If you look at how your church spends most of its time and money, what would you say is the pride and joy of your church?
Some obvious answers come to mind. For some churches, their pride and joy is their building, or maybe some feature of it. For some it is their programs, or perhaps their liturgies. For others it is their heritage. For still others, it might be their doctrinal statement and strict adherence to it.
Paul’s pride and joy—his “hope” and “joy” and “crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming” is perfectly clear in these verses: it’s people. The Thessalonians, Paul says, are his “glory and joy.”
And that leads us to a second question: What is our pride and joy?
It’s probably worth asking how we are investing ourselves in the lives of others so that they, like the Thessalonians, will receive God’s word as God’s word. In what ways are we devoting ourselves to people so that they might know the power of God’s word at work in them?
It’s probably also worth being very specific in answering these questions. Who are we investing in—names, faces? When are we doing it—precise times and places? Can we think of explicit changes that have occurred in people’s lives as a result of our sharing God’s word with them?
And when we think of these people and these times, is our heart filled with the same kind of thanks and joy that Paul describes in these verses? Is our joy in these people and our involvement in their lives the greatest joy of our lives?
Frankly, I think we let ourselves off the hook way too easily on this. And that’s too bad, because I think God is still looking for people like Paul and Silas and Timothy—people who’s greatest joy is in loving people and sharing the Gospel with them.