7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 2 The. 3:7-9
The most amazing thing about the Apostle Paul is that he deliberately chose to live the kind of life that he lived. Amazing it is, and yet we are also called upon to choose to live the given life. We are free to live any kind of life we want, but scripture determinedly recommends that we choose the given, or crucified, life.
Because this is the only way to set a Godly example.
What do I mean when I say that Paul deliberately chose the given life? The easiest thing for a man of God is to accept – tacitly or explicitly – to be ministered to. Apparently, the Apostle Paul set his own standard for the kind of life that he wanted to live. No doubt, there were people who told Paul that he must not work. But Paul had his own standard of life that he had chosen to live, and he stuck to that.
It is not easy to choose the given life because a cost is involved; and the cost is so tremendous that few believers can afford to pay it. The price is our own lives, given for the sake of Christ.
But Paul was a man who chose to give his life for Christ, and for His church. Paul chose to pay the price.
The Apostle Paul states here that he had the power to not work. Where did that power come from? It came from God, for God says in His Word:
“Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” (Deut. 25:4)
But Paul sacrificed this power that he had from God to the end that he might become an example to the churches.
What example was Paul setting?
Remember Paul told the Corinthians,
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
When Paul therefore tells the Thessalonians that he was setting an example for them, it was the example of Christ that he was setting. But exactly what example of Christ was he setting here?
The example of Christ that Paul set for the Thessalonians was that Christ came not to be served, but to serve (Mk. 10:45).
It was not easy for a man of Paul’s calibre to work with his own hands. Aside from the power that he had from God to not work, there was something else that could have prevented Paul from working with his own hands. That “something” was his flesh. Had Paul considered his status in society, he would have found it very difficult to humble himself to the level of working with his own hands.
But Paul did not consider himself. Instead, he looked at our Lord Jesus Christ who, being God, chose to humble Himself to the state of a man, indeed, a man of sin.
That is the consideration that we all need to have when our pride comes up to block us from doing God’s will. God’s will is for us to humble ourselves, and to put ourselves in the position of a slave. That is the only way we can serve God in the Spirit.
A true father sets an example. Jesus told the Jews,
“2 The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Mat. 23:2-3)
In other words, Jesus was telling the Jews: “Do not live the kind of life they are living. Live a different kind of life.”
The scribes and Pharisees would not give an iota of their lives, although they spoke words to the contrary. They therefore did not set an example to follow.
That is why Paul set such a high standard for his life. He wanted to become an example, an example of Christ. For Christ it was who came to serve and not to be served.
All of this – Christ’s example, Paul’s life, and the call upon us to follow Paul – all is born of love; the love that a father has for his children.
[Paul led by example]