Pastor John and his wife, Becky

pursue and invest in the spiritual development of other believers

Pursue and Invest in the Spiritual Development of Other Believers – Part 1

pursue and invest in the spiritual development of other believers

For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:9–11)

In today’s text, the Holy Spirit challenges us to pursue and invest in the spiritual development of other believers. The more I study God’s Word, the more I find it repeating the following principle. We are to love the Lord first. Then, as we learn to love Him, we can learn to love others. We find this principle in Matthew 22.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40)

As believers, our love must be directed toward God first. I term this as having a vertical relationship with Him. Then, after we establish a love for God, our love is directed to others. For me, that is a horizontal relationship with those around us. As you read and study God’s Word, you will find this repeatedly given in examples and in principle.

Paul’s Example

A prime example is our text for this week. We have discussed Paul’s relationship with the believers in Thessalonica. Sticking with the principle of loving God and loving others, why was Paul in Thessalonica to begin with? Obviously, it was due to this relationship with God. God led him there to preach and teach the gospel. We know about Paul’s encounter with God on the road to Damascus and how it completely changed his life. In this letter, we see Paul’s love for those believers. However, this jumped out at me as I read our text today. Paul’s desire for all believers, including those at Thessalonica, was that their faith in God would grow. Note verse 10 again.

Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:10)

In Greek, “might perfect” means equipping or preparing something. To what end was Paul concerned they were not prepared? The answer was their faith. Faith in whom? He was concerned about their faith in God.

I can see the concerns that Paul might have entertained. Perhaps, he was constantly thinking about how much they were growing their faith. Without any doubt, Paul was concerned about the effect tribulation and persecution might have on their faith. He was so bothered by it that he lost sleep over it. Note that he was praying for them “day and night.” As he prayed, he yearned to see them face to face. Planted within was an overwhelming desire to see them so that he might be assured they were growing in their faith.

One of the most significant issues among believers is the lack of concern for others and their spiritual development. It seems that too many believers are too focused on themselves and not investing in others. I admit that, at times, I find myself guilty of the same. We get so caught up in daily seeking to meet our needs and desires that we even forget to pray for others. Perhaps, at the root of this problem, is a deeper issue. Earlier I noted long before Paul had a relationship with the Thessalonicans, he had a relationship with God. Is it possible that our lack of concern for other believers and their daily walk with God is because we lack our own walk with Him?

Going back to Paul’s concern, here is further thought. Paul was not referring to saving faith. Saving faith is that faith by which we believe all that Christ did for us. My point is this. Salvation is totally by God’s grace. Christ himself lived a sinless life becoming the perfect substitute for us and our penalty of sin. It is why His death, burial, and resurrection are the foundation of the gospel. He did it all. Salvation is freely provided because of His unmerited favor to all men. All that is required is simple faith. We must believe.

Our Challenge

In our text, the Holy Spirit speaks through Paul about our daily walk of faith. In other words, now that you are a believer, are you living by believing the principles and promises of God’s Word each day? Each day comes with its challenges. Christ promised that following Him would not be easy. And, as we know, He often chided the disciples for having little faith. Yet, despite the many challenges, we can grow daily in our faith. In the book of James, we read the following.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2–4)

Here we see that growing in our walk with the Lord is possible. Yes, there are going to be many challenges. However, we must see those challenges as opportunities for spiritual growth. Each challenge helps us grow in our faith or, as we might say, our relationship with God. Each temptation, trial, or test allows us to develop a little more if we handle them in God’s way. Then, little by little, we are equipped to take on more.

At the top of Paul’s concern for the Thessalonicans was their spiritual growth in their relationship with God. A fear that should be the same for us. We must work at growing closer to the Lord each ourselves. And at the same time, we must unceasingly pray and seek to help other believers grow. With that in mind, what are you doing to grow personally? Are you spending time daily with the Lord and His Word? If not, I suggest you plan that time and work at it. Then, as you grow, look around you and see other believers who need to grow spiritually. Invest your time in them. Pray for them showing them how much you are concerned.

We are encouraged and energized by those led to Christ.

Encouraged and Energized by Those Led to Christ!

We are encouraged and energized by those led to Christ.

But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 3:6–8)

Ministry to the Lord is always engaging. There is never a lack of excitement when serving the Lord. One of the remarkable things about ministry is the many people you meet. Many of the people that you serve alongside become dear friends. In fact, we are often reminded in the New Testament that we are more than just dear friends. We are family. Thus, there are many joys and benefits to serving the Lord. One of those benefits is the deep relationships formed with other fellow believers. We are encouraged and energized by those led to Christ.

