the Gospel with affection – He developed and nurtured genuine love for the people he was investing in – His heart was right there with his investment – He patterned his life around their needs and he was delighted to do it because he loved them – Simply put, Paul cared about his people – He invested with affection -He loved the Thessalonians like a mother cares for her children
But Paul also says that he loved the Thessalonians like a father – v. 11-12 – 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Maturity, spiritual or otherwise, develops when there is both consistent affection and consistent direction – If the analogy of a mother is to illustrate affection, then the analogy of a father is to illustrate direction – A good father, while he certainly shows affection, is ready and willing to direct his children through encouragement, comfort, and exhortation
Paul was like that with Thessalonians – He was like their spiritual father – And his goal was to encourage, comfort and urge them to live lives worthy of God, who called them into his kingdom and glory – So, Paul invested the Gospel and his life by offering affection, like a mother, and direction, like a Father – Lastly, Paul invested the Gospel in the face of difficulty
v. 2 – But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
Philippi was the place where, you may remember, Paul cast an evil spirit out of a slave girl whose owners had been using her devilish fortune-telling ability to make money – The owners were angry that Paul had ruined their business model so they had Paul and Silas arrested, stripped, beaten with rods, and thrown in prison – So, when Paul says they had been shamefully treated, he’s not kidding – And yet, Paul dared to keep investing the Gospel in the lives of others, even in the face of strong opposition – On to Thessalonica he went
You don’t need me to tell you that we are living in midst of much conflict – But facing difficulty is not a good reason to “wait and see” – If anything, living in the midst of much conflict is a good reason to, more than ever, press into Gospel investment in the lives of others – By investing in the face of difficulty, we teach the next generation to invest in the face of difficulty – We don’t just communicate information by the words that we share – We also communicate information by how, when, and where we share it – If we invest the Gospel in the face of difficulty, we are teaching the next generation to invest the Gospel in the face of difficulty – If we pull back in the face of difficulty we are teaching the next generation to do the same
When sacrifice is seen, courage is created – When the next generation sees us sacrificially invest the Gospel into the lives of others, they will receive courage to do the same – They will catch the vision
I realize there are probably some of you sitting here or watching at home who feel like you have nothing left to give – You feel like you are drowning in the difficulty of day-to-day life – It is important that you feel seen and heard – It is important that you aren’t alone – It is important to acknowledge that life is difficult, especially in this season
But it is important, too, to note that Paul wasn’t a superhero – And, I would imagine that, if anyone could empathize with your feelings this morning it would be Paul, a man of great suffering – But Paul, when he reached the end of himself, looked to the power of God to keep going – He writes “we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel” – Paul didn’t say, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” to tell you the Gospel – He didn’t say, “I willed myself” to tell you the Gospel – He didn’t say, “My guilt manipulated me to keep going on” and to tell you the Gospel – He said “we had boldness in our God” to tell you the Gospel
If you feel like you having nothing left to give, nothing left to offer, you may be right – You may have exhausted your resources – But God always has something to left to give – Look to him for help, and keep on investing
So we’ve talked about the why of investing in the next generation: the reality that we’ve been approved and entrusted by God – The what of investment: the Gospel and our very lives – And the how of investment: with affection, with direction, and in the face of difficulty
Maybe one final question to answer in application is where do we invest?
If you have children, that’s the place to start – Faithfully invest the Gospel into the lives of your children – Scripture places upon heads of households the priority of caring first for their families, and then for others – So start with your kids – The investment you make in your kids could very well be the greatest investment you make in the Kingdom of God – Look for opportunities to invest the Gospel into the lives of your kids – Create opportunities – Talk to other parents about how they are working toward that goal – Share ideas and resources – Maybe you’re already doing it – Great – Maybe you’ve done well at times but you need to reevaluate and recommit
If your kids have grown up and left your home or if you have kids at home and you are already faithfully investing in them, then there are plenty of other opportunities here at River to invest – Some day we will start having SuperChurch and Next again – Erin is always looking for people to help invest in our kids here at River – You talk to Sherri about volunteering with the youth group – You could “adopt” a college student from Christian Challenge – You could become a mentor through Youth Horizons – Or maybe you work with young people and you can form a relationship in that sphere of influence
If you are a college student or an older youth, SuperChurch and Next are a great option for you, too – And don’t neglect the opportunity you have to invest in the younger students in Challenge or youth group – Someday soon, you will be moving on and other students will need to be ready to step up and fill your spot – You have the privilege and responsibility to invest in those younger students so they are ready for the task
My point is this: there are a ton of opportunities to invest – You can’t do all of them but maybe you could do one of them – Open your hands and ask God to show you where to invest – When He speaks, move with Him