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Pastoral Care (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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June 25, 2024 4:00 am

Pastoral Care (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 25, 2024 4:00 am

When the apostle Paul was unable to return to Thessalonica, he sent Timothy in his place. So what did Timothy’s mission entail? Hear the answer on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explains why every believer is called to participate in this same mission.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


The Apostle Paul was unable to return to visit the church in Thessalonica. He sent Timothy in his place. So what did Timothy's mission entail?

We'll find out today on Truth for Life as we learn how every follower of Jesus is called to participate in this same mission. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Thessalonians. We're looking at the beginning of chapter 3. One character stands out to the four in these events that are described, and that is this man Timothy.

Who was he? What caused Paul to send him? What was the effect of the news he brought back? These are the kind of issues that would come to mind as we look at the text and we try to come to an understanding of it.

And I've endeavored to summarize it under these three words—the motive, the man, and the mission. What then of the man who is sent? Brothers, when we were torn away from you, our intense longing was to see you. When we could stand it no longer, we decided we would rather be lonely in Athens and give up Timothy than have the privilege of Timothy and have no news of you. So, he says, we sent Timothy. It's not easy being the second guy.

That was Timothy. They tell me that the second place in the orchestra is a hard spot to fill. Second fiddle is not the one that most people choose to play. Most would like their hands on the first fiddle. And if you've ever had the privilege of playing second fiddle, you'll know that it is a challenge. Because there will be people come to you and say, You know, you could play that fiddle better than him or better than her and appeal to your ego. But you need to play your part just the way the score is written. And also, when you play and when you minister in that second place, there will be people who say to you, What in the world are you doing here? We thought the proper fellow was going to come.

Let me tell you something. God's men and women are put in position as he intends. And it's not for us to pick and choose who ministers to us. When it seems best to send Timothy, then let Timothy be sent. And all the Timothys like him. We thought it best to send Timothy, our brother. Our brother. One of the favorite designations of Paul in this letter. The man is Timothy, who is he?

He's the brother. If you look quickly, you will see that the word brother comes in chapter 1, in verse 4. In chapter 2, in verse 1, 14, and 17.

I told you you'd have to look quickly. In chapter 3, in verses 2 and 7. In chapter 4, in verses 1, 9, and 13. In chapter 5, in verse 1, 4, 12, 14, 25, 26, and 27. You think brother's an important word for Paul in this?

It really is. And as I said to you before, it might equally read brothers and sisters. And he says, Listen, Timothy is our brother. This is the thing that marks him out.

This is the wonderful thing. He doesn't say, Timothy, my understudy. He doesn't say, Timothy, my lackey.

He doesn't say, Timothy, my junior. He says, Timothy, our brother. For the ground is flat at the cross, and in the ministry of the Lord Jesus, that's the real thing about us—that we're all brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are members of the family. We haven't joined a society. We haven't become members of a club. We've been made members of God's family.

And God has no grandchildren, and he has no stepchildren. People say to me from time to time, Well, what does it mean that the church is a family? I say, Well, that's part of the pilgrimage of being a family—discovering what it means. What is a family? What is your family? What is it today, and what will it be tomorrow?

Different tomorrow from what it is today. A family with tiny ones is different with a family with teenagers. And a family with grandchildren and grandchildren is different.

Every church family has configurations. Remember that we are family, and we're brothers and we're sisters. Timothy, brother, fellow worker. Who's fellow worker? He doesn't say, my fellow worker. He says, God's fellow worker. You know, it would be a great encouragement to Timothy if it had simply read, my fellow worker. I recall the first time that the Reverend J. R. G. Graham took me into the bookstore of his church in suburban London, and he said to me, Alistair, you can choose three or four books for yourself.

I'd like them to be a gift to you. And so I was in there for some time, and I took these books, and then I asked them if he would write in them for me. And he wrote in each one with care, and he wrote a different designation, a different inscription in each one.

And I remember gathering them up and not looking at them, saving it to see what he would have said in there. And the one which brought tears to my eyes was the one that said, To my fellow servant in the Lord Jesus Christ. I remember driving home saying, I couldn't be his fellow servant. I could be his servant. And I was awestruck by the fact that he would include me in ministry in that way. But it's not simply that. Paul says he is God's fellow servant. What an amazing and wonderful statement. The particular sphere of service in which Timothy was to operate, you will notice, was in spreading the gospel of Christ, who is our brother, verse 2, and God's fellow worker, in spreading the gospel of Christ. Actually, the word which is used here for servant is the word for a table waiter.

And some of you have had the joyful privilege of being a waiter in a restaurant. And that'll shape you up. You take all of that nonsense from everybody and have to say, Yes, definitely, oh, I couldn't agree more, certainly. No, far too rare. No, far too tough. No, far too cold.

