Wednesday, February 04, 2015

God's fellow worker (Ministry in Thessalonians #13)

So, when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 
- 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4

At the end of chapter 2, we saw how Paul and his team prioritized presence in their ministry. It's no surprise when we find them sending one of their own, Timothy, to "strengthen and encourage" the believers in Thessalonica. Despite having the full authority and inspiration of the Holy Spirit behind his words, Paul knew that some lessons are not just taught, they are caught. Timothy's presence, and his steadfastness in the midst of trials, would strengthen and encourage the believers in ways Paul couldn't put into words.

What jumps out to me the most besides the continuation of this example of presence is Paul's description of Timothy: "Our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ." Paul could accurately have called Timothy "our fellow worker". In other passages, he referred to co-laborers in just that way. I find it significant that in a passage where he is trying to encourage them to not let trials unsettle them - the word literally means "move" - Paul highlights that Timothy labors not just alongside Paul, but alongside God Himself!

The implications for ministry are profound. To be God's fellow worker means we "work alongside" Him. It means we "cooperate" with Him in the task at hand. Most of all it means that spreading the gospel isn't our idea - it's God's. We're the ones coming alongside Him in His work.

As God's fellow worker, Timothy's assignment to Thessalonica is to strengthen and encourage them because of the certainty of trials. Trials are our destiny - they shouldn't unsettle us. Paul even goes on to say that his team had foretold their persecution. Whether they had divine insight or just read the signs of the times doesn't matter. Either way they knew what was coming, and they were right. It changed their location (they had to flee to Berea) but not their message. Not their purpose. Not their faith. They were God's fellow workers. Whatever happened, His work was going to be accomplished.

It is still so today. Trials, persecutions, difficulties - we face them all as God's fellow workers. But we face them with full assurance that He is with us in the midst of them, and that He is working it all together to accomplish His good purpose.

Don't be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. Be strengthened and encouraged as a fellow worker with God in the task set before you. He is faithful, and He will do it.

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