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Lesson 5: The Apostolic Example *

Introduction: Many years ago, I agreed to take over a case in Connecticut from another attorney who assured me that it would be "simple." When I met the judge for the first time, he was literally screaming at the lawyers. He told us that he did not have time to preside over our trial, and we were to come back next month. In the meantime, I had an ocean beach vacation. As I sat on the beach looking at the ocean, what do you think I was doing? Enjoying the sun, sand and water? No! I was thinking about how I would try the case before the screamer. Thinking about an unpleasant future kept me from thinking about the pleasure of the present. A current book I'm reading about the brain suggests that we should be more conscious about our thoughts, and notice the difference between a focus on the present and planning for the future. It suggests a deliberate consciousness about the present. Is this a Biblical concept? Let's jump into our study of the letters to the Thessalonians and find out!

  1. The Present

    1. Read Matthew 6:31-34. What does Jesus suggest should be the focus of our thoughts? (Today, rather than worrying about tomorrow.)

      1. There are a number of Bible texts that teach us to be diligent workers, use our common sense, and engage in planning. Why does Jesus say that we should not be worrying about tomorrow? (God knows our needs. We can "offload" future problems to Him.)

        1. Why is it an advantage to "offload" our worries? (Our minds can only focus on a few things at once. Removing worry from the stage of our mind, allows us to focus on other things.)

      2. What does God require of us, instead of worrying about the future? (Presently seeking to advance the Kingdom of God. We can substitute thinking about doing good for worrying about possible future problems.)

      3. In my story about the screaming judge, all of my worry time was a complete waste. When I showed up next month, a wonderfully kind and pleasant judge was in charge. Apparently, they rotate judges from county to county, and the screamer had been moved to another county.

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3. On what time frame is Paul's focus? (He reminds them of the past, to make a point about the present.)

    3. We previously discussed how they were beaten in Philippi, and then barely escaped another beating in Thessalonica. Paul denies that he is trying to trick them, has impure motives or is just wrong. What does the past suggest about the truth of those charges? (Paul argues that facing a beating would deter the dishonest. The dishonest would find an easier way to make a living.)

  2. The Example

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:4. What two reasons does Paul give as to why he should be believed? (He says "Look at how we speak." Second, he suggests that beatings are not a sign of failure, for they are not trying to please others - just God.)

      1. Paul's call for them to look at how they speak is a call to examine the present. What about their speech is important? (They speak as if they were given a God message. They speak as if they were "approved" and "entrusted.")

          1. What do you think this means? (There must have been a competency, honesty and assurance in the way they spoke.)

      2. Have you considered how you impact the Kingdom of God with your speech?

        1. Do you speak as one "approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel?"

        2. If not, why not? (Many years ago I asked myself this question - what is my influence upon others? Am I aiding God or Satan? I was embarrassed when I concluded that my influence was negative in many ways, and determined to change that.)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:5. What was absent from their speech? (Flattery and greed.)

      1. I use compliments regularly in my dealings with others. What is wrong with it? (Praising people for a job well-done is the gift of encouragement. Paul tells the Thessalonians to encourage one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11. On the other hand, dishonest flattery to get someone to do something is not a gospel tactic.)

    3. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:6. This is a continuation of Paul's statement in verse 4 that they are trying to please God and not men. Is this ("we are not looking for praise from men") a defensive attitude - because Paul was not just rejected, he was physically attacked - or is this an attitude we should seek?

      1. In sorting this out, can we agree that we should not try to please men instead of God?

      2. Paul approaches this as if pleasing God and humans were mutually exclusive. What about the idea of pleasing both God and humans?

      3. If you only had to worry about pleasing God, would your life be better or worse?

      4. If humans praise you, would that deter you from considering whether God is pleased with you? (This is probably the most important point to consider.)

      5. Think about the people in your life who have said, "I don't care what other people think." What kind of people are those? Are they people who you thought cared what God thought?

      6. Have you seen people do a lousy job in the church because they don't care what other people think? (In my experience, people who said that they did not care what other people thought were doing a lousy job. The Bible speaks positively about encouragement and advice. At a certain point, praise and encouragement are more important to me than money. Plus, honest praise improves performance. I think Paul is mostly being defensive here, but there is no question that we must put pleasing God first.)

  3. Hard Work

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9. Paul says, "We could have asked you to support us, but we did not. Instead we worked day and night to share the gospel with you and support ourselves." How is this relevant to Paul's gospel message? (It shows greed could not have motivated Paul and his friends. Instead, he was giving to the Thessalonians.)

      1. What other argument do you find in this? (Paul says this is proof of our love for you. We did not love ourselves as much as we loved you.)

      2. If you are wondering, the same is true of this ministry. I don't make any money from writing this lesson, it costs me money. The translators are all volunteers. On occasion, readers send small contributions and we have ad revenue. This all goes to my son who maintains the web site, the e-mail distribution, purchases ads to promote the lessons and pays the bills.

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12. Review what Paul has written so far. What are the elements that go into his conclusion that they have been "holy, righteous and blameless?" (They suffered physically, they did not demand money, they were not greedy. Their speech was consistent with the gospel and not modified to please humans. They treated church members as loving parents would treat their children. They encouraged right living.)

      1. Did you notice that Paul says that he was "encouraging" to them? This gets us back to the flattery discussion.

    3. Friend, have you examined your life? Have you taken a sharp and honest look at the present? Can you say that in your daily life you reflect the attitude and actions which Paul says show a person to be "holy, righteous and blameless?" If not, why not ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be conscious of this, and to change your attitude and your actions?

  4. Next week: Friends Forever.
* Copr. 2012, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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