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One Step at a Time
Walk Worthy
I Thessalonians 2:1-12
We began last week a study of the book of 1 Thessalonians that we are calling "One Step at a Time" that looks at the letter Paul wrote to this congregation of young believers. 
We saw in chapter 1 that this journey of the Christian life begins when we make a deliberate turn from the direction we are traveling to follow and trust God. In fact, with this church, they had turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and so dramatic and apparent was that turning, they had become examples to other believers and a powerful witness to the lost.
Now, one of the words used to describe what happens when someone turns to God is conversion. A person is converted. They used to believe this and travel in this direction and do these things but they have been converted from that to a belief in God, and the resulting actions that come from that change the entire direction of their life.
Because the direction of life has been changed, that means there is a lot of re-education that needs to take place.  Everything has to be relearned. Conditioned responses have to be changed. Traditions and values have to be reassessed in light of this conversion that has taken place. 
And when you think about it, it is almost overwhelming!  And to complicate the process, life continues. 
We aren't given an opportunity to remove ourselves from life in general and learn everything we will need to be successful in waling with God. We have to learn it on the fly and as it is happening. So how can that happen? 
To assist in that process, God established the church.  And one of the greatest helps you can have in helping you flesh out your conversion and walk with God is the local church family.     
So in chapter two, Paul shows us how that works. In the first chapter he provides this beautiful picture of these new converts and what God has done in their lives through calling them to salvation.  Then in chapter 2, he gets down to the nitty-gritty of walking with the Lord and he begins by discussing his own ministry among them. 
And before we get into the details, notice what we read in verses 11 and 12. 
The first ten verses are kind of a summary statement of his ministry among them, then in verses 11 and 12 he tells them why he did what he did. 
verses 11-12  
In other words, he says, "I did what I did so you could learn to walk with God."  Listen!  Contrary to how a lot of people live, the Christian walk is not solely about salvation.  There are many people with their name on a church roll whose entire Christian experience is summed up in the fact that they were baptized or joined a church way back there in history somewhere. 
They would be hard-pressed to pinpoint anything that God has done or said personally or recently. Their relationship with God can be explained only in historical terms. 
But God has so much more in mind, and Paul, understanding that, says to these church, "I want you to know and understand what is involved in living a life that recognizes and values and demonstrates an appreciation for the fact that God saved you in the first place!"
By the way, it is important to recognize that what Paul says in these first twelve verses of chapter 2 are said to the church. It is so important for Christians to have a church family. If you aren't a member here and you live in this community and this is where you fit and God has placed you here, then you need to join up because you need us and we need you. 
You need a fellowship to which you have attached yourself so that you may receive a blessing and also that you may be a blessing.
Not only is it important for us to have a church, but it is also important for us to have a pastor. Paul was an apostle and missionary and evangelist. But in many ways, he functioned in the role of pastor in these new church starts. 
So what he shares with them flows from his own life and his live for them and God's church.  And basically, in this second chapter, he provides a picture of the role the pastor plays in helping to develop your walk with the Lord.
Now I realize everybody has an idea about what the pastor ought to do and be and not do and all of that.  I came across this profile several years ago of a model pastor. 
By the way, I had a lady tell me one time that I was a model pastor.  I felt good about that until I went home and looked up the word model in the dictionary and it said a model was a small imitation of the real thing. 
Anyway, the perfect pastor is:
He is twenty six years old and has been preaching for 30 years. He is tall and short, thin and heavyset, homely and handsome. He has one brown eye and one blue. His hair is parted down the middle, left side dark and straight, right side brown and wavy. He has a burning desire to work with young people and spends all his time with the older folks. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. His sermons summarize the entire Bible in 15 minutes. He makes 15 calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing the lost and is never out of his office.
In spite of the fact that no pastor is perfect and we all have our shortcomings, God determined that it is important for you to have a pastor and that the pastor do what he does in a way to honor God and help you walk worthy of God. 
