“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12, ESV)
What is a father's greatest weapon? Consider, for a moment, the power of words.
Paul saw his ministry as parental, especially for churches he had pioneered. When he wrote to the young Thessalonian church he reminisced over his fatherly role with them. The striking element to me is how he saw a father's conduct as word-based.
To Paul, he could not father without words. He had to open his mouth.
He mentioned three ways he did this with his spiritual children. Oh, that we might do this for our literal children!
First, Paul remembers how he had exhorted them. He had called them up to his side to urge them on.
Brutal fathers will command from a distance. A gentle and loving father will call a child to his side and speak. His words to his children are rooted in relationship. A man sets a tone within his household, so a good father will strive to create a safe atmosphere of love for his family. From that place of relational warmth a father is then able to exhort.
Our children need gentle urging. Life is a scary proposition for kids. We must show them the way. We must give them the word of God for the situations of life. With patience, we must draw out their questions, answering them with grace.
Second, Paul reminded them of his past encouragements. To encourage them meant he would console, comfort, or cheer up this young church.
Some may think of the mother as the encourager. But Paul saw this as a father's responsibility as well.
Imagine a household where the father is a stream of encouragement for all his children. I’ve seen men like this, men who fill their kids with good cheer and great courage. Their children become addicted to them. A father like this does not lose his masculine tone or male perspective. No, what flows from his lips lifts up his entire family.
Quick outbursts yield temporary results, but a long term atmosphere of discouragement. It is far better to lift them up with encouragement.
Finally, Paul charged them. This means in part that he testified to them.
Tell your children of God’s work in your own life. Testify to them of the lessons He has taught you and the corrections you have received. Tell them of the ways He has met your inadequacies.
Let them ask you questions as you testify, giving them an opportunity to mine the heart of the man they love. Declare what Christ has done in you, giving appropriate details. Charge them with what you have learned of Jesus.
Give them practical application on how to apply the wisdom and truth of God’s word to their own situation. Show them how you have applied it in your own life. Testify.
Our Father in heaven relies heavily upon His word to shape and mold us. Let us be imitators of God, fathers who speak. Use words of exhortation and encouragement with your beloved children. Charge them as they go through life, taking special care to give them the word of their heavenly Father.