No, far too hot. You have to eat it, eat it, eat it all the time. If you want a tip, that is. If you want to get fired, you can just say what you like. But if you're going to be a genuine table waiter, then it's a spirit of genuine service, and that is exactly what was happening here. Timothy was preparing the meals, as it were, and bringing them out onto the table, declaring, spreading out the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are discouraged tonight, believer, and you've been thinking to yourself, You know, I don't know that I'm making much of a contribution, I don't know that I have much of a part to play, let this man be an encouragement to you. Timothy, comparatively young, physically frail, naturally timid, but a brother in the Lord Jesus Christ and God's fellow servant.

It's interesting that Paul actually uses that same phrase in 1 Corinthians 3, where he speaks of the fact of Paul and Apollos and Peter, and he says, For we are God's fellow workers. And then the third word on your outline, and the final word, is the mission that he was given. The motive, the man, and the mission.

First of all, his mission was essentially to investigate. You'll notice he says in verse 5, I sent to find out about your faith. And particularly, he was concerned at the end of verse 5 to make sure that the evil one had not cut in on them and tempted them and thus rendered their efforts.

And the word which is used there for efforts, the word kopos, it means wearisome toil. All the endeavors, all the investment that they'd put in to the issues of the gospel there in Thessalonica, that that wearisome toil would not have amounted to nothing. I was afraid, he says, that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. While your Bible's open, you look across to verse 4 of chapter 1 and you read, For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you. Oh, well, here he's very confident in chapter 1 verse 4.

We know that he has chosen you. Here, by the time he gets to the fifth verse of chapter 3, apparently he's worried that they may have amounted to nothing and that their faith has actually proved to be groundless and that their efforts have proved absolutely useless. Well, that raises a question in my mind. Is this then suggesting that those whom God has chosen can in the end be eternally lost? Is that what is being taught here?

Absolutely not. Timing, as they say, is everything. As soon as you understand the sequence of events, it all falls into place.

Think about it. Paul and his companions had evangelized Thessalonica. Having engaged in evangelism there, they're then forced to leave. While they were there evangelizing, a number of people in Thessalonica had appeared to accept the gospel. They had appeared to profess faith in Jesus Christ. They had appeared to become believers. But given that they had to go away, they had the thought in the back of their minds, I wonder if their response was genuine faith, or was it just some kind of emotional reaction. And then, having been separated from them, in their absence the missionaries find themselves wondering about this—wondering about what persecution will have done to them, wondering whether the persecution will have revealed the genuine character of their faith, whether they have understood that persecution is part of God's plan for those who are his children, or where, as soon as the heat of the battle has picked up, they've turned around and they said, No, no, no, no, we want nothing of that Jesus.

It's far too hard, and we don't want to follow him. So they would be wondering that. And while they're wondering that, they send Timothy to find out exactly what's going on. And when Timothy comes back, he comes back with a glowing report in verse 6, Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought us good news about your faith and about your love. And so Paul then, thoroughly convinced that their acceptance of the gospel has been a genuine work of the Spirit and not merely something outward, sits down to write this letter to them.

So it's a little bit of past tense. He says, The reason that we did this, because we were concerned. Soon as we sent Timothy and he came back with the report, we realized that our concerns were ungrounded. Well, then, Timothy was not only to investigate, but he was also to strengthen. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and fellow worker, God's fellow worker, in spreading the gospel of Christ to strengthen.

Strengthen. When you read in the Acts of the Apostles, after the missionary journeys of Paul, you find this word comes with frequency. For example, in Acts 14 and verse 22, they preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.

The word sterikai was a technical term for the consolidation and building up of things, and in this case, the building up of converts. And here Paul makes something very clear. That evangelism that is not then followed carefully and effectively by some process of strengthening and encouraging is an evangelism which has no foundation in biblical example. There is no encouragement given to us in the New Testament to simply, as it were, go flying around the universe, just proclaiming, proclaiming, without any notion of how those who profess faith in Jesus Christ may be strengthened, may not collapse, may be prevented from toppling. And as he strengthens, so he is to encourage you, verse 2, in your faith.

The word which is used there for encourage literally means to call to the side of. It is the word that is used for a defense attorney in a lawsuit—one who is called alongside to help. The Greek word is parakaleo, from which we get the noun paraklete, which is one of the designations of the Holy Spirit himself. And it is said in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit is our paraklete.

He is the one who comes alongside. He comes to dwell with us, to strengthen and to encourage. Interestingly, if you have the King James Version, the word which is used there is the word comfort, to comfort. But that actually needs to be understood in terms of its Latin derivation, because comfort comes from the two words in Latin, con fortis.

And it doesn't mean a gentle soothing. It means a fitting for battle. And there is in the bayou—is it the bayou tapestry?

I think it is. There is a classic picture—there's a random thought that just came to mind—there is a classic picture there of a soldier who is on horseback, and he has his sword, and he's taking his sword, and he is gently sticking it in the rear ends of the soldiers who are in front of him. And in the inscription in the tapestry below, it says, the captain comforts his troops.

And it is, you see, from the Latin. It doesn't mean that he sang them, oh, have a happy evening. No, it was that he mobilized them for action. And some of us want simply to be comforted as per some kind of soothing songs. Oh, comfort me, would you? And most of us, what we need is to be prodded and prepared and established for battle. Most miserable Christians that I have ever met, running here and there looking for comfort, would do better to take front place in the enemy ranks and, having been strengthened and encouraged, take their place in the front line of battle. Why, then, did we send him what was the mission?