So let's see what Paul has to say about himself and his calling.
Let's begin with
1. The Pastor's Mission
verses 1-2
Paul begins by talking to them about his mission and reminding them that he came to them as a man on a mission. He is concerned about the effectiveness and the results of his work.  And notice, he says that his work was not in vain. In New Testament language, the word vain means "empty". 
His work wasn't empty; it had substance to it; he had known some success in his ministry.  Obviously, any pastor worth his salt wants to have results and be successful in what God has sent them on mission to do.
That's why we must always keep clear what our mission is to be.  God has placed churches and called pastors to reach lost people for Christ and see them develop into full-grown, mature followers of Christ.
That's why I never worried too much about having softball teams and a lot of the extra-curricular activities that are a part of church life. To be honest, I've never see a church softball team that was too interested in reaching people for Christ or helping to develop and mature disciples. 
Most of them that I've been around are more interested in winning trophies and fighting with the other team about the game. 
But I understand very clearly what God wants the church and me to do. God wants us to reach lost people and win them to Christ, then help them grow and mature in the Lord.
And we find in Paul as example of that type of ministry. When he went to Thessalonica, his ministry there was not in vain. There were results to his ministry and he reminds them of that.
He reminds them also of how he had been treated in Philippi and the physical toll it had taken. He mentions how he had "suffered before". That is physical suffering. In fact, when Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he still had the stripes on his back that came from the beating they had given him in Philippi. He was still carrying the physical evidence of the the beatings and physical mistreatment that he had received.
But he was a man on a mission and there was a physical price that went along with that. In some parts of the world that is still true of believers. It does not happen, to a large extent, in America. But in many countries of the world there is more persecution of Christians and more physical suffering on the part of believers than at probably any century of the Christian faith. Most of us have not had to suffer physically because of our ministry, our mission or our Christian faith.
But we should be willing to pay the price. I remember the old hymn. "Must I be carried through the skies on flowery beds of ease, while other fought to win the prize and sail through bloody seas."
His physical suffering.
Then he mentions
- emotional suffering
He also says, "spitefully treated." The verbal attacks and hateful hurt Paul's heart as much as the lashes across his back.  And the truth of the matter is that if you are a born again, sold out, committed, on fire Christian for the Lord today, and if you are in a church that has a clear testimony about the Bible, you can expect to receive these kinds of persecutions. It goes with the territory. It goes with the Christian life. There is always deep seated hatred of born again believers and Bible believing churches.
An unbelieving world always looks for an opportunity to try and discredit the work of the Lord. So don't be surprised when that happens. That's just part of it.
That's what Paul had experienced.
But notice he was a man on a mission. Did he quit? No!  When they ran him out of Philippi, he came to Thessalonica with a call from God and a message to preach. 
In fact, he says in verse 2, "We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much conflict."
The word, conflict, is where we get our word, agony. It means like an athletic struggle. It was an agonizing mission. But he says we were bold in our God. He had a boldness. Notice that it was not a self generated boldness. It was a boldness which came from God. It is God who gives you boldness. If you want to be a bold witness for the Lord, ask God to give you that boldness.  Hewill help you be a bold witness for the Lord.
After all, it is the "gospel of God" that we preach.  And while the gospel is good news, it also contains some bad news. And it is the bad news that causes the conflict. People don't like to hear that they are sinners. Yet, that's what the Bible says. You can't get people saved until they get lost. They have to understand that they are sinners before you can recommend to them a Savior. So there is bad news and people don't want to hear the bad news.
I heard about a man who came home from work one day and when he walked in the door his wife opened her mouth to talk. He said, "Before you say a word, I've had a bad day and I absolutely don't want to hear any bad news." She said, "Okay. Three of your four sons did not break their arms this afternoon."
