“You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children.” –I Thessalonians 2: 10-11 NKJV
As I was reading through I Thessalonians tonight, these two verses really stood out to me and challenged me. They were written by Paul to the church of Thessalonica in regards to a time when he visited them in the past. At the last visit, many turned to God, and Paul and those with him discipled the new believers. These two verses show how he did this.
I do a lot of work with the youth at my church, and I have a brother who is ten years younger than me. Because of this, discipleship and learning how to lead in a Godly manner are very important to me. No matter where God has called you to, these skills are important in your walk with God. Francis Chan has said, “If you really want to experience God, go and make disciples.” This is because the process brings both you and the person you are working with to a closer relationship with God.
So how are these verses relevant? Let’s look!
In verse 10, Paul says that he behaved devoutly, justly, and blamelessly when he was in Thessalonica. To put it simply, Paul led by example. When he taught the people about God’s truths, he lived in such a way that those truths were reflected. If we are to lead others to Christ, or even closer to Christ, we need to also be living lives that are devoted to God and show that we are walking righteously.
Of course, this does not mean that we should try to appear perfect. I am a huge believer in the idea that we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to be honest about where we fall. From my experience, when you are honest about your stumbles, those you work with, teenagers especially, are more willing to open up and seek counsel for the problems in their lives. Our testimonies with sin are a great discipleship tool. While we can use the sin in our lives to relate to others, we should always attempt to walk devoutly, justly, and blamelessly. This will speak loudly on the power of Christ to change our lives!
Verse 11 is the section that challenged me the most. In it, Paul says that he exhorted, comforted, and charged each new believer just as a father does to a child. Thinking it through, I believe that these three actions are the core to a healthy discipleship.
Let’s look at the first one! To exhort someone means to strongly urge or encourage someone to do something. My Bible commentary says that counseling and advice are a big part of this. So what does this look like in our ministry? We should be teaching, sharing, and explaining God’s word to those He has given us! Not only this, but we should be teaching them how to read and understand The Word for themselves, how to pray, the importance of quiet time, and all of the other ways that one grows in Christ! If no one teaches them or stresses the importance, then new believers simply will not know. I know that when I became a Christian, it was a few years before I felt like I understood how to pray to God. I needed someone to sit me down and teach me before I felt like I could do it. In the same way, new Christians need to have someone directing and exhorting them in their walk.
The second action that Paul mentions is comfort. This can be needed at many times during the Christian walk: in conviction, in doubt, in persecution, in confusion, etc. No matter what the situation is, God has called us to comfort and to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ! Doing so allows us to form tighter bonds with each other and to truly rely on each other the way God intends a church to do. Speaking personally again, I know that I get discouraged easily. If it wasn’t for a couple people in my life taking the time to comfort me, my walk would be much less joyous that it is. When we are able to share our struggles with one another, we learn that we are not the only ones to have them. This is a great reminder for anyone!
The third action Paul claims is to charge. We should all be charging or challenging those in our lives to pursue God more diligently! No matter where someone is with God, they can always be closer. It can be easy for us sometimes to become comfortable with where we are with God and to stop seeking to move forward. This is lazy Christian living. 1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” Those who become complacent in their walk with God have stopped running towards the finish line and are content standing still. This is not what we are called to! It is our job to not only run after God ourselves, but to also challenge or charge those around us to do the same!
These verses challenged me a lot tonight and have reminded me how I should be focusing as an ambassador for Christ. Whether in my home, at my church, or anywhere else God calls me day to day, I am reminded that I should be making discipleship a priority through living by example, exhorting, comforting, and charging the Christians around me!