The Privilege and the Responsibility of Ministry
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:7
Today we are going to continue looking at what Paul wrote about his ministry to the church in Thessalonica. Paul was greatly moved by his love for this particular church. He was highly motivated to give of himself and to do whatever was necessary to impart to them the truths they needed to put down their spiritual roots and to grow and develop in Christ.
To do all that, Paul had to very quickly develop a genuine relationship with those church members. Paul actively sought out a relationship with these believers in the short time that he was with them — and that relationship was marked by certain characteristics, which we will look at in depth today.
Paul felt privileged to be called into the ministry and to reach the Gentiles for Christ (see 1 Timothy 1:12), but he also felt a great responsibility toward his calling and toward those to whom God had called him to disciple and minister. Paul’s role was one of a spiritual father, and he took that role and responsibility very seriously.
In regard to this role, he wrote, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (see 1 Thessalonians 2:7). Notice Paul’s gentle approach with these people. He wasn’t harsh or demanding — rather, he nurtured these church members as a mother would nurse her child.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
The word “nurse” is from the Greek word trophos, which literally means a wet nurse. In ancient Greece and in other cultures around the world, a wet nurse was not the mother of a child — rather, she was a woman called in to nurse a baby for its mother. By using this term “wet nurse,” Paul was defining his relationship with the believers at Thessalonica.
In essence, Paul was saying, “Some of you came to know the Lord through my ministry, and I have nursed you as my own children. Some of you were won to the Lord by others, — they have entrusted you into my care, and I’ve nursed you as though you were my own. Regardless of whether you came to the Lord through my ministry or someone else’s, you were all young in the Lord, and I treated you as though you were my children.”
As a mother cherishes her children, Paul cherished the believers in Thessalonica. The word “cherisheth” is from the Greek word thalpo, which means to warm, hold, cuddle, be tender toward, and nourish. It carries the idea of holding an infant in one’s arms and taking care of it — rocking it, helping it fall asleep, feeding it, and teaching it how to eat.
When a mother “cherishes” her child, she cradles that small child in her arms, feeds him, and makes him feel safe. By using this natural comparison, Paul was describing his attitude toward the church. He cared for them like spiritual infants that God had placed in his arms.
What tenderness we see here in the apostle Paul’s attitude toward these young believers! Paul didn’t see this church as just another new thing he was doing. Instead, he saw it as a new “baby” God had dropped into his life. Because Paul loved the Thessalonian church with his whole heart, he treated it tenderly, just as a mother would treat a brand-new baby. His responsibility was to nurse it, or feed it, and treat it with tremendous care.
We need to ask ourselves: How do we care for the new believers that God has brought across our path? Do we treat them with tenderness, as Paul treated the Thessalonians? I believe that today the Holy Spirit is imploring us to think carefully about this question. and to do all we can to help them get established firmly in the faith until they become strong. That’s the heart of the Father, and we are called to demonstrate His heart through our lives. What an honor!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I want to be sensitive to the needs of new and younger believers. Help me to pay special attention to those who are new. Even if I didn’t personally win them to Christ, help me to do whatever I can do to help them get on a strong path toward maturity if I see they are young, tender, and needy. Help me not to be self-absorbed with my personal interests but to put aside my own desires and respond to the needs of younger believers as a priority. Oh, Holy Spirit, help me to understand the great honor and privilege it is to minister to anyone, and especially to those who are young and new.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess by faith that I am sensitive to the needs of new and young believers. I do not see it as a burden to minister to them. I am thankful for those who ministered to me, and I count it a great privilege and responsibility to return this blessing by ministering to others who are young and new in the faith. I declare that the love of God in my heart is growing and multiplying and my concern for others is increasing. None of this is possible without the work of the Holy Spirit. So, Holy Spirit, I thank You for helping me grow in this area of my life.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Is there a new or young believer whom God has recently brought across your path? What are you doing to help him or her get established in the faith?
- When you were young in the Lord, who was the person who really paid attention to helping you get established in your faith? Have you ever taken time to personally thank that person for what they did for you?
- Can you think of a Bible character who helped someone else get established in the faith? Who is that person?