I heard about another guy whose wife said to him, "Darling, our cat fell off the roof and died today." He said, "Oh, my, you almost gave me a heart attack. Don't tell me bad news like that." She said, "How should I tell it to you?" He said, "Break it to me gently. Tell me that the cat climbed up on the roof today. Darling, the cat walked down to the edge of the roof. Darling, the cat slipped off the roof. Darling, the cat fell and the cat died."
She said, "Okay, I think I've got it." The next when he came in she said, "Darling, grandma climbed up on the roof today."
We don't like bad news. But Paul came preaching because he was a man on a mission.
Not only does he talk about his mission, but also,
2. The Pastor's Motives
verse 3
Some background is needed to help us understand why he says that. Paul came to Thessalonica and had a tremendous ministry there.  But when he left, some of the enemies of the gospel and some of Paul's enemies began to make some charges against Paul.
Now keep in mind that Paul is a man on a mission. He is encountering opposition as he goes along. He got kicked out of Philippi and they ran him out of town.
Many years ago, a man named Herman Hickman was football coach at Yale University. Hickman said that when they run you out of town, be sure to get in front so it looks like you are leading a parade.
So first, Paul led a parade out of Philippi. He moves on. Some people would call him a rabble rouser. He's just a trouble maker. They were attacking Paul.
That reminded me of something else I read I would like to share with you. A pulpit committee was looking for a pastor for their church. The chairman came before the congregation. They were a little impatient because they hadn't found a preacher yet.
He said, "Let me read you an application we have received from a preacher who would like to be our pastor." It said, "Dear congregation, I understand that your church is seeking a pastor. I would like to submit my name for consideration. I'm considered to be a good preacher. I've been a leader in most places I have served and have found time to do some writing.
I'm over 50 years of age. Though my health is not good, I am a hard worker. I have never preached at any place more than three years. Some places I had to leave rather suddenly because my ministry caused disturbances and riots. I didn't get along too well with the other religious leaders in town. I have been threatened numerous times, been physically attacked, put in jail several times for my convictions. If you could use me I would be pleased to be considered."
The congregation was aghast. One of them said, "Who would be interested in a man who is obviously a trouble maker and an ex jailbird?" the chairman of the pulpit committee said, "The letter is signed, the apostle Paul."
So Paul is being attacked by his enemies. They were basically saying that he is wrong in his message, he is wrong in his motives, and he is wrong in his methods. He is wrong in his head, he is wrong in his heart, and he is wrong in his hand.
And what we find in verse 3 is Paul's denial of the charges made against him. He says in verse 3, "Our exhortation did not come from error (not a wrong message, I'm not wrong in the head). It was not of uncleanness (not wrong in my motives, my heart). Nor was it in deceit (I'm not wrong in my methods, my hand, the way I go about my work)."
And he's not talking about one specific instance or sermon, but the sum total of all his ministry was not in these three ways. 
Then in verses 4, 5, and 6 he elaborates on those three issues.
When he says his exhortation in preaching was not in error, he is saying his message was correct.
Therefore, as he says in verse 4, "We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak."
Perhaps the most important characteristic of preaching is whether or not the message agrees with Scripture. 
Don't automatically take what I say without examination. Check it out in the Bible and see if I'm true to the Scriptures. When you hear a man preach, check him out by the Book and see if he is preaching God's Word.
And Paul makes this audacious claim that his message is approved by God. God Himself had entrusted him with the glorious message of the good news of Jesus Christ. He is saying that he is right in the head. He has the right message.
Then he says, ". . . or uncleanness." Uncleanness means impurity in motives. What are the motives of a pastor?
Paul says in verse 4, "Not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts"
Everybody wants to be liked, including preachers. But ultimately the important thing is not whether people approve or are pleased, but is God pleased.  At the end of the day, it matters the most to me, not did I please you or did you go home happy, but was God please with my message and my ministry.
Then he talks about motives in
verse 5
Apply this to yourself. You may not be a pastor of a church like I am, but apply it to your place of ministry. If you are a Bible teacher, you have a pastoral responsibility in that class. Maybe you work with young people or some other area. In some sense of the word you are kind of a shepherd of those people.