Well, the mission was to investigate, to strengthen, and to stabilize. Verse 3, So that no one would be unsettled by these trials. One of the best ways to help people not to be unsettled by trials is to prepare them for the trials that they're about to potentially unsettle them. That's why when I'm flying, I always like it when the guy up front, having seen the radar screen, announces what we might expect. It helps you, in the experience of it, to know that he knew it was coming. I don't like it the other way around, particularly. I don't like that long, long silence.

In the same way when you go to the dentist, the good dentist, in my estimation, says to you, Now, there's gonna be a wee bit of this and a wee bit of that and a wee bit of the next thing coming up in the next few seconds. Now, that covers a multitude of sins, but it's good just to know it's coming. I don't like that. Wow!

What was that? Oh, I'm sorry, I should have told you. Yes!

Oh, yes! That usually happens. One of the best ways to prevent people from being unsettled by their trials is to let them know that there are trials that are going to come. That's why Jesus said, In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. In the country western song, I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.

Along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain sometimes. And that, you see, was part of the mission of Timothy—to go to the Thessalonicans and let them know, listen, loved ones, when it becomes dreadfully difficult, when it seems as though your faith is almost crushed out of you, it's all in the Father's plan. Timothy might have taken his Pentateuch, his Old Testament. He may have gone to the very end of the book of Genesis, and he may have told them the story of Joseph, how as a teenager he was thrown into the pit, and how his brothers just stopped short of killing him, and how he went through all of that pain and agony of separation, and how at the end of it all he looks his brothers in the face, and he says to them, You intended this for evil, but God intended it for good. And some of us tonight are in the midst of trials and in the midst of difficulties, and we need someone like a Timothy to come alongside us, to strengthen, to encourage, and to stabilize.

Our time is gone. I put those four little notes at the bottom of the page, those of you who have the page in front of you—just something for your further investigation. You'll note the place of sensible decision-making. I like the practicality of verse 1.

We thought it best. Beware of people who are always explaining their Christian lives in terms of, you know, the great movements of the universe and great words from the heavens. In the vast majority of cases, God anticipates that having given us the ability of a rational mind, we would do what seems best. Note also the fact of persecution. Note also the reality of Satan. Satan is the slanderer, our adversary, the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. He tempts us to sin, and then he accuses us of sin. Dirty rascal.

Isn't that it? He tempts us to the action, and then he comes and says, How in the world could you ever do this? In through the back of our minds he sows a dirty thought, and then he knocks on the front door, and he says, And how did you ever think that thought?

And we need to learn to tell him that he should go back to the place that has been prepared for him. And finally, notice the place of pastoral care. God has purposed that we would be put together in families and in local churches, and God has purposed that he would give the privilege to some of watching and warning and leading and feeding. Those are the elders in the church. Some receive support financially so that we might give ourselves to the study of the Scriptures and the edifying of the people. Others serve as elders in our church, prepared and as supported as a means of their own endeavors.

But the distinction is a marginal distinction in the sight of God and in the purposes of God, and myself accepted from the thought. I trust, loved ones, that we pray for our leaders and for our elders. And we thank God daily for the privilege of being nurtured and cared for as a result of a genuine commitment to pastoral care. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.

Alistair returns in just a minute. You may have heard me talking about the book we are recommending to listeners right now. It's a book titled God You Are, 20 Promises from the Psalms for Kids. This is an illustrated book that presents a collection of 20 readings. Each reading focuses on a short verse from the Psalms that explains what the Bible tells us about God's nature and his love for us.

The book uses language and examples that make it easy for young children to relate to and to understand. Request your copy of the book God You Are when you donate to support the Bible Teaching Ministry of Truth for Life. You can give through the mobile app or online at slash donate. By the way, on Thursday, we're beginning a study in Mark's gospel that focuses on parables and stories Jesus told about the Kingdom of God. If you'd like to follow along using a 10 session study guide that goes along with Alistair's teaching through this series, it's available to download for free along with the messages. Go to slash Kingdom. Let me also mention that you can own Alistair's teaching through all 16 chapters in Mark's gospel on a single USB drive for just $5. Go to our online store at slash store.

The series is simply titled A Study in Mark. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father God, I do pray that your Word will take root in our lives tonight. Encourage those of us who are weary and disappointed, those of us who think we'll never make a contribution because we're too young and too timid and too frail.

Thank you that you put your treasure in old clay pots so that the power might be seen to belong to God and not to us. Teach us, Lord, how to play the role that Timothy played. Teach us how to face persecution. Teach us how to care for one another as brothers and sisters.

For Jesus' sake we ask it. Amen. Amen. Thanks for listening. Tomorrow we'll conclude our study in 1 Thessalonians as we hear Timothy's good news and learn why Christians of all people should strive to maintain relationships rather than let them drift apart. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-25 05:41:08 / 2024-06-25 05:49:46 / 9

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