Minister like a Mom

August 21, 2022 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: First Thessalonians

Topic: English Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9

Another preacher made it to internet fame this week, and he did it by disparaging his church for not giving him the means to obtain a certain fancy watch. He said he could tell how “poor, broke, busted, and disgusted” his congregation was because of the way they failed to honor him.

He then went on to question his people. “I’m not worth your McDonald’s money? I’m not worth your Red Lobster money? … Aren’t I worth your Louis Vuitton? Aren’t I worth your Prada? Aren’t I worth your Gucci?” Then he referred to his congregation as his “cheap sons and daughters.”

I think you can imagine the kind of responses that video clip produced. After the video had exploded in popularity, the pastor went on to post an apology saying there was some context behind the video clip, but even that, he said, would not be enough to “explain the hurt and anguish caused by [his] words.”

That leaked video is a blatant expression of a man who cares a lot more about what his church can give him than about how he can serve the church. It’s the opposite, it’s the antithesis, of the heart of Jesus Christ and the heart of the Apostle Paul.

Here in First Thessalonians 2, we get a very helpful and needed reminder of what it means to be a minister of Jesus Christ. While clearly there is an application for pastors and elders, you should also think about these principles can be expressed in your own life. The verses we’re going to look at today aren’t complicated, but they’re not easy. It’s a simple principle, but it’s a challenging example.

We looked at Paul’s ministry last week in verses 1-6, and we saw that Paul was determined and brave and confident and trustworthy. Those are good descriptions for leadership, and I’m sure you’d find words like that even in secular books about leadership. We all want leaders who know how to get things done and persevere in difficulties. We want leaders who are confident in what they’re doing. But there is a clear difference between the way the Bible talks about leadership and the world does.

After two of Jesus’ disciples expressed interest in having seats of honor in Christ’s kingdom, here’s what Jesus said to the whole group. This is from Matthew 20:25—You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Christ came as an expression of God’s love. Jesus came to serve. And that is the very heart we see from the Apostle Paul in our passage this morning.

I’m not going to give you a fancy outline this morning; I’m just going to give you some simple words to summarize what we see, and then, I want to help prod you toward demonstrating these characteristics in your own life and toward the people you love and want to see come to salvation.

All of these characteristics are an outflow of Christ’s love, but it’s a challenge for us to put them on display. More than that, we want these things to flow from our hearts, so we need the Spirit of God to help us grow.

The first word I want to draw your attention to is: Gentle. Love is gentle.

Look with me at 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, verse 7. This comes after Paul describes what his ministry avoided. He didn’t come with flattery. He didn’t come for the money. He didn’t come to assert himself. Look at verse 7—But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.

If your Bible uses the word “gentle” here, it might have a footnote saying that other manuscripts say “infants” or “babies.” That’s because in the Greek the only difference between those two words is the letter “n,” which happens to be last letter of the word before it. So, it caused a little bit of confusion. Thankfully, the idea of the verse doesn’t change. Paul is expressing a kind of humility he had toward this church.

My brother and I are the youngest children in our family. That means we didn’t get to see a baby brother, or a baby sister, get raised in the home. But now, as a dad, I’ve had three opportunities to see my wife care for our newborn children in a way that only a mother can do. There’s no way I can speak to this the way you moms could do it, but caring for a newborn is not an easy task. You moms know that better than I do.

You kids, you teenagers, you think you know what makes life difficult, but raising a newborn is a whole new level. This little guy, or little girl, is literally sucking the life right out of you.

But there’s something about that child that ordinarily, keeps a mom going. It is the recognition that this little child is completely helpless and completely dependent. When a mom has a teenager who is whining about a decision she’s made, that’s difficult to deal with. But when a newborn baby cries, it’s a different kind of feeling. That’s because we expect our older children to know better. We expect them to understand more about how life works. But a newborn doesn’t have that.

That’s why, while we understand the difficulty in raising a child, we also don’t blame the child himself. When he cries, we don’t call it a tantrum. We don’t say he’s being impatient. We understand that this is what it means to be a newborn. And in understanding that, a mother treats that newborn with gentleness. She’s gentle with that child. She’s patient with him.