And Paul is simply saying, "It should be obvious I wasn't out to please men, because at no time did I use flattering words."
Do you know what flattering words are? Flattery is insincere complimenting of a person in order to get something out of them. Someone has said about flattery that it is like perfume. It's alright to smell it, but don't swallow it.
Basically Paul is saying that he didn't flatter them. He didn't just pour all these sweet words just trying to get something out of them. They knew that. They had heard this man preach. They had seen him conduct his ministry among them. He says you know I did not use flattering words. In fact, sometimes his words were pretty plain.
Then he continues in verse 5, "Nor a cloak for covetousness, God is witness."
The word, cloak, means a pretext to cover greed.  And people can tell when flattering words are being used, but only God knows the motivation for doing it. 
And Paul says there are some who will pretend to be interested in you for one reason but the truth is they are interested in you for another reason.
Let me give you an example. A television ministry says, send us your name so we can put you on our prayer list. The real reason they want your name on their list is so they can hit you up for offerings. See what I'm saying?
A cloak of covetousness is nothing more than a cover for greed and Paul is basically saying that his mission is right, his motives are right, then go on down to
verse 6a
Connect that with what we find in verse 3 where he talks about deceit. Paul is saying that his methods were not trickery and he explains that in verse 6.  He didn't engage in trickery or sleight of hand.
So he talks about mission and motives and finally, he talks about   
3. The Pastor's Methods
In verses 7 through 12, he gives three pictures of the roles of a pastor. First of all, he says the pastor needs  
- the tenderness of a mother
verses 7-8
The picture is of a mother nursing her children. Have you ever seen a mother nursing her own children? She smiles, coos, hugs, loves, bathes, feeds that little one.
Paul says that's the way I was among you. There are times when a congregation needs the tenderness of a mother. He says we were gently among you and notice it was "among you". 
Paul lived among these people.  He was one of them.   He lived and served and loved as one of them. 
At times my ministry was like a mother.
In fact, notice what he says in
verse 8
Notice Paul says, "I didn't show up and just deliver a message. I poured my very life into you. I understand what that means. When I get through preaching here on Sunday and go home, I feel like a sixteen wheeler ran over me. When I preach, I preach with everything I have. I preach my soul. I deliver my soul to you. I give a little bit of my life every time I preach.
Like the tenderness of a mother who is willing to give her very life for her children, that's the way a pastor ought to be.
Not only the tenderness of a mother, but also
- the intensity of a laborer
verses 9-10
He worked hard. God's men shouldn't work less than anybody else in the world, they ought to work more than anybody else. There is no room in the ministry for lazy people.
I get a little aggravated with those who think pastors work only one day a week.  I told someone recently who commented on the length of a sermon, I was just trying to put in a good day! You can't win!  I only work one day a week and then I work too long!
And I will tell you this:  Most of those smart mouths who pop off about the ministry couldn't handle it!  They don't have the physical strength not the emotional stamina the ministry requires. And lest you think I'm bragging, I can't handle it either, without the calling of God because the calling to the ministry comes with a super-natural giftedness that God provides to make us equal to the requirements. 
Pastors need the tenderness of a mother, the intensity of a laborer and
- the firmness of a father
verses 11
Notice, the pastor, as a father, exhorted, comforted and charged those in his care. There is a seriousness to those words. There is an authority that is implied.  This is the authority part.  On the one hand, the pastor is to be a mother with all the tenderness, compassion, patience, love, affection. And on the other hand, a father who sets the model and the example and exhorts and encourages and implores.
Paul says the spiritual father is trying to produce the product.  The difference between the mothering and the fathering is the mother wants to provide what is needed in the moment. The father wants to produce the product at the end.  That's the balance. 
