I remember many years ago starting a new job working in a warehouse receiving shipments and putting them into their appropriate places. For the first three months I was on probation, I was working through a period of time testing my abilities and character. Once past the three months I received a letter from the president of the company welcoming me to the “family”, I was given a formal evaluation with encouraging responses and hopes of a bright future within the company.
As new believers working through some of their first experiences particularly in the face of adversity would have been encouraged by the words of Paul’s first letter to them. Reading the introduction to this letter reminded me of that letter (in the sense of being encouraged) I received early on in my job as a warehouse receiver.
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and you endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess.1:3)
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (vs.6)
“…you became a model to all the believers” (vs.7)
“…your faith in God has become known everywhere. (vs.8)
These words of encouragement and acknowledgment for the Thessalonians would have bolstered their confidence and faith in the work that they were doing, learning for themselves to continue the work of Paul and the other apostles after they left.
Imitation… verse 6 holds one of the essential keys to leadership in the church today. When we as leaders do the best we can to model the life of Christ in all that we do, we effectively become better leaders. Imitating Christ’s love should reveal through us His perfect example of love and forgiveness. Even as new Christians the Thessalonians became models to all the believers, it was their faith in God that became known.
Boldness, confidence, love, prayer-fulness, thankfulness and encouragement. These are a few of the themes we can discover in the short 25 verses that make up the words of Paul as written in the book of Philemon.
Paul displays for us the boldness he had and the boldness we ought to have in approaching our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a boldness shaped by the confidence that he had in God to prepare the heart of Philemon to receive Onesimus back into his home as a new brother in Christ. Understanding the source of love in his own life we see how Paul communicates his love to others through this letter. Prayer and thankfulness are poured out between the partnership Paul and Philemon shared in their faith together. This models for us a need to continuously pray for each other as believers, to carry on loving and caring for each other. Not only is Paul encouraged but he is filled with joy because of the work that has been completed through Philemon, he continues to encourage him as a friend and Christ follower to accept the changes in the new life of Onesimus.
As I journey ahead I pray that with God’s help and using the people He puts into my life that I can apply all these examples (actions) to my own life.
Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend or co-worker and used this expression “it’s a small world”? I am referring to the intricate web of human connections that are a part of all of our lives. I believe that God in his own timing connects each of us with other people according to his plan for a purpose.
As I look into the personal letter written by Paul to Philemon I see how God used their relationship (their connection) to not only help change the life of Onesimus but also as an example for us of Paul’s passion for the lost and his influence as a leader.
Onesimus, a runaway slave from the house of Philemon is hiding out in Rome and through God’s design connects into Paul’s life that at the time is imprisoned and becomes a Christian. Knowing that Onesimus needed to right himself with Philemon Paul sends him back to Colosse with this personal letter urging Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him as a brother in Christ.
“I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of Love”(vs. 9), this appeal as leaders should be the focus of how we should not only lead but in how train new leaders… in love. How better received is an appeal in love than a command or order from those who lead. In Paul’s words to Philemon we get a sense of respect and appreciation for the work that he has done and for the future work ahead of them.
As leaders we need to look back at 1 Corinthians 13 and be reminded of what leading in love requires. Leading requires patience, leading requires kindness, leading requires being humble and leading requires being truthful. As leaders when we come to the table with an attitude of love for others and for our creator we will be used to help build His kingdom.