Text: 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8
Main Point: Motherhood is good ministry and good for ministry
Sometimes we learn great things from unlikely sources. I was surprised to learn that football greats like Lynn Swann, Herschel Walker, and Barry Sanders took ballet in order to become better NFL running backs. We can learn from unlikely sources. Jesus tells us that we can learn to trust God by studying a flower or watching a bird gather food (Matthew 6:25-34). So, it may surprise you that you can learn how to be more faithful in your work by studying motherhood. If you’re one of those guys who thinks children are women’s work and mothering is equal to weakness, then you need to repent; there is much to learn from the glory of motherhood.
In Isaiah 66:13, when God describes the way he will treat us, he uses the picture of a mother, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Our Father is compassionate like a mother. When Jesus was heading into Jerusalem he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 22:37). Jesus longs to gather his people like a hen gathers her chicks. When the apostle Paul was shocked to hear of the Galatian church abandoning the gospel he wrote, “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19). Salvation, the new birth, is like physical birth. There is a glory and strength in womanhood that is worthy of imitation by all.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul describes the ministry of the apostles using the example of a mother. So, we’re going to follow his lead and learn about ministry by studying motherhood. Lord willing, we will pick up 1 Thessalonians 9:9-12 on Father’s Day. Today, let’s learn from mothers. Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8.
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. 8 So, 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.
Let’s start with the big picture of ministry in verses 5-6. These verses call us to be faithful in the work God gives. You must
I. Be faithful in your ministry (5-6)
How do we do that? Where does faithfulness come from? Faithfulness and fruitfulness come from God. God gives us the ability to do the work.
- Work hard because of grace (1 Cor 15:10)
1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is another one of those apostle-sections of the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
The apostle Paul did a great work because God gave him great grace. The strength to work, and ultimately the results of the work, were all the product of God’s power working through the apostle Paul. Paul depended on God for the ability to do the work.
Here comes a simple and profound call to prayer. James 4:2 tells us we do not have because we do not ask. Paul was constantly asking the church to pray for him so he could accomplish the work (Rom 15:30; 2 Cor 1:11; Phi 1:19). When is the last time you asked someone to pray for you? You’re bringing up a child. Who is praying for you? You’re trying to win your neighbor. Who is praying for you? You’re trying to evangelize your Sunday school class. Who is praying for you? You’re discipling a new believer. Who is praying for you? If we are proud and self-sufficient then we won’t ask for prayer and we will accomplish little. If we are humble and God-dependent then we will ask for help accomplishing God’s will. In ministry, we pray and we get to work. Also be sure to
- Preach don’t flatter
Looking into 1 Thessalonians 2, we see that Paul took a beating in Philippi and when he made it to Thessalonica, he had a rough go. By God’s grace he preached the gospel. Let’s note how he did that ministry, verse 5, “For we never came with words of flattery.”
There is a big difference between saying something to build a person up and saying something to get a person to like you. Flattery is not necessarily lying. Flattery can use lies, but flattery can also be telling someone true things to get them to like you or give you something.
You can win people to yourself with flattery, but you can’t win people to Jesus with flattery. The only way to win people to Jesus is to preach the gospel; tell people the truth about their sin and God’s love. In your ministry, in your work, are you preaching the gospel or are you manipulating people? Preach the gospel and
- Be on guard against greed
Let’s finish 1 Thessalonians 2:5, “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.”
Listen, if we say nice things and do nice things there is a good chance people will give us nice things. If we don’t watch our hearts, we will end up working simply to get stuff from people. Regularly ask, “Why do I do what I do? Do I work because God gives grace or because people give stuff? Do I work because I love people or because I love money?”
