Discipling with a mother’s touch
1 Thessalonians 2:1-9
1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit;
4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. 5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness– 6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. 7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
One of the foundational objectives of all Christians is to make disciples. Jesus commanded that we all take on this responsibility, and so we must ask ourselves what we are doing to make disciples of all nations every day. But the Bible also gives us examples and instructions on how to disciple. Today we look at one of the passages where the apostle Paul describes his discipling ministry. In this passage, Paul told the Thessalonians that his missionary team discipled them with a mother’s touch. Let’s examine what he said more closely.
A mother boldly loves her children despite the pain and hardship her investment costs her (1-2).
- My mother often said, “When they are small, they step on your toes, when they grow bigger, they step on your heart.” She knew that raising kids is hard work, and it is often painful and costly.
- Paul reminded the Thessalonians that his team’s mission work in Thessalonica “was not in vain” — it was an investment of hard and costly work that paid off. We learn from 1 Thess. 1 that…
- They brought the gospel to Thessalonica with full conviction, and displayed God’s power among them.
- The Thessalonians learned the character of the mission team.
- The Thessalonians became imitators of Paul’s team, receiving the gospel with joy despite the suffering it caused them.
- The Thessalonians became an example of faith for other believers to follow in the regions of Macedonia and Achaia.
- The Thessalonians turned from idol worshippers to true servants of the living and true God, and put their hope in the resurrected and returning Christ.
- Paul reminded the Thessalonians that his team “had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi” – In Acts 16:9-40 we discover that …
- Paul was in Troas when he saw a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come over to Macedonia and help the people there.
- When they arrived in Philippi, they waited several days for an opportunity to preach the gospel.
- They finally found a group of women that had come together. They shared the word with those women, and one of them – Lydia – came to Christ, and led her household to Christ, and opened her home for the mission team to use as their base while in Philippi.
- They encountered a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit of divination. They cast the spirit out. The owners of the slave girl had Paul and Silas arrested, the crowds rioted and beat them, and then they were thrown in jail.
- Paul and Silas prayed and sang for joy while in jail. I think I know why they were joyful. I’ll tell you in a minute.
- At midnight, while Paul and Silas were singing, an earthquake shook the foundations of the jail house, and everyone’s chains were broken.
- When the guard of the jail woke, and saw what had happened, he was about to kill himself. But Paul stopped him, and led him to Christ instead. Now, it is just my opinion, but I think Paul knew that this man was going to became a Christian the moment he saw him. He had seen in the vision at Troas a vision of a man from Macedonia. I think he saw that man.
- After being released (and apologized to) the team left Philippi and headed to Thessalonica.
- Paul’s team “had the boldness … to tell the Thessalonians the gospel of God amid much opposition.”
- The Greek word for boldness here is παρρησιάζομαι to ‘speak without a sense of constraint’. The mission team challenged the people of Thessalonica to change their minds about Jesus.
- In Acts 17:1-10a, we discover that…
- They went to the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews from the scriptures.
- Some of the Jews were persuaded, and so were a great many devout Greeks.
- But the Jews who were not persuaded caused a riot, and had several of the believing Jews arrested. They were eventually fined and released, but they feared for the safety of the mission team, so sent them away by night to Berea.
A mother honestly loves her children without pretending to be someone she is not (3-6).
- We raised our children in an environment very different from our own, by Penny did quite well because she never tried to be another friend for our daughters. They didn’t need another friend. They needed a mother who cared enough about them to challenge them to live right.
- Paul said that his team’s exhortation did not come from error (3).
- The Greek word is πλάνη ‘a wandering/roaming from the standard route’. The team preached the truth about Jesus. They didn’t falter from that standard.
- Paul said that his team’s exhortation did not come from impurity (3).
- The Greek word is ἀκαθαρσία filth, dirt, impurity. The team preached from pure motives.
- Paul said that his team’s exhortation did not come from deceit (3).
- The Greek word is δόλος ‘cunning that relies on deception for effectiveness.’ The team did not have to trick anyone, because the truth was enough to change people’s minds.
- Paul said that his team’s exhortation did not come with flattering speech (5).
- The Greek word is κολακεία ‘flatter’. The team did not have to appeal to anyone’s ego. The only thing they needed to know about their audience was that it was composed of 100% sinners in need of Christ.
- Paul’s team’s exhortation did not come with a pretext for greed (5).
- The Greek word is πλεονεξία ‘motivating force for gaining something beyond an acceptable standard’, greed, avarice. The team had nothing to gain from their audience except building the kingdom of Christ.
- Paul’s team’s exhortation did not come with seeking glory from men (6).
- The Greek word is δόξα the primary idea is one of ‘appearance’, then of ‘opinion’ based on what seems good or impressive, with ‘esteem’ as product] glory, honor. The team’s investment of their time and effort was temporary. They were interested in changing people’s minds about Christ, not gaining glory for themselves.
A mother tenderly loves her children, knowing that they need a gentle touch (7).
- One of the connotations of the verb “to mother” is to overprotect. We expect our mothers to do everything they can to keep us safe. Richelle Goodrich describes mother with an acrostic:
- ““Mothers Offer Their Hearts as an Eternal Resting Spot”
―Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons: Quotes, Poetry, & a few Short Stories for Every Day of the Year”
- Paul said that his team “proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”
A mother sacrificially loves her children, pouring out her life so that they can have what they need (8-9).
- Mothers are among the hardest workers on the planet, yet ironically, they usually get no salary from the hardest work that they do.
- Paul said, “we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (8).
- He said, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (9).
- in hendiadys κόπος καὶ μόχθος trouble and toil = exhausting toil.
- What kind of troubles did Paul face? (2Co 11:23-28 NLT) I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have travelled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.
- Paul told the Corinthians, “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory” (2Co 4:15 NLT).
- But what if you face the ultimate trouble? What if you die on your mission? (2Co 4:14) “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.”
The New Testament mentions a few mothers who were also exceptional disciplers:
- John Mark’s mother (Acts 12).
- Rufus’ mother (Romans 16).
- Timothy’s mother (Eunice) (2 Timothy 1).
These ladies had what it takes to influence their children to commit their lives to Christ. We need disciplers like that.
We, the church of Jesus Christ, are called to make disciples, wherever we go, whatever we do. We can learn much about discipling by looking at a mother’s love, and caring for others with a mother’s touch.