Leadership is influence. We all influence others in one way or another. Paul was certainly a spiritual leader and as we continue into 1 Thessalonians 2, we’ll see four qualities that he, Silas, and Timothy possessed. These qualities will enable us to lead and endure as well.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul says that their coming was not in vain. It was not without purpose or results. He had a vision of where he was going. God does not want us to live our lives in vain. We should not live unfruitful, unproductive days. Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is no vision, people perish. 2020 has been an emotional rollercoaster. We all need structure and order in our daily lives. The people of God are called to be people of purpose. Just like Paul was with Silas and Timothy, we are in this together. We need one another. God never intended for us to live the Christian life alone.
If we have ever needed clarity and courage it is now. We need to be biblical and bold in preaching the one true gospel. Paul and Silas had been disrobed, beaten with rods, and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16). That kind of suffering would have made most of us hesitant to go on for fear of being hurt again. Notice in verse 2 that Paul says, “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God….” Suffering often comes before success. Our best lessons are learned in the worst of times. Every leader will tell you their greatest growth came from the hard times, the valley experiences of life, days of crisis, days of challenge. We have to be persistent through those challenges. A crisis is distracting. We have to stay focused and let faith be more dominant than fear. The question is going to be, “What did you accomplish in 2020?” You know the old saying, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” Keep going. We have been entrusted with the gospel (v. 4). Great leaders excel in adversity. Don’t let your suffering hinder you, but let it help you help others. Physical disability, addiction, abuse, divorce, broken relationships, depression, financial bankruptcy, does not disqualify you, but rather it helps you to help others. That may be where you have been, or what happened to you, but it does not define who you are!
Paul was also a man of purity. Looking at his example in this chapter, we see several dos and don’ts of leadership. Don’t deceive (v. 3). We should have no hidden agendas, but instead should be full of integrity and sincerity. Don’t covet (v. 5). We should not want what someone else has. Competition and comparison kill contentment. Don’t burden (v. 6). We should not abuse authority or seek applause. Instead, do be gentle (v. 7). We need to be patient with others. Things take time. Do be affectionate (v. 8). We should genuinely love people and impart our lives to them. Do be authentic (v. 9-10). We need to be real and be ourselves with others.
In verse 7 Paul references a nursing mother and in verse 11 he says he cared for them like a father does his own children. Paul longed for them as a parent longs for a child. I know that same feeling. I look at my young staff that way. Leadership is all about relationships. A nursing mother imparts her own life to her child every time she feeds the baby. Hebrews 5 says we feed new believers the sincere milk of the word that they may grow and desire the meat of the word. We have to see people not as they are, but as they could be. Parenting takes a lot of patience. Aren’t you glad God is patient with us?
What do you need to do to be a lasting leader? I encourage you to make a list each morning of the one to three things you want to get accomplished. “If I do this one thing (two things, three things), it will be a successful day.” Remember to be purposeful, persistent, pure, and patient, to the glory of God!