Falling into greed is as easy as falling off a log. Watch yourself and your ministry. Invite brothers and sisters around you to watch your ministry. Instead of seeking money
- Seek the glory that comes from God
Put your good eye on 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Paul says, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.” Seeking praise and affirmation from people is often the unconscious motivation of ministry. It is easy to do ministry in order to be seen and celebrated by people. But seeking glory from God and not from people is essential to Christianity. Jesus told a crowd he knew they didn’t love God or love what God loves because they seek glory from one another and don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God (John 5:41). A person can’t be a Christian if he’s so worried about what people think about him that there is no room to hear what God says about him.
So again, faithful ministry is not spent trying to win people to ourselves. We’re not looking for likes; God already loves us perfectly and powerfully. Faithful ministry is loving people and preaching the gospel so that God is seen as glorious. Jesus gives life; we cannot. We must decrease, but Jesus must increase. Seek the glory that comes from God. Though no person may say it of us, may we hear Jesus say, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Here is one way to do faithful ministry
- Use your authority carefully
Some people view all authority or power as evil. But this cannot be true because Jesus has all authority and power and he is not evil. Other people view authority or power as their excuse to take from others or to abuse others. This also is wrong because Jesus has all authority and power and he came to serve others. The all-powerful Jesus is a giver, not a taker.
Look again at 1 Thessalonians 2:6, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
Jesus could have played the God-card. Paul could have played the apostle-card. If you have authority you could use that power take from people what you think you deserve. But this is worldliness and faithlessness. If God has granted you some measure of strength, influence, or authority please recognize that you have that gift in order to do good to others. Don’t reject strength, influence, or authority as evil. Don’t use strength, influence, or authority to get money or glory for yourself. Use the strength, influence, or authority you have to do good; protect others, serve others, and lead others to life with Christ. Let me put it this way
II. Be like a faithful mother in your ministry (7-8)
Look at verse 7, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”
- Take care of others with gentleness
What does a faithful mother do? She takes care of her children with gentleness. What is faithful ministry? Taking care of your spiritual children with gentleness. It can be tempting to use power and authority to beat people up. Resist the urge! Gentleness is the virtue of being tender and considerate, concerned for the wellbeing of the other, instead of being severe, gruff, or hard (Green, PNTC, 127).
We become rightfully angry when a mom shakes or slaps a baby because we understand a faithful mother takes care of her child with gentleness. A faithful mother teaches, corrects, and disciplines with gentleness. We all have a choice when it comes to speaking the truth. We can speak the truth with love, or we can speak the truth with a flamethrower. Love is the better way!
It is true, ministry, evangelism, and discipleship will require us to do and say hard things as we correct error and teach obedience. We must care for our disciples the way a mother cares for her children.
We provide and protect. We teach and correct, and we do all of it putting their needs in front of our own. What they need is the gospel. What they need is the life of God through faith in Jesus Christ. In verse 8 we see the apostle Paul sharing the gospel and sharing his self. So next,
- Share the gospel
Paul shared the gospel with them because Paul loved those people the way a mother loves her child. A mother who says she loves her child but does not care for her child is a mother living a lie. A ministry that claims to be Christian but does not consistently celebrate the gospel is not a Christian ministry. The gospel is the good news that we are reconciled to God and live life with God because of the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gift of the Spirit is for all who will believe!
We give good to those we love. The best and greatest that we can give is reconciliation with God. The best we can give is right now life with God. The best we can give is access to abundant grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The best we can give is teaching others to be led by the Spirit. Like a faithful mother who gives her good things to her children, so we must faithfully give the gospel to one another.
But like Paul, we’re not about cold content. We must
- Love and enjoy people
Look at these phrases in verse 8, “being affectionately desirous of you, we shared ourselves with you, because you had become dear to us.”
Is this how you view the church? Is this how I view the church? Is the church simply a place for you to hear preaching? Or, is the church a people that you love and want to be with? God is loving and self-giving. A growing Christian is loving and self-giving because he knows God.
