Bible Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Have you ever had something good done for you but because it was done with the wrong reasons it ruined it? Motives matter, don’t they?
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- Discussion Guide for This Message: Right Motives in Ministry
God’s Plan for You to Change Lives
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Have you ever had somebody do something for you that was truly awesome? I mean you were blown away, just absolutely blown away. Only to find out it had nothing to do with you at all! That’s when you find out how much motives matter. Even the right things done for wrong reasons end up a mess.
When it comes to God’s plan for you to change lives, your motives are a part of that plan. Because your motives have a huge impact on the people you are trying to influence. Whether that’s your spouse, your children, a friend you grew up with, or somebody at work, Your motives can make or break your ability to truly change lives.
As Paul reflected on the ministry that he had with the church in Thessalonica he reminded them of his team’s motives in ministering to them. It was likely to give them wisdom on who they allowed to influence them in the future, but it also clearly serves as a testimony to them on how they should be ministering to others. Listen to what Paul writes,
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. 8So, 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. (2:1-8)
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 gives us 3 truths about Godly motivated ministry.
The 1st truth about Godly motivated ministry is that,
Godly motivated ministry is worth doing. (2:1)
1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.
Paul says our ministry to you was not in vain. The word vain literally means to be hollow, worthless and in the end a failure! So they know what Paul and his team did with them mattered. In fact that it truly mattered points to the motives that Paul and his team had in ministering to them.
When it comes to how we minister to others, if what we are doing is an attempt to get them to be about us then the effect on them is in vain, it fails!
Think about it this way. The earth orbits the Sun because the earth is in the Sun’s orbit. That is, the gravity of the sun is what causes the earth to sling around the sun in the same path over and over again. The path that if it wasn’t sustained would destroy the ability of life to exists on this planet! And in so doing the sun provides life to the earth. Without the Sun there is no life on this planet!
With that in mind, if our ministry to others is an effort to bring them into our orbit, that is that their life will orbit around ours as the earth orbits around the sun. If that is our motive, then the effect of our ministry to others is that we will bring people to orbit around ourselves and what they get from orbiting around us. This is nothing worth getting! We rob life from them rather than give it!
If your effort to impact your children or spouse or the people you work with is ultimately about you, then when they finally commit to you then you will receive benefit from them. From their perspective it will end up being vain because you cannot change and transform their life with actual life, only Christ can!
However, if your motive is to lead people to orbit around Christ, then they enter into an orbit that is life-giving, that is eternal life-giving, that is eternal transformation! You have changed their life in a way that matters forever and it is not in vain at all!
Support says to them you know we came for you to orbit Christ and as a result, you are experiencing eternal life. Therefore because we had the right motive you know our ministry to you was not in vain, in fact, it’s the opposite of vain!
The 2nd truth about Godly motivated ministry is that,
Godly motivated ministry is done for God’s glory! (2:2-6)
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.
If you read Acts 16 you find out the place they ministered to immediately before coming to Thessalonica was Philippi. It was there that the magistrates had them publicly stripped of their cloths, beat with rods and then thrown in jail. This was a massively humiliating ordeal that God ironically arranged things for Paul to get the last laugh. Read Acts 16. But the point here is that the church in Thessalonica knew what they had been through and how utterly humiliating it was. So for Paul and his team to be willing to potentially go through the same ordeal again in Thessalonica demonstrated real clear that they were not in this for their own glory! Clearly they were not getting any glory out of it but, in fact, quite the opposite!
So, what would lead somebody to endure that kind of persecution to share the Gospel with others? Paul starts by clarifying this,
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,
“Approved by God” means that they have been tested by God. God examined them and decided they passed the test! But to do what?
“To be entrusted with the gospel” – the word is sourced from the same word that in the Bible that tells us to trust and believe in God, to have faith in God. To trust Him to be and do, who and what He says He is and will do! However, in this case its usage is flipped to God believing in and trusting Paul and his team with His Gospel!
So they understood the weight that God has not just saved them. He had given them a supernatural depth in their knowledge of the Gospel and the commission to authoritatively and correctly give it to the world.
That is, they understood that the message that took Christ dying on the cross. That took the Father sending His son to suffer His wrath for us. The message of what that was all about. God had entrusted Paul and his guys to share that message with the world! They understood God had entrusted them to make sure the world got the right story. That led Paul and his to team to this,
so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
So they understood the weight of what it was they were carrying. Of what they had been entrusted by God to deliver. They understood the weight of their mission to deliver the correct information about Christ and what He had done to rescue man from the eternal damnation of God. They so completely understood the hugeness of everything about what they had been entrusted with and more importantly who it is that entrusted them with that, that they knew they were going to have to give an account. Not just on their performance but, because it’s God, of their motives!
They therefore couldn’t imagine their ministry being about pleasing men. They couldn’t imagine it being about their glory. They couldn’t imagine it being about anything other than the God who died to give it to them! Paul then builds on this in verse 5,
5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness.