This week’s text recounts a relationship between Paul and the believers of Thessalonica. Yes, there were many battles, trials, and tribulations for Paul and the believers in Thessalonian. We know that Paul was forced to flee the city due to great persecution. Since that time, he has been concerned for those who did believe. With Timothy’s report, he was relieved knowing they were standing firm in their faith. It encouraged him greatly, knowing their faithfulness to God.

The Report

It is always refreshing to hear reports from those you have ministered to. Timothy’s report brought back the following great news. First, they continued to have great faith and love for the Lord. This news stands out the most. There is no greater joy than to hear that those you have led to the Lord continue to abound in their faith and love for Him. Second, just as he often thought of them, they, too, thought much about him. I would imagine that those thoughts came with prayers. As a result, Paul remembered and prayed for them. By the same token, they remembered and prayed for Paul. It is good to lift each other up to the Lord in prayer. Third, the Thessalonican believers desired to see Paul just as much as he wished to see them. Each longed to be in the other’s presence to rejoice, praising God for His faithfulness.

The Result

What was the result of this excellent report by Timothy? Note the Holy Spirit says he was “comforted.” Paul was encouraged. Obviously, Paul knew the scope of persecution these believers were facing. Such knowledge naturally led to his concern for their spiritual well-being. Now, as he heard Timothy’s report, he was greatly encouraged. God was with them. They were growing. Yes, the affliction and distress were real. They endured much. Yet, the trying of their faith fertilized their spiritual growth. It strengthened their faith in the Lord. They were living testimonies of James 1:3-4.

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:3–4)

There was an additional by-product of their testimony. Note verse 8 of our text.

For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 3:8)

Paul was invigorated by their report. It provided new energy. He was now ready to “stand fast in the Lord.”

As I stated at the beginning, one of the great benefits of ministry is the positive reports of growth by those you have ministered to. It is good to hear how God is using them. There is no doubt that each of us is a simple instrument of God. Yet, as human instruments, we also become personally involved in the lives of others. Seeing a soul come to know Christ and receive eternal life is a beautiful experience. It encourages and energizes us to hear the testimonies of their faithfulness. Aftwards, we can invest ourselves in their lives, helping them grow spiritually. Then, if they remain faithful, as did the Thessalonian believers, we rejoice when they persevere and become valuable instruments for Him. Our investment is His investment. Our reward is His reward. He takes pleasure in those who faithfully serve Him. We, too, take pleasure in seeing others in whom we invested our time serve Him as well.

Let me challenge you to seek out those who led you to Christ and those who disciple you. Take the time to tell them about your faith in the Lord. Let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them. If you will, you provide them with the encouragement they need. It will also energize them to go forward for the Lord. They will be reminded of this great principle found in 1 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)

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)

Satan’s Opposition to the Gospel is Real!

Last week, in our continued study of 1 Thessalonians, we learned how much the world opposes witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ. In this week’s verses, Satan’s opposition comes to the front.

But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:17–18)

The Holy Spirit reveals Paul’s continued desire to return to Thessalonica. Even though things ended badly, Paul still longed to return. You will note that he “endeavored the more abundantly” to see them with “great desire.” Yes, he was not there with them physically, but his heart remained with them. The word “endeavor” connotates having a keen interest, an intense desire, or an impatient expectancy. In other words, the thought of returning to Thessalonica consumed Paul. There was unfinished business there. Thus, he did everything he could to return to them and finish what he had started.

O that believers have the same overwhelming interest in the souls of others. Too many times in our witness, we encounter opposition. Facing opposition is a given when it comes to witnessing. As we do, we become discouraged to the point of quitting or giving up. We do this, especially with those people closest to us and love the most. We share the gospel with them. They raise their objections loudly, and we immediately abandon hope. Instead, we must develop the same intensity that Paul exhibited. Christ himself said men would hate us even as they hated Him. However, we must not quit. Instead, we must understand that God can do all things and, with His love in our hearts, determine to return to the unlovable by sharing the gospel’s good news.

Scripture teaches us that believers face three enemies during their journey on earth. One of those is our own flesh and its desires.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:16–17)

A second is this world and its belief system, which seeks to ignore God.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15–16)

There is a third enemy. This enemy is Satan.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9)

In this week’s text, the Holy Spirit speaks about Satan’s opposition to Christ and the gospel. Even though Paul had an overwhelming desire to return to Thessalonica, Satan hindered him. Satan stood in the way, preventing Paul from fulfilling his passion. Note that Paul tried “once and again.” In other words, it was Paul’s intent to go back to Thessalonica on multiple occasions. Yet, it was Satan who hindered him. The term “hinder” simply means preventing an endeavor’s progress or acocmplishment.

