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Gospel Encouragement for Leaders

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (NIVUK)

Many believers feel the need of encouragement as they seek to follow Jesus. They look to pastors and teachers in the same way that the early Christians looked to Paul and his apostolic team. There is often a presumption that because God's servants keep on giving sacrificially to their flock, they do not need any encouragement themselves. That is far from true. And if their ministry is supported by your gifts, you have not paid them to be your servants.
 
Paul was greatly heartened by Timothy's report when he returned from Thessalonica, dispelling thoughts that the church had been crushed by persecution or had turned against him. Hostility and opposition to the gospel had become routine for the apostle, and he had prayed that the church in Thessalonica would be spared the worst of what he had experienced. Most of all he was overjoyed to learn that their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was strong and growing.
 
Like concerned parents who are relieved to know that their offspring are safe, Paul and the team felt that Timothy's positive news enabled them to be reassured and continue in ministry with great joy. The Lord had answered their prayers; their gospel work had not been in vain. Their intercessions for the welfare of the church turned to praise and a renewed longing to invest more teaching in Thessalonica in the future. God had taken their ministry and used it to build a church of people who were glad to follow Jesus, despite opposition.
 
Do not assume that the Bible teaching and pastoral ministry you receive is your right: it is a privilege. Of the ten lepers who Jesus healed, only one came back to give praise to God (Luke 17:15-19). Perhaps Jesus was teaching the disciples not to rely on positive feedback from everybody, but it was certainly right that one did return to thank the Lord for the ministry he had received. God is building you into His church to worship and serve Him, but it usually comes at considerable personal cost to those who have been gifted as teachers and pastors. Do you thank God for them, letting them know how you are growing in your faith? They need a little encouragement too. It will spur them on to joyfully minister more to you and to others, strengthened by the knowledge that the Lord has used them to help you.

Prayer 
Father God. Thank You for the people You have gifted to help draw me to Jesus, and to encourage, teach and correct me. I am sorry for assuming that it is my right to take their ministry without understanding that they also need a little encouragement. Please help me to value their hard work in the gospel. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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