The mother wants to cherish and nurture and love and hold and affirm. And the father comes along and says that's all wonderful but we want to be sure at the end that he's living according to God's standards.  So why did God call us?  Why did he place us in a church and put us under the authority and leadership of a pastor? We find the answer in
verse 12
We are to walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you. You are in this place, with a pastor called and gifted by God so you can learn how to walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 
The very fact that God has called you should give you such a thankful heart that you need very little exhortation, encouragement, and imploring to walk in a worthy way. 
But just so you are encouraged, God placed a pastor alongside you whose mission is to not just see people saved, but to learn to walk worthy of God. And through life and ministry, they pour themselves into you, no matter what the cost emotionally or physically, coming alongside you with the intensity of a laborer, tenderness of a mother and the firmness of a father so you can learn how to walk one step at a time.
That's my desire for you as your pastor, that you might walk worthy of the Lord and be a good testimony for Jesus before everyone who sees your life that there will be so much of Jesus in your life that everybody who sees you will say, "There goes a child of God."
One final word about what it means to "walk worthy". What does it mean to "walk worthy of God"? Does it mean in some way I've got to bring my life to a place where I am equal to or deserving of God's favor? Is it getting to the place where God evaluates my life and service and decides to acknowledge my worthiness? 
I don't think so. In fact, that would be just the opposite of everything we know and read about God's grace. So
I don't think it means that we merit from God or the gospel or our call; but that they merit from us.
In other words, to "walk worthy of the Lord" means to walk in a way that the Lord deserves from us, not in a way that we deserve from the Lord. Walking "worthy of the Lord" means acting in a way that shows how worthy and able and gracious and strong the Lord is.
Act in a way that fits the great value and glorious nature of God and the gospel and your calling.
To illustrate think about this: Since July 1, 1937 a relatively small number of hand-picked soldiers have stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And not everybody qualifies for the assignment. 
In fact, over 80% of the soldiers who try out for guard duty at the Tomb do not make it. Each soldier must have strong military bearing, discipline, stamina, and present an outstanding soldierly appearance. Each Sentinel must be able to flawlessly perform seven different types of walks, honors, and ceremonies.
They must retain vast amounts of knowledge concerning the Tomb, Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Army, and their unit. They can have no military or civilian convictions for violating the law.
They must score a minimum of 250 on the Army Physical Fitness Test. Their height must be within 5’11” – 6’4.” They need a 30-inch waist and be able to present a soldierly appearance in the Army Blue Uniform.
The Tomb Guards make personal sacrifices to have the honor of serving in their special role. They work on a team rotation similar to firemen at a firehouse. Those soldiers who serve well for at least nine months are rewarded with a special badge to wear on their uniforms that acknowledges their service at the Tomb of the Unknowns. If they ever bring shame on the tomb that they guard or otherwise fail in their duty they are stripped of the badge and the honor that goes with it.
The guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier have very detailed instructions about what they are to do. Every step they take and every movement they make is covered by an army regulation. On average the servicemen who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier spend about 8 hours to prepare for duty. Their uniform must be meticulously readied.
While on duty, the soldier walks 21 steps. On the 21st step he turns and faces the tomb he is guarding. He does this for 21 seconds. The soldier then turns to head back the other direction. He moves his rifle to his outside shoulder away from the tomb. After 21 seconds he walks 21 steps and repeats the process again and again.
There is a tradition among the guards who serve at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Whenever they salute a commissioned officer they say in a loud voice. “Line six, sir!”
That is a reference to line six of the Sentinel’s Creed. In 99 words this creed captures what it means to be a guard at the Tomb.
It states, “My dedication to this sacred duty is total and whole-hearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.”
Line six is the line that says, " my standard will remain perfection." I think it safe to say, those guards "walk worthy of the soldier there entombed."
May we take our duty to Christ just as seriously. May our standard be perfection. May our dedication to Christ be total. And may we always live our life worthy of God, Who calls us into His own kingdom and glory."
Let's pray.
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