Let us ask God for more grace so we can get to know one another. Let us ask God for more grace so we can love one another. Let us ask God for more grace so we can enjoy one another. To love and enjoy people we need quality time and we need quantity time. Come early, stay late, get together, and talk to others in such a way that you build them up. Move beyond the shallow stuff to talking about God’s stuff. The way the people of God enjoy one another is by enjoying God together. You have to be here, and you have to be Godward.
Alright, we have seen that motherhood is good for ministry. Let’s look now at how motherhood is good ministry.
III. Be a faithful mother
I’m talking to moms who have physical children and I’m talking to moms who have spiritual children. How are you ladies going to raise children and make disciples? Start here
- Abide in Christ
Apart from Jesus and his grace you can’t be a faithful mom. Apart from Jesus and his grace you can’t make disciples. I have seen the agony of labor. I have seen the sleep deprived mother. I have seen the wear and tear of constant teaching and correction. It blows my mind that women generally live longer than men. Being a woman looks like terribly difficult work. I think if the male body had to do the female thing it would shorten our life spans by 10 years. So yes, take a nap if you can, and cry out for constant help because you must. When you are walking down the hall for the fifteenth time, ask Jesus for grace. When you get the text message you dread, ask Jesus for grace. Jesus has promised to give you what you need. Trust him.
Spend time in the word and prayer every morning not because it’s the right thing to do but because you need to plug into the source of grace for the day. A faithful minister asks for help and a faithful mother asks for help because the job is too much for us! Moms, this you must do
- Speak the truth in love
The easiest thing for me to do is to be harsh with my children. Using kind words to correct over and over, again and again, is like pulling a volkswagon beetle around the house; it’s hard work! Thankfully my family has pretty much grown out of the spanking phase, but I remember how being gentle and tender when spanking was so incredibly difficult. Mom listen, your child needs you to stop being a jerk. Mom, your child needs you to stop being a wimp. Speak the truth in love. Let’s combine B&D. Letter D is “Be mom with gentleness.”
Raising children means you will have to do and say hard things. Stop seeking glory from your children. You are going to ruin yourself and your child because you and your child make terrible gods. Because of God’s grace, be mom. Give yourself away. Do hard things over and over. Say hard things over and over. Do all of it with strength, love, and gentleness. This means we must
- Seek God not money
Moms, what do you want to give your child? Jesus said it is tragic for a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul. It is equally tragic for a mom to give her child the whole world and then he lose his soul.
Think about it moms, what do you worry about? Money is necessary, I get that, we have to buy food. But, what do you worry about? Do you worry because there is no money in the bank or do you worry because there is no Jesus in your child? What do you work hard to give your children? Do you work hard to give them the stuff they want, or do you work hard to give them the Jesus that will satisfy their souls? Mothers, I plead with you,
- Share the gospel
The gospel is the good news that sinners can be reconciled to God through the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the good news that sinners can enjoy the fullness of life with God through the work of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, the content of the gospel must be there. And moms, with the content of the gospel, share your joy in Christ with your children. Show them why you love and trust Jesus by bringing them into your prayers and your singing and your ministry. Tell them why you pray and why you sing and why you give. Share the gospel with your children and share your joy in Christ with your children.
Like Paul with the Thessalonians, I want you to
- Love and enjoy your children
I just encouraged you to share your joy in Jesus with your children, when is the last time you shared in your child’s joy? When is the last time you enjoyed something with your son? When is the last time you enjoyed something with your daughter? Yes, that easy to please little cuddle puppy of a child has grown up into a teenager, but she still enjoys things. He still enjoys things. You love him. You love her. Maybe it’s time for Barry Sanders to learn ballet.
It’s time to get back into the game of parenting. Ask for grace and strength because you need it and Christ gives it. Share your joy in Jesus with your child. Teach and correct with gentleness. Love and enjoy your child. Motherhood is a great model for ministry. Motherhood is a great good. May we as a church strengthen and honor godly women who are making disciples and raising children. Let’s pray for and give thanks for moms.