She’s not mad that he can’t dress himself or cook his own food. She doesn’t scream at that little baby, “Wow! You’re so dumb. You can’t do anything for yourself! Why can’t you just do what I tell you?!” Why doesn’t she do that? She understands that God has placed her in a special position to care for this tiny baby. That responsibility isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for the wellbeing of the child.

That was the kind of heart Paul had toward the Thessalonian church. This was a baby church. The people had just recently come to the Lord. But rather than scold them or attack them or expect favors from them, Paul was gentle. He was patient.

Now, I told you, these concepts aren’t going to be new or complicated. But they are going to be challenging.

When was the last time you lost your patience? We lose our patience with our spouse. We lose our patience with our kids. We lose our patience with our brothers and sisters. We lose our patience with friends and coworkers. Why? Losing your patience is an example of a lack of gentleness.

You want things done your way and in your timing. You want to be the boss. And when people don’t listen to the boss, the boss gets impatient. The boss may even start to blame the other people, rather than see his own sin.

Well, you can’t be the boss in every instance and still say you want to serve others. Mothers of newborn babies know they are relinquishing a certain level of autonomy. That child is going to change the family. Your sleeping habits, your eating habits, your driving habits—that’s all going to change. And to navigate that well, you need to give up some control. You need to give up some independence.

If a mother doesn’t want to give up any control whatsoever—if she absolutely values her life above the wellbeing of this child—you might end up with what happened in a small town just south of Texas this past week, where a newborn baby boy was found abandoned in the bushes outside an apartment complex.

We gasp at the horror in that , but we also need to recognize that the same heart of sin is what leads us to abandon others when they don’t comply with our wishes. We storm out of a conversation. We separate ourselves from someone out of anger or out of self-protection.

That’s not the heart of Jesus Christ. That’s not a gentle heart.

You might think you’re being gentle because you stepped away from a person that upsets you. But if God has called you to minister to this person in love, abandoning them is not gentle, and it’s not loving. That would be like the Texas mother saying, “Don’t worry, I gently laid the baby in the bushes.” That’s not real love, right? Love is patient. Love has a tenderness that endures.

I think some of you know this already—the word “gentle,” at least in our English language, doesn’t mean weak. It is an expression of love and self-control. A mother gently lifts her newborn from the bed. She gently bathes him and sings him to sleep. This is not your set of keys that you can throw to someone else. This is not a car engine you scrub the oil off. This is a baby, and he is to be treated accordingly.

God’s idea of leadership and strength and ministry includes gentleness. So, your idea of leadership and strength and ministry needs to include it as well.

Listen to how the prophet Isaiah describes the mighty Messiah in chapter 40, verses 10 and 11—Behold, the Lord Yahweh comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Gentleness, Paul tells us, is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s an expression of the heart of Jesus.

Now, you could make the argument that Paul’s gentleness was only there because this was a new church. So, this might only apply to our attitude toward new converts. Someone could say, “But non-Christians are hostile to the truth. And older Christians, they should know better. I don’t need to be gentle with them.”

That might have been a good argument if we didn’t have some other passages. Ephesians 4:2 calls us to humility and gentleness toward everyone in the church. First Timothy 6 instructs young men specifically to pursue gentleness. And Titus 3:2 says we should avoid quarreling… be gentle, and…show perfect courtesy toward all people.

God expects our gentleness to be universal. James 3:17 says gentleness is part of what it means to be wise. Heavenly wisdom is gentle.

Second Timothy 2:24 specifically uses this idea toward unbelievers. It says there: the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, [25] correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

First Peter 3:15 says we are to defend the faith, explaining the hope that is in us with gentleness and reverence.

And speaking of our conversations with brothers and sisters, Galatians 6 tells us that if someone else is caught in a sin, we are to restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

Gentleness recognizes the weakness of somebody else and your own weakness as well. We’re no different. We're no better. We need to be gentle. Men, be gentle with your wives as God uses you to sanctify. Wives, be gentle with your husbands. Parents, be gentle with your kids. Kids, be gentle with your brothers and sisters.

Our second today that should guide our ministries is affectionate. Affectionate.

This comes out of verse 8. Paul says there—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.

You never get the idea in this letter that Paul was a begrudging or resentful apostle. He wasn’t saying to himself, “I’m only patient with them because I have to be.” He wasn’t mad that he had to minister to them. He loved them. He was affectionate. They were a beloved church.

