21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 29, 2017)
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 | New Living Translation (NLT)
2 You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. 3 So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.
4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.
7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.
Today we continue our look at 1 Thessalonians, one of two letters that we have that Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica. As I’ve written before, these were written as letters to churches – to be read aloud. It’s also important to remember (again) that these were letters. Paul did not outline them with chapter and verses, nor did he put the headers in there. All of that was added many centuries later. Sometimes the chapter and verses are rather random and yet they help us to find our place. It keeps us all on the same page, so to speak.
The reason I mention all this is that chapter 2 is really a continuation of Paul’s thoughts in chapter 1. As we pick up the text today, we learn that while the church at Thessalonica gave them a wonderful welcome and treated them well, apparently there was some difficulty. Paul speaks of the great opposition and declaring the Gospel boldly. Apparently when they came to Thessalonica, they had just come from Philippi where the Gospel also suffered opposition. This is where I see the continuity happening. In chapter 1:5 Paul writes, “…it was not only with words, but also with the power of the Holy Spirit, so you can have full assurance.”
The words that Paul, Silas, and Timothy spoke were words of boldness…words of power…words of the Holy Spirit…words of the Good News. This message was not deceitful…or from impure motives…or trickery. What a reminder for those of us who are preachers of the Gospel. So many times we try to be all slick – we like to get tricky with the words and their meanings. Paul reminds us as preachers of the good news that all of our preaching is in vain, unless the power of the Holy Spirit is working within us.
We are reminded of the great responsibility that we have as preachers of the Good News. One of the most difficult things to do is when God has a message that you think might not be well received. It seems like it is easy when that message is from our hearts, but when it is from God…that’s quite another. However as Paul reminds us, our purpose is to please God not people. That can be hard for us as humans. I know that I really don’t like upsetting people. And yet there are times as preachers of the Gospel that we get a message from God that we know needs to be preached. Again Paul tells us that we should never preach to win people with flattery. It’s often said, “Flattery will get you no where.” Paul and his friends weren’t pretending – they were authentic. I know that’s quite a buzzword of late, but I would much rather be real as I preach than trying to be a fake. I love what Paul writes here, “…we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money!” Ouch! Such a great reminder of preachers of the Gospel.
Paul mentions earlier that they spoke with boldness. I know that some would read that and think, “I have the right to say anything that God gives me – any what that I want to say it.” Look what Paul writes in verse 7, “As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you….” That is interesting. Paul writes that he prays to preach the gospel boldly. He says he has the right as an apostle of Christ to make demands and yet….he treats the church at Thessalonica as a mother would treat her children — feeding and caring for them. Yes, Paul shared the Good News, but he also shared his life with them. It seems some preachers want to preach, but they don’t want to invest in the lives of those they preach to. I know, it’s always a struggle – especially for those of us who are introverts. It takes all we can do to stand and proclaim God’s Word in the pulpit and then share our lives with our parishioners as well. Again, that is where the power of the Holy Spirit comes from.
As we think about being proclaimers of the Good News, I think these are some good things to remember.