1 Thessalonians 3:8-12:
8So, being thus tenderly and affectionately desirous of you, we continued to share with you not only God’s good news (the Gospel) but also our own lives as well, for you had become so very dear to us.9For you recall our hard toil and struggles, brethren. We worked night and day [and plied our trade] in order not to be a burden to any of you [for our support] while we proclaimed the glad tidings (the Gospel) of God to you.
10You are witnesses, [yes] and God [also], how unworldly and upright and blameless was our behavior toward you believers [who adhered to and trusted in and relied on our Lord Jesus Christ].
11For you know how, as a father [dealing with] his children, we used to exhort each of you personally, stimulating and encouraging and charging you
12To live lives worthy of God, Who calls you into His own kingdom and the glorious blessedness [[b]into which true believers will enter after Christ’s return].
In this chapter, Mr. Swindoll looks at how fathers can carefully and wisely influence his children to mold and shape them. He looks at the apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, whom Paul considered his children in the faith.
Mr. Swindoll takes from Paul’s writing five essential guidelines for dads. 1) Demonstrating a fond affection. 2) Leading a transparent life. 3) Exhibiting unselfish diligence. 4) Cultivating spiritual authenticity. 5) Being a positive influence.
1) Demonstrating a fond affection
Mr. Swindoll writes:
As we look at Paul’s life with his spiritual children, the first quality we see is affection: “Having so fond an affection for you … (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Paul made sure the Thessalonians knew of his deep love for them, his “children” in the faith.
Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible describes affection:
It means to “long after, to have a strong affection for.” The sense here is, that Paul was so strongly attached to them that he would have been willing to lay down his life for them.
John Gill in his Exposition of the Entire Bible describes it:
… as fond of them as a nursing mother is of her children, who, when absent from them but ever so little a while, longs to see them
Mr. Swindoll points out the research that has been done that shows that for a child to become a well-adjusted adult capable of healthy relationships and wise life-choices, a physical affection from his or her dad is essential.
It is interesting to see how much society has been affected by the lack of this. Many children are growing up without their father’s affections. The divorce rate has gone up, which is a result, then it exasperates the problem. It is now a vicious cycle. It would only take a few father’s standing up and breaking the cycle to begin to change things. (Please note, I do not believe that fathers are to blame for everything, they are only one piece of the problem.)
Mr. Swindoll prompts,
“Think about your children for a moment. If they had only physical nonverbal communication to go by, what message do you think they would receive from you?”
2) Leading a Transparent Life
Mr. Swindoll writes,
The rest of 1 Thessalonians 2:8 reveals the second guideline for dads to follow: lead a transparent life.
“… we continued to share with you not only God’s good news (the Gospel) but also our own lives as well, for you had become so very dear to us.”
Wow! I never noticed that before. Paul is pointing out that just sharing the God’s good news is NOT enough.
Mr. Swindoll writes,
“Your children must hear the gospel if they are to come to know the Savior you love; it’ll ring even more true if the good news comes from your own lips. But they need more than that. They need instruction about life, and they need a father who demonstrates how to live a godly life – mistakes and all. They need to see how you make decisions, what your values are, how you handle finances, and what makes you laugh. They need to hear you admit when you’re wrong and see you stand up for your faith. They need to know you inside out…”
I know many adults who stepped away from the good news because the person who shared it with them didn’t show it in their own lives. This is sometimes referred to as ‘walking the talk.’ Not too many people like or listen to a hypocrite.
Matthew Henry in his Concise Commentary on the Bible writes,
We should not only be faithful to our calling as Christians, but in our particular callings and relations. Our great gospel privilege is, that God has called us to his kingdom and glory. The great gospel duty is, that we walk worthy of God. We should live as becomes those called with such a high and holy calling. Our great business is to honour, serve, and please God, and to seek to be worthy of him.
I have read more commentary and gone back to the original text on this particular part of the scripture. Although it may not say exactly what Mr. Swindoll is using it to convey, I believe that the following verses help to support the thought of Mr. Swindoll. In fact, the whole point to being a Christian is to be more Christ-like. How much more important to display Christ’s image to our children. I think a better scriptural reference to what Mr. Swindoll is trying to convey here is Romans 2.
I ask you to consider, “Are my children seeing Christ in my walk?” “Is what I say consistent with what I do?”
3) Exhibit an Unselfish Diligence
Mr. Swindoll writes,
In 1 Thessalonians 2:9, we see Paul hard at work, making sacrifices for the sake of Christ.
“For you recall our hard toil and struggles, brethren. We worked night and day [and plied our trade] in order not to be a burden to any of you [for our support] while we proclaimed the glad tidings (the Gospel) of God to you.”
Another mark of a great father is hard work – diligence. … He expected that demonstrating solid, strong, and consistent commitment to work would speak as loudly as his words.”
… A hardworking father can help his children discover what motivates him and what spurs him on to get the job done, even when the task is unpleasant or hampered by difficulty.
Another thing that has affect society as a whole. So many people (not just fathers) rely on the government to support them. Some would like to get out but seem to be stuck in the system. Others are there by choice. When children are home and see their parent sitting around, doing nothing. That is exactly what they are going to do when they become adults. They will not have seen what discipline, determination and devotion are.
I think these go beyond just having a job outside the home. I think it also means demonstrating hard work in other areas. Inside the home, being willing to help out, maintaining the home, working together as a family. In the extended family, helping out older family members. In the community, helping others out, working on community projects, volunteering as a family. So even those who are not able to get a job outside the home, can find ways to exhibit an unselfish diligence (willingness or ability to work steadily and carefully). One of the key words here is unselfish.
Something to ask your self, “Do my children work FOR me or WITH me?”