Follow the Leader

8 Mar

Listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Paul issued a pretty harsh command to stay away from unruly brothers. We were told to purposefully stay away from people that profess to be Christians that do not live their lives according to the traditions taught by Paul. These people were out of line, out of order with the local church membership. This morning we’re going to see that Paul just didn’t talk the talk, he walked the walk.

Take a look at 2 Thes. 3:7-8.

Paul starts out this verse with a phrase we use on a fairly frequent basis. “You know.” You know you’re supposed to be at work on time. You know you’re supposed to file your taxes by April 15th. We tell it to our kids: You know better and we’re never satisfied when they tell us, “I didn’t know!” The Thessalonians had the knowledge., but what did they know? Paul told them, “You know how you ought to follow our example.” Ought means something you are compelled to do. It doesn’t matter if the compulsion is a result of a sense of duty or because of the cultural laws or customs. Paul’s command is in the present tense; they are to do it now. The Thessalonians observed first-hand how Paul and his associates acted so they ought to follow the example of Paul. They watched them, they sat with them; they ate with them; they worked with them. What they saw was what they got.

There was never a time where Paul acted one way when he was preaching and teaching and then acted another way on the job site. This is one of the biggest areas we fail at as Christians. You’ve heard about all the hypocrites in the church and I’m sorry to inform you that you’re one of them . . . and so am I. The truth is that Christians are people that are not perfect. All of us are on a journey to become Christ like. Use those opportunities when people point out all your faults to tell them about a walk with Christ. The Thessalonians ought to follow Paul’s example. Follow means behave in the same manner or imitate. Maybe I’m showing my age, but that’s okay. Remember the Public Service Announcement from the late 60s, or maybe it was the early 70s? Check out this video.

Don’t think your example doesn’t matter. Good or bad, people are watching you and will imitate you if they like you, respect you, or are under your authority. We need to walk the walk. Rom. 8:4 tells us to walk according to the Spirit. Gal. 5:16 says to, “Walk by the Spirit and you won’t carry out the desire of the flesh.” So Paul is an example that they ought to follow, and they had been following Paul. 1 Thes. 1:6, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thes. 2:14, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” Notice in both verses, they became imitators. Paul was their example, and they were examples to others.

Knowledge is power, so why follow Paul and the others? Because they, “Did not act in an undisciplined manner.” Paul and his associates walked a proper walk. It doesn’t mean perfect, but they did not act undisciplined. Before you go making assumptions about what all this means, let’s take a look at some definitions. Act simply means your behavior. Undisciplined means uncontrolled in behavior and manner. When you take the two together, a whole new meaning presents itself and based on the context of this letter, Paul is talking about idleness. Remember that there were a group of people that thought the Lord had already come. In 2 Thes. 2:2 Paul told them not to, “be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed by either a spirit, or a message of a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of Lord has come.” This second letter to the Thessalonians was to clarify what was going to happen before the Lord returned. Some folks were content to laze around and mooch off of everybody else and not support themselves. Paul had something to say about that.

Just so no one got the wrong message, Paul expounds in v. 8. Paul was a hard worker. He did not have a sinecure job. What a great word. Sinecure means a job that has a salary, but little or no work or responsibility. Paul was an apostle, an evangelist, a missionary.  That was what he was appointed by God to do, but he supported himself by making tents when it was required. 2 Cor. 11:27, “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” He didn’t expect a free meal, when he ate, he paid for it. When he wasn’t teaching, Paul was working with his hands. Labor and hardship together means hard, physical labor; unusual exertion of energy and effort. Night and day Paul worked. It was common in those days for the church to support its teachers, but Paul was addressing the criticism from 1 Thes. 2:5 where some had accused him of preaching because of his greed.

If you have your Bible, read 1 Cor. 9:13-18. Paul and his associated were not freeloaders. Establishing a church is hard work.  Earning a living is hard work. They needed to work night and day. There was a lot to do and little time to do it. Studying, mentoring, training, discipling. They worked because they didn’t want to be a burden. This was a new church with new converts. The labor and hardships they endured was necessary for a time. BUT, there needs to come a time that all churches financially support their leaders. While Paul didn’t expect or require support from the Thessalonian church, he did receive support from other churches. They were models of hard-working men of God willing to work hard while teaching and training others in the work of the ministry.

Paul was an example to these believers and is an example to us. He was a hard worker and he demonstrated his willingness to do what it takes to live the life of an authentic Christian. We would be wise to follow his example.

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