Over the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I came home from work and my mother met me in the driveway. She looked at me and said, “David, I might have made a mistake today.” My mother is one of the kindest, most tender-hearted and gracious women I know, but she also has a hard time understanding boundaries. I responded, “Oh no, what did you do now?” She was reading a book called, “A Coach’s Life” about Dean Smith, the famous coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels. While reading the book, my mother discovered that Dean Smith’s daughter, Kelly, went to the same college that I did. Most mothers would have read that and thought it was a coincidence, but my mother thought it was a sign. She decided to write a letter to Kelly Smith telling her all about her great son, Dave. My mother handed me a copy of the letter after she had sent it out to get my approval after the fact. The cover of the letter was a picture of a golden retriever with his head slightly tilted. “Mom this is one of the worse things I have ever seen. I am a college football player and this letter is floating around campus?” She said, “If you don’t like the cover, you are not going to like the letter.”
I opened the letter and began to read, and I quote, “I know what you are thinking, who is Mrs. Kiehn and why is she writing me? Well, I’m writing you because I have someone I want you to meet. Some say he is
Mothers have special hearts for their children. There is nothing like a mother’s love. This is why mothers suddenly get super-human strength and courage when their children are facing terrible danger. Mothers are special. Mothers are truly one of God’s special gifts to our world. We all can learn a lot from our mothers. We can learn compassion, tenderness, sacrifice, love, mercy, and gentleness. Kevin Durant recently won the M.V.P for the NBA and said this in his acceptance speech, “We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” Kevin Durant echoes the thoughts of many of us. Our moms made us believe and their belief and love for us powered us to achieve more than we could have possibly imagined. The love and support that I received from my mother is the reason I am the man I am today. I learned how to give and how to love by watching her give her love to me.
I pray we will both learn to have a mother’s heart and to have kind of mother’s heart that would please and honor the Lord. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul commends his life to the people because he acted like a mother would with her own children. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8,
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 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. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though 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.
There are four aspect of a mother’s heart that we should focus on from this passage. First, we should aspire to have a gentle heart.
A Gentle Heart
Paul and his companions had only spent a few weeks in Thessalonica before they had to escape under duress in the middle of the night. Paul and Silas had been jailed at Philippi because of their preaching of the gospel of God. They were eventually released and, in the face of much conflict, they had boldness in God to declare the gospel of God to the Thessalonians. Paul is defending his ministry to the church. He came with integrity and grace to the church. He could have made demands as an apostle, but the scripture says that he was gentle among them. Verse 7,
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
When Paul was thinking about how to reflect his ministry to the church, he was led by the Holy Spirit to the gentleness that a nursing mother has for their own children. There is tenderness and sweetness that is seen when a mother nurses her child. It was a great blessing to watch the joy and gentleness of my wife as she nursed all of our children.
There are many reasons a nursing mother is a picture of gentleness, but one of the reasons is the closeness and the focused attention that occurs during nursing. Mothers are busy. They have a tremendous amount of things on their plates, but when they are nursing things slow down. Their energy and attention is fixed on their child. The closeness and the intimate intentional love is what Paul wants his readers to see. He treated the Thessalonians with a close and intimate love as a mother would give her own children. Remember Paul did not know the people for a long time, but he was gentle among them. He was tender-hearted.
Growing up in our aggressive and achievement oriented culture, gentleness is not often put forward as a virtue. Men do not want to be called gentle. They take it as an insult. Women are encouraged in corporate America to act more aggressively and with less gentleness in order to succeed professionally. As a young man, I viewed gentleness as weakness. I was blinded by cultural norms and did not see the value of gentleness. Gentleness is not weakness, but rather it is a gift from God. Godly men and godly woman should possess a gentle heart. Galatians 5:22-24:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.
1 Tim 6:11-12
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and should be pursued by all the saints. And notice how the pursuit of gentleness is not contrary to the fight for the faith, but pursuing gentleness is connected to the fight of faith. As we are led by the Spirit, we should bear the fruit of gentleness.
One of the reasons we do not have gentle hearts is because we are too busy. Busyness without focus can destroy a gentle heart. You may be asking, “But I thought gentleness was a fruit of the Spirit? How can busyness overpower the fruit of the Spirit?” When we have too much going on and too much stress, it is hard to be patient and gentle. If we are always in a hurry, our tones and our words tend to sound more harsh or sharp than we would like. A nursing mother slows down and focuses her attention on her own children. Our physical bodies and our emotions and attitudes are connected. We are embodied souls. God created us in such a way that our emotions and bodies would be connected. God created us with limitations. A lack of sleep or an unhealthy diet may affect our emotions, because our bodies and souls are linked. So if you do not sleep, you may wake up with less capacity to handle stress so that minor inconveniences or irritations by your family may result in your agitation. How you treat your body affects can affect your mood.
Do you have a gentle heart? Is your speech characterized by gentleness? If not, maybe it is not because you are wicked sinner (although that may be it), but rather that you do not understand your limitations. You are an embodied soul with a limited capacity. And because of our limited capacity, it is important to have a gospel-focused heart.
A Gospel Heart
Paul was consumed by the gospel. He lived with a laser focus on the gospel. He was very busy, for he worked night and day (verse 9) so that he could focus his life on the gospel. Verse 8, “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.” Paul was always ready to share the gospel. He lived as a
Verse 2, “We had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”
Verse 4, “We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak.”
