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Evangelism and Discipleship are Mutual Companions!

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” (1 Thessalonians 3:4–5)

In our text today, we see Paul’s heart for those who accepted Christ but were left behind in Thessalonica. As you might recall, many received and believed the Gospel when Paul was in Thessalonica. Unfortunately, Paul did not have the opportunity to mentor them in their walk with the Lord. The unrest caused by those who opposed him resulted in him fleeing and moving on to the next city. Since that day, it would seem that Paul often thought about those believers. He was concerned about them “keeping the faith.” Now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul had the opportunity to write this excellent letter to them. As he does, the Holy Spirit gives us two essential things to consider concerning witnessing the Gospel.

Being Christ’s witness will often result in persecution.

Note how Paul related that persecution would come and, as he indicated, it did come. How did Paul know this? He knew from personal experience. If you go to the book of Acts and read the numerous stories about Paul’s journey, you will find that he faced much persecution. Paul himself testified to the Corinthian believers about the persecution he endured for Christ.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23–28)

It was no different in Thessalonica. The point is Paul knew firsthand how much persecution can result when you seek to give the Gospel. Yet, Paul knew this not from personal experience but from the words of Christ himself. Christ noted that if you followed Him as His faithful witness, you would suffer persecution for His name’s sake.

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the Gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13:9–13)

Persecution is inevitable for those who are faithful witnesses to the Gospel.

Paul’s concern was for those who believed. He was unable to disciple them in their faith. What had happened to them? Were they holding fast to their faith? Did the persecution overwhelm them? I am sure there were many questions in the back of Paul’s mind. His concern weighed heavily on his heart and mind. Note the language of 1 Thessalonians 3:5.

For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” (1 Thessalonians 3:5)

Paul notes that he “could no longer forebear.” He was anxious to know. It was eating him up. So, finally, the chance came for him to know. He was excited and apprehensive at the same time. From this passage, there is no doubt that the Thessalonican believers were dear to his heart.

Here is the second principle learned.

Being Christ’s witness results in close personal connections with those you lead to Christ.

Christ told Nicodemus that a person must be “born again” to see God’s kingdom. Spiritual birth is a beautiful miracle. Anytime you experience leading someone to Christ and witnessing their spiritual birth, it is a fantastic experience and feeling. It rates alongside seeing your very own child born physically. I can still recall the birth of our boys. Each experience was beautiful and overwhelming. The connection between a parent and their child at birth is indescribable. It is the same with leading another person to Christ. A bond is created between the person witnessing and those that receive the Gospel. From that moment on, you are personally connected to them. Thus, there should be a concern for their life of faith from that moment on.

Paul expressed two concerns.

He was concerned that Satan would lead them away from their faith in Christ.

One of the biggest problems for many newborn believers is the overwhelming volume of “Christian” faiths. Many are tempted to quit their journey before it even begins. Satan is a professional at misleading people. He has created a world in which so many false teachings abound. It is a world that can confuse a brand-new believer. Thus, it is crucial that whoever leads them to Christ also mentor them in their new faith. They also need to connect with a local church that teaches the principles of God’s Word. A new believer that has a sound support system is a believer who stands a better chance of remaining true to the faith. The chance of them being led away by the “tempter” greatly diminish. Thus, mentoring (discipleship) is equally important as leading them to Christ.

Paul’s second concern was simply this.

He was concerned that his labor was in vain.

You see, Paul suffered much at Thessalonica. Now, he was interested to know if it was for naught. The thought of Satan misleading them away from their faith in Christ was devastating in his mind. He desired to “know” their “faith” as assurance that his “labor” was not “in vain.” His concern wasn’t in the sense of being worthless. Paul knew that all our labor for the Lord is not in vain. In fact, the Holy Spirit used those very words in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

His greatest concern was their own spiritual well-being. God’s Word is clear that no one can lose their salvation. However, the truth is that many never truly grow in their faith. A leading factor for many who fail is not having someone to help them grow. Yes, they have the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. It is enough. Yet, God also gave us the local church, pastors, teachers, and fellow believers. In my experience, new believers grow better when connected with a good church. Many who seek to grow without the support of a local church grow slowly. Unfortunately, many do not grow at all.

Witnessing for Christ is each believer’s responsibility. It is a considerable responsibility filled with numerous duties. Not only are we to lead people to Christ, but we must also help them grow in their faith. Evangelism and discipleship are mutual companions. As a witness, you will find that a close personal relationship comes with winning others. Lead them to Christ, and then invest your time in them as you help them grow in their new faith.

