12/12/16 A Missionary Heart

READING: 1 Thessalonians 1-5

I read this book today, and all I can think about are missionaries. Paul, of course, was a missionary who spent three Sabbaths preaching the Word and starting a congregation in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4). Opposition arose — actually, a riot erupted —  and Paul left the city. The apostle wrote this letter to the Thessalonian church to address issues he learned about from Timothy, whom he sent back to Thessalonica to check on the church. It’s in this letter that we’re privileged to read the heart of a missionary. 

For example, Paul prayed continually for the people he had reached: “we always thank God for all of you” (1 Thess 1:2). He loved them like a “nursing mother cares for her children” (1 Thess 2:7) and “as a father deals with his own children” (1 Thess 2:11). He encouraged them, comforted them, disciplined them, and urged them “to live lives worthy of God” (1 Thess 2:12). As a missionary who desired to leave behind a church grounded in the faith, he longed to see them again so he could help them continue to grow in their faith (1 Thess 2:17, 3:10). 

Moreover, Paul knew that the enemy stood against him and his work. We don’t know how the enemy did it, but it was Satan who “blocked” Paul from visiting the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:18). As he heard about the issues in Thessalonica, Paul was also concerned that “in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain” (1 Thess 3:5). He knew that if Satan had enticed the believers to abandon their faith, his work would have had little value. So burdened was Paul over his children in the faith that he sent Timothy there when “he could stand it [not knowing] no longer” (1 Thess 3:1, 5). That’s the burden of a missionary.  

Paul also understood, though, that believers could win the battles by wearing the armor of God. The armor metaphors are different than Ephesians 6:10-17 (showing us that Paul was concerned about lifestyle, not the particular piece of armor associated with each characteristic), but the picture is still similar: “Let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thess 5:8). Because God is our warrior who Himself has chosen to wear the armor (Isa 59:17), we can win these battles. Faith, love, and hope defeat the enemy — and missionaries have the privilege of telling that story where it hasn’t been told.  

ACTION STEPS: 

  • Take time to pray for missionaries today, focusing on those you know by name. 
  • Re-read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 and 5:12-22, and evaluate your own lifestyle. Make any needed changes.  

PRAYER: “Thank You, God, for missionaries. Grant them victory today in the battles they face.”     

TOMORROW’S READING: 2 Thessalonians 1-3