I believe life is about growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we do that the rest of our lives find direction, meaning and purpose.
And one of the ways of God that leads us deeper into this kind of relationship is the pathway of self-giving.
I’m not talking about giving your money, though the happiest and healthiest saints are always the most generous. I’m talking about giving yourself.
We know from experience and from the Bible that the path of self-giving is the path of greatest joy and growth. It’s not free from risk and pain. But it is the path of greatest joy.
Paul said in Acts 20:35, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” More happy. More deeply satisfying. More rich and solid. Especially giving yourself.
This is who you are as a Christian. The moment you become a Christian, you are a giver by nature. self-giving is part of your nature, your essence, your identity.
Listen to Jesus: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him [that’s what it means to be a Christian] will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
That is who you are. You are a spring. You don’t do a spring. You are a spring. Whoever believes in me, Jesus said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). That’s who you are. You are a spring. You are a fountain.
And what makes springs and fountains happy and healthy is when they make streams. If you stop them up, they stagnate. If you let them give — if you let them become what they are — they stay clear and healthy and life-giving and happy.
Let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12.
Seven Ways Paul Gave Himself
Now listen to Paul as he tells us seven ways that he gave them himself. Please, don’t think of this as for someone else. Be encouraged to become what you are in Christ, a fountain, a spring, a giver of yourself.
1. First, Paul took a risk.
Verse 2: “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”
Going to church or going back to church is risky. Many of you have had bad church experiences, you’ve been hurt or disappointed or neglected or even rejected.
Taking the step of going is big. Walking into a new church with all the unknowns, is taking a risk
It’s the same thing getting into a small group or volunteering to serve. It’s risky, you could get hurt again, you could be disappointed again, you might not click or it might not be the right fit.
But that’s what the Gospel is all about – taking a risk, living and giving our lives to others. Loving and serving and growing. You can’t do that if you live an isolated, careful life.
Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and take a risk
2. Paul lived with integrity.
Verse 3: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”
He gave them the truth and kept himself pure (that word for “impurity” is regularly used by Paul for sexual sin). He wasn’t doing this to find an inappropriate relationship.
He’s saying look guys our motives for helping you, for sharing the Gospel with you was from a heart of integrity. Integrity is not living perfect, but it’s being quick to admit your failures, your mistakes, asking for forgiveness – It’s being open, honest and of good character.
Our desire should be to live lives of integrity so that we can be a positive helpful influence on others.
We are not perfect, but we do have Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit.
3. Paul was not a People Pleaser.
Verse 4: “We speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Verse 6: “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.”
People-pleasing makes people into phonies or pretenders. It usually means they are deeply insecure.
What they want most is your approval. And so they are not real. They will do or say anything to make you happy, to avoid conflict or get you to like them
We all have some of these tendencies of wanting people to like us or to get their approval. That’s not wrong, it’s just should not be our primary motivator for doing things..
That is not giving yourselves. You never really know the real person. Paul will have nothing to do with that. He was all about pleasing God – His focus was on listening to God, obeying God, Sharing the good news about Jesus.
Relax in Jesus, and be who you are — warts, wrinkles, scars, and all.
4. Paul was Honest & Humble.
Verse 5: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness.”
Flattery is using language not for the sake of truth, but for the sake of manipulation. You want something.
In this case, Paul was being accused of buttering them up as a way to get money. They say he wanted their money, not their souls. And he says, “you and God know that is not true.”
We should live our lives the same way, not trying to manipulate people to get what we want, to get our way, to make more money.
We should not go to church or get into a small group to better our financial position or our status or to take advantage of someone else’s generosity, but to give ourselves.
Listen to verse 9: “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” He was not after their money. He was after their hearts for their good, he wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus.
He was there to give them himself. When you give yourself, you don’t flatter, and you don’t position yourself for money, and you don’t expect to be served. You are there to give. That’s who you are in Christ — a giver.
That should be our attitude when you go to church, when we join a small group, when we volunteer to serve. Not what can I get, but what can I give.
5. Paul Cared Deeply for others.
Verse 6–8: We could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
He exchanged a relationship of power for a relationship of affection. This is a very vulnerable thing for a leader to do, or anyone really.
Caring about people and caring for people is part of our calling to give ourselves to each other.
Don’t ever think you are above this. Don’t ever think you are too sophisticated or too self-sufficient, or too cool to give yourself like this — showing tender affection like a mother with her children.
Who can you show kindness to? Where can you build meaningful relationships that lead to care and friendship.
For some of you it starts in your homes, with your spouse or with your family. But don’t stop there. You can be a part of a group, serve on a team, be a mentor or pray for people and encourage people that are hurting or struggling.
Ask God to change your heart, to help you care deeply about other people and how you can love and serve others.
6. Paul treated people right.
Verse 10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.”
He is not saying he was sinless. What this means is: We honored God, we treated people right, and we gave no one a legitimate reason to blame us for our behavior.
He was above reproach. What a beautiful thing — what a compelling thing — when we can be real and be good. He walked in integrity.
Paul was open, vulnerable and real. There was nothing fake about him. He was genuine, he treated people with respect, love and care. He was full of truth and grace, which made it hard for people to find fault in him or accuse him of anything shady.
7. Paul was an Encourager
Verses 11–12: “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.”
And the legacy was not the memory of himself, but the kingdom and the glory of God.
Paul was a great encourager, just like a father encourages his children, so we can be known as an encourager, instead of a complainer.
Who can you encourage? Write a note, send a text, say a prayer, visit, call.
Bottom Line: You Have Something to Give, Choose a life of giving Yourself.