Again, go back to the image of a nursing mother caring for her child. That’s a picture of tenderness and affection.

I remember hearing someone once say that when people start dating, it’s “opposites attract.” And then, once they get married, it becomes “opposites attack.” I’m sure you’ve seen that in your own life. Affection can wane for others. We start taking them for granted. That’s not God’s design.

So, how do we build affection for others? How do I grow in my own heart a love for my wife and my kids and the brothers and sisters in my church and the people at work or at school?

That sounds like a good conversation to have with someone. Confess your lack of love, and then ask God to work on your heart, and show you ways to build love.

Here in verse 8, we actually get one very meaningful way to do that, and I’ll make this our third word for today. That word is “sacrificial.” Paul’s ministry was, and our ministry needs to be, gentle, affectionate, and sacrificial.

Look at verse 8 again. The beginning and the ending speak of Paul’s affection and love, but sandwiched in the middle is how Paul’s love was expressed. He says—we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.

There is much more to gospel ministry and to discipleship ministry than what you say. Obviously, what you say is important. We should speak the truth to one another in love. We should pray for one another and correct one another in appropriate ways. But more than that, the picture of the church in the Bible is of a family that loves one another. They live life together.

What does Paul mean when he says, “We were ready to share…our own selves”?

He means that he did whatever it took to show them the love of Christ. Paul didn’t just preach on Sundays and then disappear all week. He came when they needed him. He taught them in their homes. He gave them money if they needed. He gave them his life.

So, what does that mean for the people you want to see grow in their faith or be saved? It means you need to do more than just pray or just have a conversation with them once in a while. If it’s your neighbor or a coworker, invite them over for dinner. Or take them out to lunch. Allow them to get to know you outside of the normal times you see each other.

And guess what. If you want them to see more into your own life, that’s going to cost you money, and it going to cost you time. Everybody wants more time and money. But God says, rather than accumulate it for yourself, give it to serve others.

I think serving others means we need to do more than just be available. There is, in our culture, this general politeness that says, “I’ll help you whenever you ask, but that better be only when it’s an emergency.”

I remember as a young adult, there was a girl in our group who didn’t drive, and a few of us had said to her, “If you ever need a ride, just let us know. We’ll take you home.” That was an open invitation, and we all meant it.

One day, we finished some event, and she was just standing outside as people were leaving, and I asked her, “Do you need a ride home?” And she said, “Yes.” I don’t what she as waiting for, but she hadn’t asked anyone. And if I hadn’t asked her, we wouldn’t have known. Someone else would have had to come and pick her up.

My point is sharing your life with someone is more than an open invitation. You need to step in to their life. You need to invite them again and again. Saying to someone, “If you ever want to go to lunch, just let me know,” is different than asking them, “Would you like to go to lunch tomorrow?” In the second statement, you took the initiative. You planned it, and you asked a direct question. That’s a way of stepping into someone’s life. And, yes, it will cost you time and money.

At our last men’s breakfast, we talked about relationships within the church, and we recognized that that’s not an easy thing to develop. Generally, you younger people have an easier time connecting to one another outside of school and church. You’re interacting with others. You’re planning things together. That’s a strength of the younger generation. The weakness is that you don’t have your own homes, and you may not be spending your time and your words on the best things.

As we mature in our faith, we get more wisdom, but as we get married and our kids grow up or our grandkids, those extra connections can fade away. They’re not as easy as they were before. But we gotta work to maintain them.

Moms and dad, as a member of this church, it can’t just be about showing up on Sundays. And as a messenger of Jesus Christ in your workplace, it can’t just be about posting a verse now and then on social media. We want out lives to intertwine with others for the glory of God.

That what Jesus intended when He said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Kids, listen to me. God has called your family to serve Him by loving others. And sometimes, that means that your mom or your dad are going to have to leave the house to minister to someone else. They might take you with them; they might not. Or it could mean that you will have other people over your house more often. It might also mean that mom and dad will invest in loving others more than in buying you the newest toys out there. Just be ready for that.

Parents, we can’t use our kids and our own busy lives as an excuse not to share our lives with others. So, think about how to do that more with your brothers and your sisters in the faith, and with the people God would have you minister to.

