I Thess. 3:1-10
Let’s take a one-question pop quiz. What is the most important thing about a Christian?
A. He is active in one-on-one discipleship.
B. He participates in Bible study with other believers.
C. He serves in the community and tithes at church.
D. He attends a Bible-believing church.
E. He regularly shares the gospel with others.
F. All of the above.
G. None of the above.
The last option is the correct answer. The most important thing about a believer is their believing. Everything good and right flows from this spring.
This truth leaps from pages of I Thess 3:1-10 as Paul continues to pastor this flock through pen and parchment. Five times in these verses Paul refers to “your faith.” That brings me to my point: A pastor’s main concern for his flock should be their faith.
Proof #1 Paul did whatever it takes to bolster the faith of the flock (vv.1-3a).
Paul’s normal practice was to never travel alone. He did ministry as a team. He loved to train and equip future church leaders along the way. But in this situation, desperate times call for desperate measures. He decides to be left alone in Athens for an extended period because he could “endure it no longer.” He could no longer keep a lid on his anxiety over their spiritual well-being in midst of snarling wolves. He must do something!
So he sends Timothy to “strengthen and encourage you as to your faith …” Now Paul is alone and lonely in a thoroughly pagan, idolatrous, closed-to-the-gospel Athens but this is a sacrifice he was willing to make.
Personal comfort and even safety at times must be set aside for the greater good of bolstering faith of the flock. When our flesh wants attention and accolades, we must point people to Christ instead. He must sacrifice solitude or rest or recreation for the sake of others and their deeper trust in Jesus in the midst of being slammed by life’s problems.
Proof #2 He diligently warns the flock about enemies to their faith (vv. 3b-4).
“… For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this (afflictions). For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” Paul was a straight shooter. No bait and switch evangelism here. No word of faith theology telling people to expect health and prosperity if they follow Christ wholeheartedly. Rather, like a good nurse before a painful shot, Paul had forewarned them, “this is going to sting.” See also Phil. 1:29 and 2 Tim. 3:12 for such warnings of Christian suffering.
For new believers, suffering can be a huge temptation to abandon ship and go back to some easier life. Church history is actually littered with such sad stories of people who recant their faith in Christ to stay alive.
How much better to be warned by a coming storm than be blindsided and caught unawares. Become more aware in your own life of the subtle enemies and distractions to your faith. Ask your pastor for help if you can’t come up with anything specific.
Proof #3 He boldly asks about their faith (v.5).
Timothy, go to Thessalonica, move among the sheep like a shepherd and inquire as to the health of their faith. Don’t be shy. It’s your job.
A good shepherd must know how to boldly yet gently probe, discern and diagnose the spiritual health of the flock. A good pastor is a soul doctor and his questions are like an MRI of the soul. He knows the most important thing about every believer is not their job, health, kids or bank account – it is their faith in the midst of all these things. But how can he know? He must lovingly ask, observe and dialogue with the sheep over the things of God and the state of their soul. This is and will always be a pastor’s number one concern for his flock.
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Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight