Paul had just likened his care of the church to a mother who sacrificially cares for her children (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9). Now he uses a father-analogy; starting by saying that Father God knows everything about him. Paul had learned the art of spiritual fatherhood from understanding the character of God. As children learn to model their lives on their fathers, so Paul modelled his life on the Lord.
The apostle did not bring the gospel to Thessalonica and then leave it for the people to interpret it as they wanted. Paul explained the gospel and instructed them how to live in a way which pleased the Lord. A similar set of rules for godly living can be found in Titus 2:1-15; the purpose of that lifestyle training is that, "… in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive" (Titus 2:10).
Fatherly instruction was like an apprenticeship. The reluctant needed encouragement, the hurt needed comfort, and everybody needed to be urged on to learn and to live, to worship and to work so that God would be glorified. Paul's discipleship training method was to learn by trusting and obeying. The lazy needed rebuke (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13) and the fainthearted needed an apostolic prompt to get on with the work of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:7).
Many workplaces have active mentoring programmes. Yet many believers have nobody to mentor them, to take an interest in them, to pray for them and to lead them by example. Where are the godly people who can act as spiritual fathers? It may be that you could be such a person, urging a younger believer into patterns of godly behaviour which you have learned in your relationship with the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:1). Or it may be that you should pray that the Lord will lead you to a spiritually mature believer who demonstrates gospel values in their lifestyle. We all need to be encouraged to be authentic gospel messengers; and we all need to be able to encourage others.
© Dr Paul Adams