Your Pastor is Your Fellow Laborer in the Gospel

“Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (1 Thessalonians 3:1–3)

As we move into 1 Thessalonians 3, the Holy Spirit gives us a snapshot of pastors and their responsibility to those who faithfully witness for Christ. Remember the context of the first two chapters. Paul longed to return to Thessalonica. He was carrying a heavy burden for the believers there, knowing their suffering and persecution. However, God had other plans for Paul. Thus, Paul willingly submitted to God. Yet, others could go. Young Timothy was such a one. He was a young pastor who, under Paul’s tutelage, was a great asset to all the churches. Thus, the Holy Spirit sends Timothy in place of Paul.

We find several essential qualities and responsibilities in our text related to pastors. Each is equally important as pastors support those who are determined to be faithful witnesses for Christ.

A Pastor’s Qualities

First, they are God’s ministers. In Greek, the word for ministers is “diakonos.” It is the same word from which we get “deacon.” It means “servant.” A servant, as we know, is someone who does servile work. Two Greek words are often translated as “servant” or “slave” in our English translation. One is the word used here. Another is the word “doulos.” The difference between the two is this. “Diakonos” sees the servant and the master relationship concerning the work that must be accomplished.

Conversely, “doulos” is focused on the servant’s connection to the master and his duty to obey the master. Thus, in our text, pastors are God’s ministers meaning they do God’s work. Specifically, as we will see, pastors are to encourage and support fellow believers in their efforts as witnesses. It is their work and their responsibility to do so. Timothy was sent by the Holy Spirit to minister to the believers of Thessalonica.

Second, they are fellow laborers in the gospel. You will note that exact phrase in verse 2.

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:” (1 Thessalonians 3:2)

A fellow laborer is just that. He is a person who participates in the same activity as others. Thus, each pastor encourages fellow believers to witness for Christ and engages himself personally as a witness. God requires pastors to witness just as He does all believers. In fact, if a pastor is worth his salt, he is a pastor because he already has faithfully served God as a witness. We will talk more about a pastor’s call in a moment. For now, it is essential to know that pastors must work together with others believers advancing God’s Kingdom. Any pastor not so engaged is not doing what God requires. Pastors should never have the attitude that says, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Instead, a pastor’s perspective and conduct should communicate, “Do as God says, and let’s do it together.”

A Pastor’s Responsibilities

These first two points indicate pastoral qualities. The following two focus on a pastor’s responsibilities. Look again at verse 2.

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:” (1 Thessalonians 3:2)

God sent Timothy to Thessalonica for two primary purposes.

The first was noted by the phrase “to establish you.” In other words, God sent Timothy there to strengthen the believers. He was to help them make fast their determination to be faithful gospel witnesses. Every pastor is responsible for confirming and strengthening each believer’s resolve to be a witness for Christ. Anything short of doing this fails to live up to God’s expectation for every pastor.

The second primary purpose is noted by the phrase “to comfort you concerning your faith.” The connotation of “comfort” is to come to another’s side or come to another’s aid. The two facets of comforting others are support and encouragement. Comforting others begins with noting their hurt and supporting them by being there, ready to spring into action for anything they need. At the same time, comforting others requires encouragement. It is a time to gently remind them of God’s promises. Even though the situation seems dire, we can always find comfort and solace in God’s Word.

In terms of a gospel witness, the Thessalonican believers were under great persecution. God sent Timothy to strengthen their faith and comfort them in the faith. In the same way, it is every pastor’s responsibility to be there for his flock. They were entrusted to him by God to lead, guide, encourage, and comfort. Thus, a good pastor ministers to God’s people. He will join them in their efforts to witness. As he does, he is to support and strengthen with the Word of God. And, in times of difficulty, he reminds them of the promises of God’s Word. It is his duty as God’s undershepherd.

Verse 3 provides the expected end result. When God’s man does what God expects, great things come as a result. Note the outcome.

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3)

The phrase “should be moved” is interesting. It means to cringe or cower in fear. Thus, fellow believers are encouraged when pastors do their responsibilities as they should. The afflictions and persecutions may come. However, when pastors stand alongside God’s people leading the way as witnesses, God’s people stand firm and do not cower when the world stands against them. They are not “moved” by their afflictions. In fact, pastors become a positive influence helping them to stand. Both pastors and believers must be faithful witnesses of Christ to all we meet. All of us must remember “that we are appointed.” In other words, God chose us, as believers, to be His voice to the world.

 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)