Ancient Greek philosophers weighed in on this heavily with one named Plutarch actually writing a treatise on how to tell the difference between a true friend that builds you up and also confronts things in your life, and a flatterer that only says things to build your loyalty and love for them.
Flattery was a specific tactic used by leaders and orators to win the financial support of people. It was a disingenuous way to make people feel inflated by you and thus willing to return the favor by inflating your wealth!
In today’s world, just as in the ancient world, we have people who lead churches by flattery. Their motive is not to the Glory of God and their message is not the Gospel, but rather a man centered false gospel that encourages people that God is all about their desires and exists to make sure those desires are met! These men and woman flatter people with all kinds of false teaching and then build mansions, purchase yachts and fly around on private jets from all the wealth they acquire (GREED!)
Paul said real clearly that you know that won’t be us and so does God. We came for His glory and thus your salvation, not our glory!
Paul then adds one more statement to demonstrate their motives were for God’s glory. He flat out says,
6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.
Culturally speaking they had the right to be treated as more important than everybody else!
“The title “apostle” refers to one who is sent in the authority of another. Behind NT apostleship is the Jewish institution of the shaliach, an authoritative messenger who spoke and acted in the authority of another. Mishnah Berakhot illustrates the point, saying, “the one sent by a man is as the man himself” (5:5). The apostles were more than simply messengers or missionaries but people who carried out a mission in the authority of another and under that authority. In this case, the “other” was none other than Christ himself. For this reason they could have made the weight of their authority felt.”
Again, sadly, too many pastors fall into this trap of believing the responsibility they have to shepherd Christ’s flock has somehow made them something other than a sheep and as such should be honored as the one they represent. Not respect their role within the church, but rather honor them as a person!
So let’s put that all together. The kind of ministry that truly transforms lives is done not for our glory, or profit, or sense of value; but out of a passion and love and desire for Christ to be glorified. For the world to see just how amazing He is. Just how awesome He is, not us!
The 3rd truth about Godly motivated ministry is that,
Godly motivated ministry is done with sacrificial love. (2:7-8)
7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
Paul often references his ministry to others as a Father to a child (as you will see next week). But, here he speaks of their ministry to them as a mother. Specifically a mother who is nursing her child!
People of wealth would pay women to nurse and care for their children for them (remember Pharaoh’s daughter ended up hiring Moses’ mother to nurse and care for him!).
But here Paul says we were not like a hired nurse (as good a job as they may have done) but as a mother nursing her own child. There is no parental act I’ve ever seen that is more tender, that is more focused or sincerely intimate than a mother nursing her baby. Everything the mother is doing stops so that she can literally give life to her baby!
Paul adds to this and says,
8 So, being affectionately desirous of you (The meaning of this rare word is not wholly clear, but it obviously expresses intensity of feeling. Paul uses it to show that he does not serve the church merely in obedience to his commission but out of heartfelt love for it.), 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.
“The greatest gift from a Christian point of view is the gospel of God, but from a human point of view it is to share one’s inmost being with somebody, as two lovers might wish to do.”
“The lives they gave them are “their own souls,” the “soul” signifying not simply their inner life but rather the whole of their person. Paul and his coworkers had decided to give to the Thessalonians everything they were (cf. 2 Cor. 12:15; Phil. 2:17), and the Thessalonians responded to them in the same way (1 Thess. 3:6; 2 Cor. 8:1, 5).”
“The verse ends as it began with a declaration of the reason why they were willing to commit all to the Thessalonians: because you had become so dear to us. The Thessalonians are “beloved” (agapētoi) by these ministers, a term that speaks of a close and intimate relationship like that between members of a family.”
Challenge: What is your motive for sharing the Gospel and serving others? Does it come from a deep love for God or to receive affirmation from or influence over others?
Far too many serve others for affirmation. it’s why they get upset if their name was not included in who did what. Or they tend to be offended frequently for not being thanked enough or thanked with enough sincerity. The affirmation of God saying well done thou good and faithful servant is not enough for them because they aren’t doing it for Him. Their faith is not in Christ. It’s in being loved and appreciated by others.
Others do it for influence. They are satisfied not by how others value them, since affirmation doesn’t really mean much to them unless it increases their influence over others. That is, that it causes people to serve them. Whether it be with their money or their time, what they labor and work hard for is power! They thrive over others being there to serve them. It’s not about seeing others know Christ. It’s not about them standing before the Lord one day being rewarded by Him. It’s about being rewarded by others who are there to serve them!
God can still use people with the motives above! But, what we see as a norm is that those who labor to share the Gospel with others, those who are truly laboring to serve others in a Gospel context, in a church context, that do it for God’s glory are doing it out of a deep gratitude of Christ saving them and a deep love for others that sincerely wants them to know Christ. Those who are driven with that motive have a lot higher chance of seeing lives truly changed by the Gospel!