1 Thessalonians 2 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Kenny Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

What was Apostle Paul’s view of himself? Apostle Paul’s view of himself was that of a parent to the Thessalonians. This passage oozes of his love for the church at Thessalonica, as parents would naturally and instinctively do for their own children. He risked so much, enduring suffering and insults, as he “dared to tell [them] His gospel in spite of strong opposition” (v.2). He says that he was “gentle” among them, “like a mother caring for her little children” (v.7). He “loved them so much” and he was just “delighted to shared with [them] not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (v.8). As much as there was that motherly tender care involved, there is also the fatherly discipline as he says that he “dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God” (v.11). When he was away from them, he experiences it as being “torn away” and an “intense longing” (v.17).  He is willing to undergo all of this because of the precious entrustment God has given to him to pass down the gospel, in the best and most authentic way he knows how, not just through the transmission of words but with his entire life.

In what way do I understand myself as a person “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”? It’s a privilege and a great responsibility to be called upon God to be entrusted with the gospel. Many times, I wonder if God knows what he’s doing, letting a bumbling sinner like me being entrusted with the gospel, like telling my daughter to take good care of a priceless Ming dynasty vase that she is receiving. I know what an honor it is to have been given the gospel, and its through the Apostle Paul-like spiritual parents that I’ve had over the years that I have come to see the labor and toil that is required in transmitting the gospel to a stubborn and proud sinner like me. Like the Thessalonians, I too have experienced their love for me, through both the motherly care and the fatherly discipline, as they suffered and anguished for me to present me the gospel in the best way they know how. Like a parent who wants to give their children the very best, I have come to see that this is how I want to live the rest of my days, as one who wants to pass down to the next generation what I myself have received so that hopefully one day, they would come to realize the preciousness of the gospel as well, and do likewise for the generation after them.

Korean War Service Medal

I’m reminded of a really close family friend, Jimmy, an elderly Caucasian man who fought in the Korean War and who frequented my parent’s restaurant, giving me all of his precious uniform war medals and badges once in a glass case. He had carefully preserved it for many decades, and as he was battling leukemia, he wanted to present it to me as a gift before he passes on. I remember feeling incredibly undeserved, as I did absolutely nothing to earn his hard-earned stripes, while he did the hard work of risking life and limb amidst the streaking bullets and fellow soldier friends that he lost along the way, for my benefit and for the benefit of an entire nation. It was an amazing entrustment and I knew that it came at a huge cost for him. For me, this has application as I serve in the InterHigh ministry, and am involved in helping out one of the small churches every Sunday this summer. Each week, a team of us goes squeezes into a tiny room of about 20 kids, in order to pass down the gospel to them, who otherwise do not get spiritually fed all that much, given the language barrier at that church. Because of this entrustment, I don’t want to dilute the gospel to them, either in our message or through our lives, by compromising what I’ve received. I consider it an immense privilege to be there, and over the course of the past six weeks, through the message time and our interaction with them over lunch and discussion, we’ve been experiencing that joy (and pressure) of passing down the gospel to them in the same manner that it was given to me, and that one day, it is my prayer that the preciousness of the gospel that they are receiving would be fully realized in each of them.

————————————————-

Submitted by Gary Chang, Gracepoint Hsinchu

1 Thessalonians 2:4 In defending his ministry to the Thessalonians, Paul here goes into length to tell the people that his ministry among them was not to please people or to curry their favors, but to please God, because he speaks as a man “approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel.”  Again and again throughout the Epistles, we see that behind his labors of love, prayers and burden for each of the churches that he writes to, sufferings that he undergoes, and false teachings and problems which threaten the spiritual well-being of the church body that he confronts – as a consistent driving force behind his activities was Paul’s view of himself as an emissary from God “entrusted” with the mission to preach the Gospel.  (E.g. “And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher…” 2 Timothy 1:11.)  I was reminded of last week’s Koinonia Bible Study as I noticed that Paul once again used the word “entrusted” to describe himself.  Whether it is before the Corinthians or the Thessalonians, Paul lives with a clear understanding of himself as someone who is given the responsibility and the charge from God to preach the Gospel to those who have not heard.

And this is the same identity that I need to always have about myself.  In the message, P. Ed mentions that it is the description of every believer that we have been “entrusted with the secret things of God” (1 Corin. 4:1), and the Gospel message that has been entrusted to us needs to be revealed and proclaimed by us.  Here in Taiwan, in the eyes of other people I may be a lot of identities: “oversea American,” “in-house American attorney,” etc.  But for me the fundamental identity that is more often at the forefront of my mind is that I am a missionary who is here to build up our Hsinchu church as an Acts 2 church and share the Gospel message with the students who do not know God.  For me this means that when I am hanging out with the students I am to be a good role model of what it means to be a Christ follower in my conduct and speech and value system.  When I choose to pray for them during my free time I am aware that I may be the only person in their lives who is praying to God for their salvation.  When I live and relate to the other Team members I am thinking about how my value system on money, possessions, privacy, time use and so on is building toward creating a spiritual community that resembles the early church in Acts 2.  When I am at work, I am to be a good employee of course, but again my priority is always the church needs.  And my identity is a minister of the Gospel first, so I am to seize opportunities to share the Gospel with my coworkers, such as reading and discussing “Mere Christianity” with my boss like I did before.  The identity of what it means to be one “approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel” implicates a lot more than just being bold to share my faith with people, it encompasses and colors how I am to live my life and interact with others in their entirety.

1 Thessalonians 2:5 Paul was able to be such an authentic person, fundamentally because he is not trying to please men but God.

Wearing Masks

When the focus is placed on trying to please men, inevitably subtle manipulations and mask-wearing enter into our interactions and relationships with others, because our primary interest is to present ourselves in such a way as to get the target audience be favorably disposed to us.  But when the focus is shifted to trying to please God, our agenda becomes to obey His teachings and to conduct ourselves in such a way as to honor Him and bring Him glory.  In a sense, we become not so interested in the human opinions of us, like Paul who said that he cares “very little if I am judged by you or any human court.” (1 Corin. 4:3)

In my life, I think over the years I have grown in relating to people with authenticity and honesty.  However, I have to admit that even now there is still in me the subtle temptation to be people conscious when I am interacting with spiritual leaders in my life.  There is within me still the ingrained inclination to try to be a people pleaser, and thereby to interact with lack of authenticity and mask-wearing.  This is something that I know is still within me, and my way of dealing with it has been to ignore such tendency, monitor my thoughts, and be conscientious about relating to each person before me, be that person a student, peer or leader, with the same level of honesty, sincerity and authenticity.  In addition, to combat this spirit I need to spend time in prayer and I need to engage in the confession of sins regularly.  Because one effective way of slaying the temptation to be a people pleaser is always to bring out the not-so-pleasing aspects about myself, so that I am reminded before God and people that who I am fundamentally is just a sinner and it is by God’s grace that I am here.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “1 Thessalonians 2 Devotion Sharing”

  1. Jane says:

    Thanks, Kenny, for sharing about the preciousness of the gospel and the importance of maintaining its purity through our message and life. I was really challenged to have greater reverence for this gift from God, and not to treat the gospel as some spiritual currency to gain greater status for myself in the church. Also, as I think about the small churches we go to and everyone else I have a relationship with, I realized I am all the more responsible for the purity and power of the gospel in my life – through my character, discipline, and zeal. I’m not “just living my life” but I’m treasuring and delivering God’s love to people.

Leave a Response