Several years ago I came to the humbling conclusion that I was not much of an evangelist. Don’t get me wrong, I am active in sharing my faith but, once I spent some time around some people with the true touch of God upon their lives for evangelism, I easily made the distinction between faithful duty and fervent delight in the call to share the faith. Fishing for souls is something all of us are called to do but, truthfully, I’m not much of a net-drawer. Two of my peers in ministry with whom I have shared time over the years are, in my opinion, nothing short of brilliant. Both of them have formal graduate degrees in theology from reputable schools and they are intellectual giants. They devour books from authors I’ve never heard of on topics I cannot pronounce. Their minds have been saturated with deep theological truth accompanied with the ability to poignantly communicate what God has graced them to understand. When we share a meal together there have been times when I’ve felt like Fred Flintstone sitting at the table with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. No…I’m not much of an evangelist nor am I much of a seminarian. It is essential for a man to know his limitations and there is actually a great comfort in giving in to the truth that there are just certain things that God has never intended to be a part of your résumé. Today, however, we get to focus on something that I am aware fits into my skill-set & my comfort zone. The essential art of exhortation, encouragement and provoking others to fulfill their God-appointed destiny is what I would like to share today…and God has blessed me to enjoy such a task with my lifework.
“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
Paul reminded his friends and followers at Thessalonica that he had sought to serve them in a fatherly fashion when he had been among them. He employs a rich Greek term which is translated here as exhort. This verb is closely akin to the term from which we get the name Holy Spirit. Paul was an instrument of God’s Spirit in the lives of those believers as he served to strengthen, admonish, comfort, instruct and call them out. His heart refused to allow them to remain where they were in life. The sense behind this mark of a faithful life is that Paul so believed in the greatness of God that he was unable to permit the children of God to live below the level of greatness. It was inconceivable to the Apostle that any one of us might fail to answer the high call of Christ to live in a manner that is heavenly. Giving into weariness and discouragement was not an option for Paul so he could not allow it to become the lot of his followers. Were they afraid? He would help them find courage in Christ! Had doubt put a dent in their disposition? Paul would saddle them with spine-strengthening truth to allay their doubts. We can see the Apostle with his calloused hands pointing always to the horizon while he reminded them that titanic glories awaited them as they endured to follow their Lord in faith. Though he was the architect of great and glorious Christian doctrine, the Apostle also highly prioritized the shoe-leather ministry of walking alongside others to tell them that they must never quit. Paul was the consummate encourager.
One aspect of the ministry entrusted to Paul focused on reminding the Thessalonians to “walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory”. Paul was not only concerned with their objective faith, he also desired to see those beliefs translate into their daily lives. What good is spiritual data if it has no practical results? Inherent in the Apostle’s faith was a worthy presumption that those who believe upon Christ would live lives that were fundamentally different from unbelievers. Paul is the author who told us that all who are in Christ Jesus have been made new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). God used Paul to remind his generation that there is no such thing as unspectacular redemption; salvation cannot be yawned at! Because of his confidence in this truth he relentlessly told the followers of Christ to consider how they lived and commit to a lifestyle of purposed glory for God. What an extreme expectation He has for His own! Do we say that we have been saved? Has the omnipotence of God pulled us from the pit and placed eternity in our hearts? Has the Almighty violently ransomed us from the realm of evil and caused us to become citizens of the realm of light? Then, by all means, let it be evidenced in our life’s priorities and thirsts! Flee the lowlands of this world’s promises and fill your heart with the priceless provision of your pardon! For the glory of Jesus, never give in to the temptation to dwell as a beast of the earth- He has purchased you for something great!
We have been graced to live as citizens (children!) of God’s eternal kingdom. We should walk away from the offers of this age with the same conviction as one who lives in a palace refuses to be enthralled with a squatter’s village. We have the gold of God coursing through our spiritual veins – how could we dilute it with desires for this world? May God graciously convince us of our citizenship and it’s usurping of this world’s rule in our hearts. Chase the greatest that God has ordained for you and never rest until you know that you have procured it. In this pursuit you will bring Him incredible glory and He will grant to you incredible satisfaction.
Run your race, pilgrim. You’ve only been grated one to win and the trigger on the starting gun has already been pulled.
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