Satan is God’s adversary. He is not God’s equal. Yes, he is powerful, but his power is only a tiny fraction of God’s. It is a fact that Satan is limited by God’s authority even now. The book of Job is a testament that Satan cannot do more than God ordains. Despite all this, Satan’s objective is to oppose God at every turn. As believers who desire to see God’s kingdom expand, Satan also stands ready to oppose us. That is why the Holy Spirit warned us about him in 1 Peter. We must always remain sober and vigilant. Satan seeks to “devour” any believer who stands for the Lord. It warns us again that we must remain faithful to God through obedience to His Word. God’s Spirit works in and through us as we obey, helping us overcome all three enemies. There is no doubt the struggle is real. Paul himself testified about how real Satan’s opposition was to him and the furthering of the gospel. Here is the one thing we must remember.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

God is on our side! We can overcome with His help and the power of His Spirit. Determine to be a witness for Christ. Recognize the enemies that oppose us. Submit and rely on God’s power in overcoming those enemies.

Following Christ

For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

In many church hymnals, there is a song with these words as its chorus.

“Follow! Follow! I would follow Jesus!

Anywhere, everywhere, I would follow on!

 Everywhere He leads me I would follow on!”

Early in Christ’s ministry, He approached some fishermen who were mending their nets. He told them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Every person who accepts Christ as Savior is called to follow Him. Winning people to the Lord is about following Christ. We are called to share the gospel’s good news with all we meet. In doing so, those who hear and believe are also called to follow Him and do the same. Followers of Christ produce more followers. It is God’s method of multiplying and adding to His kingdom.

However, in our text this week, there is an added element. The Holy Spirit noted that these believers “became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are Christ Jesus.” In other words, the already established local churches in Judaea became living examples for these new believers. Local churches must produce more local churches. Furthermore, each local church must be an example to other local churches.

I often remind our people that local churches are comprised of people. Our church is not the building or even the property we meet on. As a local church, we are believers committed to following the Lord Jesus Church. Thus, we must be great examples to other believers and churches.

What is a follower? In the Greek text, the word “follower” means an imitator. A follower copies the words or behavior of another. Therefore, if we follow Christ, we are to imitate His words and behavior. Our text references the local churches of Judaea. Consequently, it stands to reason that local churches must be filled with people committed to imitating Christ.

The song I referenced at the beginning of this blog has these words for its third stanza.

“Down in the valley or upon the mountain steep,

Close beside my Savior would my soul ever keep.”

Following Christ is not an easy task. Christ, Himself, warned us concerning following Him.

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 10:22

The local churches and believers of Judaea suffered much persecution at the hand of the Jews. Their valleys were long and deep. Yet, into those valleys, they went knowing that Christ was close to their side. They became beautiful examples to the local church of Thessalonica as they did.

We must never overlook the fact that people are watching our lives. How we handle persecution, opposition, and difficult circumstances speaks volumes to those observing us as Christ’s followers. We must be obedient to His Word, trusting His care as we go through such trials. There is no doubt that if you take a stand for Christ today, you will be mocked for it. The pressure from American society to conform to the world’s standards is immense. Yet, we must not give in. Instead, we must simply follow on! As we do, God promises His grace will be sufficient to help us through each challenging situation. Let’s determine to be the same kind of examples the Judea believers were to the Thessalonican believers. Let’s follow Jesus anywhere and everywhere, no matter what comes our way!

God’s Word – The True Foundation of Witnessing

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

This week’s verse provides two fundamental principles concerning our witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. However, before we get to those principles, note that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, expresses thanks. God is thankful to us when we are obedient to His Word. I don’t know about you, but it makes my heart glad when God is grateful for my actions. The Thessalonican believers gladly received the Gospel as Paul preached to them.

Two principles stand out to me as I read and study this verse.

First, our witness must come from God’s Word, not our own. This verse places a significant emphasis on the “word of God.” The Holy Spirit notably testifies that the Thessalonican believers “received the word of God.” However, they did not receive it as “the word of men.” This implies that Paul preached nothing but the “word of God.” For a person to fully accept Christ as their personal Savior, they must first accept what is said as coming from God and not from men. For that to happen, as witnesses, we must rely on God’s Word as the foundation for our message and witness. We must speak plainly about what Scripture says about a person’s sin nature, the penalty for sin, and how Christ paid the penalty with His own body and blood upon the cross of Calvary. It is unacceptable to add to or take away from the plain truth of Scripture. Much confusion surrounds today’s gospel message due to man’s attempts to add his opinions and ideas. Such a gospel message no longer becomes the truth of God’s Word but a polluted version tainted by sinful men.

