June 30, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Like a Father Exhorting, Encouraging and Imploring Each Child Today

“just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,”

1 Thessalonians 2:11

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         Every child raised by a father can certainly tell a lot of stories about their fathers.  In Jewish households, God commanded fathers to teach their sons the commandments of God and talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7).  But, sadly, not all children knew their father, or had a father who obediently commanded his children and his household to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring blessings upon the family (Genesis 18:19).  For the fatherless, Paul acts as a spiritual father in Christ to each one of them.

       I meet grandparents all the time who are so happy that their adult children have moved out of the house.  Now they can enjoy their grandchildren at their leisure.  Yet, the spiritual bonds between Christians should eclipse the bonds of flesh and blood.  Remember that Jesus said: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).  Jesus emphasized there that we must follow Him and refuse to let anyone, even our families, lead us away from Himself.  In fact, Jesus taught that “whoever does the will of My Father who is heaven, he is My brother and and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49-50). 

     Therefore, when Paul calls himself a spiritual father, he certainly continues to employ the family members as examples.  Please recall that in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, he said the ministry team was as gentle as a nursing mother caring for her own children.  Now, in 1 Thessalonians 2:11, he likens the ministry team to a father caring for his own children.  Probably no one ever had a human parent as spiritually wonderful as the ministry team, except for the presence of God Himself in our lives.  At any rate, no matter how great your parents were to you, and how much you loved them, Paul still invokes the images of mother and father to describe how the ministry team acted in Thessalonica.  If you never knew your mother or father, then learn from Jesus in the Bible how to be the best parent possible, because He always sets the ultimate example.

       Paul describes the actions of the ministry team using three participles.  Again, you should care about participles because people will use them to describe your actions: “When you dropped into the wave, you were crouching down;”  “When you were walking home, I saw you;” “Wow, I heard you singing, and thought it was a dog in trouble.”  See those -ing words.  They are participles, that relate to the main action of the sentence.  Paul uses three participles to describe the fatherly actions of the ministry team. 

      First, Paul describes them as “exhorting.”  This word means to call along side, so that the two of you will be close together.  It can also mean that you exhort the other person, or encourage them.  Of course, in dealing with children, it can mean all of the above, at the same time.  My father loved me, and exhorted me to action.  He told me to do whatever I did with all my heart.  In this case, Paul emphasizes the ongoing process of exhortation.  He did it on a continuing basis.

       Second, Paul used the term “encouraging.”  In using this word, Paul means that as a father, he told each one of the Thessalonian believers to keep up the good work, to continue to use their spiritual gifts, to do some more good.  The word can also mean to comfort, and the idea here is that the father would promote desired activity in the child’s life.

       Third, Paul used the word “imploring.”  You implore someone when you urge them strongly.  For example, “Give me your hand, and I will pull you up to safety.”  Paul uses the term in matters of great importance.  In essence, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that, as a father, he was imploring them. 

      With all these words, Paul was focusing upon continuous action the ministry team took with the Thessalonians, with each one of them.  We must be careful to keep doing the fatherly things with each other, especially with young believers that really need a spiritual father looking after them, by exhorting, encouraging, and imploring them.  We show love for Jesus when we love our friends like the ministry team loved the Thessalonians.

      So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.

      ●   Strong bonds of friendship form when act like a spiritual father, caring for each one, exhorting, encouraging, and imploring them to follow Christ.

      ●  Strong bonds of friendship grow when we take time to act like a father with love, strength, and commitment to Christ in the way we treat younger believers as beloved children.

      ●  We harm our bonds of friendship when we no longer: (1) call other believers to stand beside us; or (2) encourage them by telling them something to promote further Godly behavior in them; or (3) implore them to act for Jesus.  Never give up on your spiritual friends, no matter what they do. 

Application for Today

        Today, I want to act like a loving father to my spiritual friends, exhorting them, encouraging them, and imploring them.  Ready to act like a father today?  Know anyone who needs you to act like a father today?


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