1 Thes. 2:9-12 (ESV)

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. [10] You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. [11] For you know how, like a father with his children, [12] 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.

Paul, in writing this letter to the Thessalonian church, reminds them of the kind of ministry he had with them. He calls them to remember how bold he was when he came to present the Gospel; he reminds them of his purity of motive, God centeredness, gentleness, and hard work for God on their behalf (Verses 1- 10). He then calls them to recall how he was like a father to them (verse 11).

If someone said to you “I will treat you as a father treats his son”, would that comfort or terrify you? It is a sad truth that many people do not have great memories of their fathers. Tragically, many Christians have let this horrifying reality colour their concept of the very institution of fatherhood itself. There were, no doubt, bad fathers in Paul’s day who got drunk, beat their children and wives, gambled away the paycheck and generally did little fathering beyond procreation. But this did not stop Paul from using an analogy about fatherhood to impress upon the Thessalonian Christians how much he cared for them. And it should not stop us. There are many bad fathers in the world, but we will not allow them to redefine what fatherhood is all about. To be “like a father” to people is a good thing. We should not allow those who have abused the institution to prevent us from seeing the good thing that it is.

Paul does not leave us in doubt regarding how he was like a father. What he says about how he was a father to the Thessalonians is teaching us about the kind of fathers we should be.

He exhorted them – the word exhort here means “call to one’s side”. It is a form of the word used for the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Fathers should come along side of their children. They should be there with them. They should have their hands on the shoulders of their young ones helping them along as they learn how to tackle life with all its blessings and problems. Don`t bark orders from a sofa. Be with your kids.

He encouraged them. He was there with them giving comfort and assurance. He urged them on when they thought life was handing out more than they could handle. He urged them to persevere when things got tough. He instructed them so that when he was gone they would be able to do for themselves what he had trained them to do. This is fatherhood.

He charged them. The word here means “testify”, or “witness”. He told them what was right. When he saw them going astray he was not reluctant to let them know what the right way was. He showed them what the Bible said, told them how to obey it, how it related to a multi-religious culture, told them to guard themselves against the temptations that could lead them astray. All this and more.

And Paul compared all that to fatherhood. God has not left us without witness. And he will not abandon you to yourself as you tackle the most important job that can be tackled. God gives grace and mercy to help the Christian father in times of need. The times of need often seem insurmountable. In Christ, parenting need not be a crap shoot. He is a great God and He will enable you to parent as you submit yourself, as a believer, to Him. Get into the Scriptures and see.