Second, I see this principle. God’s Word is truth. In fact, His Word is the only source of truth today.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7)

“Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And thy law is the truth.” (Psalm 119:142)

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)

I encourage you to make studying God’s Word your daily priority. If you will, the truth of God’s Word will reveal the lies of men. People are inundated with man’s philosophies, opinions, and ideas, from news agencies to social media. The only way to cut through all the noise of men is by spending quiet moments with God. As you do, it will enable you, through His Spirit, to speak the truth to others as you know and use His Word.

When it comes to witnessing, the only things need are a submissive heart, the truth of God’s Word, and the power of His Spirit. Nothing more is required or needful. God always uses His people to speak His Word through His Spirit. The most important thing for us is to submit to Him through humble obedience to His Word.

Understanding Biblical Influence

It is said that everyone has influence, good or bad, upon others. People are watching you whether you want to admit it or not. What you do and what you say influences many people. For that reason, the Holy Spirit reminds us in our text this week how we must be careful in our witness to others.

“Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:10–12)

Perhaps the one thing we often overlook in our daily walk before others is that it is also a walk before the Lord. Here we see the Holy Spirit noting that they, the Thessalonicans, were “witnesses” of Paul’s efforts to share the gospel with them. The word “witnesses” means someone who sees an event and reports what happened. In other words, they watched and noted all that Paul did and said. More importantly, God was his witness as well. Consequently, we must be concerned each day with how others look at us and with a conscience understanding that God is also watching.

There are two areas of consideration regarding our walk and our influence on others. Note the first is found in verse 10.

“Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:” (1 Thessalonians 2:10)

This first area deals with our actions. Paul was careful to act holy, justly, and unblameable. A quick word study of each trait reveals the following. The word “holily (holy)” is to behave with moral and ritual purity. The second trait is “justly,” meaning to act following righteousness in the sight of God.

And last but not least is the word “unblameably.” It means to take action without guilt or in an irreproachable way. In other words, we must carefully live our lives each day in a manner right before God and others. We must competely obey the principles of God’s Word. When we do, we can act favorably so that God can use us as effective instruments for Him. The only way we can manage to live holy, just, and unblameable is to live God’s way.

The second area deals with our words. Consider verse 11.

“As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,” (1 Thessalonians 2:11)

During Paul’s time with the Thessalonians, the Holy Spirit notes that he exhorted, comforted, and charged them. Each of these is a word of communication. To exhort is to earnestly support and encourage a particular response or action. Comforting others involves words designed to alleviate sorrow or distress and lend emotional strength to others. Additionally, a charge, in Greek, means to bear witness. Thus, we see that Paul exhorted them to accept all Christ had done for them. He presented Christ as the only One who could bring true comfort to their life of misery. In doing so, he was a compelling witness offering firsthand authentication of how Christ can completely change a person’s life.

To be effective witnesses influencing others to Christ, we must possess the same components in our life. Every day must start with complete surrender to the Lord and His will. There must be a daily commitment to obey Him and His word. If we do, our actions can be holy, just, and unblameable. Furthermore, the words we communicate should flow with words pointing others to Christ. We must always encourage others to acknowledge their sin, the penalty of their sin, and point them to the Person Who paid that penalty so they might live eternally free. As we do, we can show them the true comfort that comes from knowing Christ and living under the influence of the True Comforter. Each day is another day to witness for Him.

Hope for the Hopeless

Hope for the Hopeless

Hope for the Hopeless

This week’s verse from Psalm 1 describes people who are hopeless. They are different from the Christian who loves the Lord, loves His Word, and has the great hope of Heaven. In fact, God’s Word describes people who are without Christ as having no hope. Yet, the great promise from God is there is hope for the hopeless Note what Psalms 1:4 says…

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Psalms 1:4

The entire premise of this psalm rests on the fact that God’s Word is the source of all blessings and happiness in a person’s life. The man or woman who chooses to meditate day and night in God’s law is the man or woman who will prosper. Therefore, true happiness is dependent upon on how serious we are in knowing and obeying God’s Word. God’s people should revel in their desire to know God’s Word.

However, the ungodly person cares nothing about it. In fact, the ungodly (those who have no personal relationship with Christ) cannot know or even understand God’s Word. Consequently, in a spiritual sense, they are totally devoid of spiritual prosperity. They are completely opposite of the person who loves the Lord and delight in His Word. Instead of being like the tree planted by a river which is healthy and fruitful, they are like chaff.