A good ministry, a Christ-exalting ministry, is going to be sacrificial. You’re going to invest your life in other people. And as we sacrifice for others, I think that’s part of how God will build in us the affection that corresponds to it. When you make an investment in something or in someone, your heart goes in the same direction. Jesus said it like this: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

That’s the same idea behind Jesus’ words to the church of Ephesus. The church had lost its first love, so Jesus says, “Do the works you did at first.” He doesn’t say wait for the love to come back, and then you can do those loving things. It’s in the investment and the sacrifices and the devotion of ministry that love grows. Affection comes from investment.

Along those lines, let’s look at another word. This will be our final reminder and challenge today. We want our ministry to be gentle. We want it to be affectionate. We want it to be sacrificial. Lastly, we want it to be diligent. Diligent.

Look at verse 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.

Paul is pointing to the fact that he didn’t ask for a collection from the church. He didn’t want to be dependent on a new group of believers. He wanted to serve them and be an example to them of hard work.

Paul says something similar to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Four times he says, “I was not a burden to you.” He means he didn’t depend on the Corinthians. He doesn’t mean, however, that he wasn’t being helped by anyone else. He explains in 2 Corinthians that while serving in Corinth, he was receiving help from the church in Macedonia.

Paul explains in First Corinthians 9 that he had a right to earn a living from the church. In fact, that was the normal pattern of a New Testament church. He explains that to Timothy. But in the case or Corinth and in Thessalonica, Paul didn’t want to depend on the church for a few reasons.

First, as new churches, he did it to spare them the additional burden of providing for him. He wanted to present the gospel free of charge, so to speak.

Second, if they were false teachers trying to undermine Paul’s credibility, it kept them from being able to say that Paul was ministering to them simply for the money. It combatted any accusations of greed.

Lastly, it provided an example to the church, especially toward those who were tempted to be lazy. And it seems like in Thessalonica that was something Paul had to deal with.

In chapter 4 of this letter, Paul urges them to work with their hands, not to look down on physical labor. And he says it was something he taught them when he was among them.

In Second Thessalonians, we find out that there were people in the church being lazy. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:7—For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, [8] nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. [9] It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

Again, Paul had a right to collect from the churches, but he chose not to in this instance because it would be a better example to them of diligence.

Acts 18 tell us that Paul was a tentmaker. He likely worked in that trade to provide for himself. And that meant he worked night and day. He would work for the church, and then work for himself. He wanted to be more known for serving others than for being served by others.

Here's how Paul described his ministry in Acts 20:34—You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. [35] In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Again, the nursing mother is a good example of this principle. She serves. She works hard for her child. She gives her life for the child. She’s gentle. She’s affectionate. She’s sacrificial. And she’s diligent.

What a beautiful image, and what a needed reminder and challenge for us. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Think about your own life during the week. You leave church, and then what? What happens on Sunday afternoons, and then during the week? All of us have to work in some way. That’s God’s design for human life. We work at home and we work for the home. And if you’re too young, you’re learning the skills to be able to work later in life. But it’s all part of God’s design to work.

But in our work, we are also called to work for others. We should be diligent in ministering to others. So, when you’re not at church, and when you’re not working in the home or for the home, what dominates your schedule? What takes up the majority of your time?

Flipping through your phone? Watching movies? Watching TV? Watching videos? How might God use you to serve and minister to others? Think about that, and see how God works in you and through you.

Most of you know this, in the beginning God created this world. And on the sixth day, He said, “Let us make man in our image.” In other words, God made humanity in order to represent Him on the earth. And God created male and female.

God always refers to Himself in the masculine in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that only men represent God. Men and women are made in the image of God. And in His wonderful plan, God has given us a beautiful picture and an important reminder of what it means to reflect the heart of Jesus Christ.

We are working for Jesus. We are supposed to follow Jesus’ pattern. And to help us do that, we have been given the image of a nursing mother. This is a picture of Christ’s love and Christ’s ministry. The nursing mother is gentle. She is affectionate. She sacrifices for her child, and she is diligent. She works night and day.

Let’s showcase the same characteristics as we minister for the glory of Jesus the King.

More in First Thessalonians

August 27, 2023

God's Grace for Us

August 20, 2023

Perfectly Sanctified

August 13, 2023

An Empowered Church