In the Apostle Paul`s first letter to the church of Thessalonica, he uses an illustration regarding the manner in which he labored among them as he preached to them the gospel of God. The illustration is that of a father with a child who is coming to years. He no longer needs the cherishing that a nursing mother provides [I Thess. 2:7]. Rather, he has reached that teenage time of life where the next steps are adulthood and the responsibilities it demands.
Three words are used to classify the instruction Paul has given: exhortation, comfort and charge. These words are in the order of their necessity. Exhortation is the foundation. The word means "to encourage or advise." This is an instructional period, and it is to be filled with words of explanation and expectation. Whether by persuasive discourse or animated argument, exhortation warns of dangers, cautions from experience and incites the imagination to great achievements.
What follows exhortation is, of necessity, comfort. This is not the comfort of a child by its nursing mother. That time has passed. This is the comfort of a child from the wisdom and experience of a father. It is the comfort needed in the face of failure.
For all our exhortation: for all our advice and counsel, correction and encouragement; we know our children will face failure. No one is excluded from it. It is one of the most common experiences of life. Yet, in life, nothing is accomplished without being able to face failure. The old adage -- "If at first you don`t succeed" is still sound today: we must learn how to "try, try, again."
Letting our children know that we have failed helps them place their failures in perspective. Failure is not a commentary on self-worth, if we will learn to make it a cobblestone on our way to success. It is the attitude that matters most: the willingness to try. Whether a classroom assignment or a new opportunity on the job, our willingness to try our best opens best tomorrow`s doors.
In our efforts to gain knowledge and master skills, we will find failure. It can cause us to fear; or it can fuel our fervency. We can learn from our mistakes. Failure can draw us closer to success. We must develop the attitude to try again and the aptitude to learn from what we have tried. That is the "comfort" needed after our exhortation has been followed by a child`s first, floundering steps. That, and a charge.
This "charge" is not a charge of evil, as in a criminal offense. Nor is it a charge of debt, as in a monetary obligation. This is a charge of responsibility. It entails one`s ability to bear a burden, to carry a load. It marks a moment of maturity, when one rightly receives the watch care for that which is not his or his alone. This "charge" can be the entrusting of a truth, a trade secret, even treasure. It is the aim of our exhortation, and the result of our assessment of another`s success.
The Apostle Paul exhorted and comforted and charged the church of Thessalonica "as a father does his children," that they would walk worthy of God [I Thess. 2:11,12]. We, as fathers, are to exhort and comfort and charge our children, that they might walk worthy of us as parents. We are to instruct them, so that they might walk worthy of their mother`s love and their spouse`s trust. We are to instruct them, so that they might walk worthy of the trust placed in them by their life`s profession. We are to instruct them that they, too, might walk worthy of the Lord.