Chaff is the dry, scaly protective casings that form around cereal grains like wheat. At the time of harvest, the wheat is winnowed allowing the dry, scaly casings to be separated from the grain. Chaff is worthless. It is nothing more than trash. Its only purpose is to protect the kernels of grain until it has matured. Then, when the grain is ready, chaff becomes useless. Chaff does not grow or become healthy. Chaff is unable to reproduce. It comes. It goes. No one remembers or even cares for it.

God’s analogy of the ungodly indicates that a person devoid of a personal relationship with Him is worthless. According to Scripture, everyone is born already separated from God. Thus, each person is destined to live their life and die with no hope of eternal life and no hope of Heaven. Their destiny is an eternity without God in a place called Hell. Their life is meaningless and without purpose. They are like chaff which come and go. Nothing is gained. Such a life is a life without hope.

There are many who live that way today. They go through life each searching for purpose. They look for that purpose in many things. Things like their job, their family, or their hobbies. Yet, we all know that none of those are truly fulfilling. There are many who are aimlessly wandering through life. They dread each day. Each day just becomes another day and another step towards death. Death is unavoidable. And, with that in mind, they try to drown out their sorrow and their hopeless state by turning to things like alcohol, drugs, and entertainment. Yet, their feelings haunt them leading them to think that all is hopeless.

However, may I say to you that there is HOPE. You see the hope is that God can change all that. He can take your life and give it meaning. He can give you purpose. Instead of being chaff, God can completely change you. You can become like the tree planted by a river that is spiritually healthy and fruitful. Additionally, you can know with great surety that you will live eternally with Him.

Great spiritual change begins with you trusting the promises of God’s Word. Again, it is God’s Word upon which we must delight and meditate. Thus, you must accept and believe these four things from God’s Word…

  • God Loves You“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
  • Everyone is a Sinner“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
  • Sin Has a Price That MUST Be Paid“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  • Jesus Christ Died and Rose Again to Pay for YOUR Sin“But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while were yet sinners, Christ died of us.” (Romans 5:8)

If you simply pray and ask Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to be your savior and claim His promise of eternal life, you will be completely changed. In order to that, Scriptures says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” True blessing and happiness come when a person is obedient to God’s Word. You can experience that blessing and happiness by taking the first step of obedience and placing your trust in Christ as Savior.

We would love to help you. In fact, our greatest desire is to know Christ and make Him known at Calvary Baptist Church. For that reason, we would love to help you make sure of your relationship with God. Contact us and let us know how we can help you. Our email address is and our telephone number is 540.486.3434. It is our desire to help you know Christ and make Him known around the world.

God’s Word – The Source of Happiness

The Source of Happiness

God’s Word is the Source of Happiness.

Our text today tells us that God’s Word is the source of happiness.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalms 1:3
One of my favorite things in life is trees. Right now, we are entering that time of the year when the trees begin to bud, and their leaves start to come back. Outside my office is a beautiful purple plum tree. Every year around this time it sprouts tiny little buds that are pink. It makes the entire tree look as if it is covered with pink snow. There is almost a pink glow to it.
God gives us a picture of a tree in Psalm 1:3. It is a tree that is enjoying perpetual health. Note that it is “planted by the rivers of water.” Being near the river means that it has a continued source of water which is essential for its health and productivity. In fact, God goes on to describe that tree as one that always brings “forth his fruit in his season.” It is a tree whose “leaf also shall not wither.” It is an extremely healthy tree producing fruit and always prospering.
If you go back to verse 2, you might remember that God describes happy people as those who “delight” in His law. He says they are the people who “meditate day and night” in His law. God desires that each of us be happy. He also desires that we be prosperous and healthy. To be spiritually healthy and prosperous means that we must be “planted” near the continuous source of spiritual nutrients. For this reason, it is imperative that we plant ourselves next to God’s Word. It is the source by which we grow spiritually.
If you desire to be truly happy and to be spiritually fruitful, then you must be in God’s Word day and night. You must live your life in tune with God’s Word. Without it, you will wither, and you will cease to produce fruit that is pleasing unto God. May I suggest that you determine to spend each day reading, learning, and knowing the Word of God. If you will keep yourself planted by its waters, there is no doubt that is will be the source that keeps you spiritually healthy. You will become a beautiful tree that is producing fruit, that does not wither when the storms of life come, and everything you do for Him will prosper.
If you are seeking true happiness, you can find it in God’s Word. We would love to help you. In fact, our greatest desire is to know Christ and make Him known at Calvary Baptist Church. For that reason, we would love to help you make sure of your relationship with God. Contact us and let us know how we can help you. Our email address is and our telephone number is 540.486.3434. You can hear sermons by Pastor John by clicking here.