Verse 8, “Ready to share with you not only the gospel of God.”
Verse 9, “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.”
Paul lived to make the gospel known.
The reason why Paul had a laser focus on the gospel is because He knew the origin of the gospel. This was the gospel of God. This is not the message of a mere man, but this is a message born of God. Paul lived his life and eventually would give his life for this message. Paul teaches what the meat of the gospel is in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10:
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The gospel requires people to turn from idols. Human beings were created to worship and serve God, but in our flesh we serve idols. Idolatry is the extreme admiration, love or reverence for something or someone other than the one living and true God. Idols could be images carved of wood or stone or they could be the idols of the heart: money, relationships, lust, success, comfort, etc. Anything that takes God’s rightful position as first in our lives is an idol.
Our idolatry is rebellion against God and places us under condemnation. The end of verse 10 speaks of “the wrath to come.” The wrath that all humans face is the wrath to come from God Almighty. A holy God has to punish sin. The punishment for idolatry is death and separation from God in a literal hell. Hell is described as a place of unquenchable fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth. If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, understand the great danger you are facing. I spoke with a man this week who did not believe in life after death. He simply thinks we die and cease to exist. Friend, this is not the message of the Bible. The Bible speaks of a wrath to come…but it also speaks of One who came to deliver us from that coming wrath, Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead. Jesus came and lived a perfect life and sacrificially died to pay the penalty of our idolatry. His death and resurrection gives eternal life for all who would turn from idols to serve the living and true God.
Notice the process in becoming a Christian. First, you recognize you are guilty of idolatry and in danger of the wrath to come. Second, you realize that only Jesus delivers you from the wrath to come by taking the wrath on the cross for you. Third, you turn from idols to God. This is the start of the Christian life. Lastly, you actively serve the living and true God and wait for Jesus to return. The Christian must make a decision to become a disciple. A disciple serves God and waits for Christ’s return. A Christian must choose to start the journey with Christ and must choose to continue on that journey with Christ. Friend, this is not a message from man, but it is the gospel of God.
And because it is the gospel of God, Paul lived his life with a gospel-focused heart. Mothers, I plead with you to be consumed with this gospel. Every parent wants to provide a good life for their children, but sadly most Christian parents do not understand how to provide this good life. We want our kids to experience comfort and joy, but if we do not focus on the gospel, we will lead them directly to the idols of culture. The idols of our culture are success, comfort, wealth, happiness, sports, and everything else that encapsulates the American dream. If you do not teach your children the gospel of repentance and faith, you will lead your children to miss true success in being faithful to God, true comfort in eternal peace, true wealth in being rich towards God, and true happiness in forgiveness.
Our world provides many overt dangers for children, but it is also full of other dangers that subtly serve the spirit of the age and bring our precious children away from Christ. What are you pushing your children to that may lead them away from cherishing Jesus as their supreme treasure? What are you pursuing that may lead you away from cherishing Jesus as your supreme treasure? Focus your life and home on the gospel. And remember a gospel heart is not one of one merely of words, but one of sacrifice.
A Giving Heart
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.
One of the greatest things a mother to give to her children is her very self. You do not just give your kids your words, but your character, your passion, your joy, your steadfastness, and your love.
Mothers, I know that there are days you feel that you are not accomplishing much with your children. There are days you want to give up. You are going to have days like that, but in those days remember Galatians 6:9:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
We will reap a harvest. Beloved, press on!! Give yourself to your children. We have many wonderful, godly saints in our congregation that have lived a life of sacrifice for their children. In talking with them, I have never heard any one of them complain or bemoan the sacrifices they made to their children. They considered it a great privilege to lay down their lives for their families. If anything, they wish they could have done more.
We need to learn from mothers like this and follow their example. We need to give not only the gospel, but our very own selves to our children. This is the calling of mothers. Mothers give their youth to their children, they give up their bodies for the children, they give up their hobbies for the children, and they give their very selves so their children would find life. The ultimate goal of motherhood is to help children find life, not the life of the American dream, but the blessed life of God through Jesus Christ. True life is only found in Him. Beloved, we are called to give ourselves for the sake of others. And remember, God isn’t asking you to do anything that He hasn’t done Himself. Jesus Christ gave himself as our ransom so we could live and now, Jesus asks you to follow him in giving yourself so that others could live.
A Glad Heart
The motivation to give one’s self is love. Verse 8,
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.
The life of God is not a life of drudgery, but a life of joy and love. Our love for our families should be the bedrock for our willingness to share all that we have, the gospel and our lives, with our families.
One of the best things I have received from my mother is her love. As I have entered adulthood, I look back and I realize how much she gave to me and sacrificed for me and it was truly amazing. She gave a lot, but it never seemed a burden to her because it wasn’t a burden. It was a labor of love. I have learned to love from my mother. I pray that I would live with my mother’s heart of love. She loved with a glad heart and I pray I do as well. The glad heart of love of a mother to her children is a small picture of the glad heart of love of God to His children.
All of life serves as a reminder of the great love God has given us in Christ. Our mothers demonstrated their love for us, but the truly amazing love of God is demonstrated in, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This was not an act of drudgery for our Lord, but one of love. For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross. 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” We see God’s love in the care of our mothers, but that is a window to help us see the ultimate gift of love of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mothers joyfully give their lives so their children may live; Jesus joyfully gave his life so his children may live; and I pray, that we would be ready to give our lives so others may live.