Friday, April 18, 2008

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

This passage is full of joy and relief. We’ve all had situations where we were beside ourself with worry about someone. We care about them, even love them, but they have been left vulnerable and we wonder if they have been able to bear up under their life situations. Paul had to leave the young believers in Thessalonica with little support and being persecuted. So, he sent Timothy back to see how they were doing. Paul loved the believers so much and he was so afraid for them.

Paul called the believers his glory and joy (2:20). It’s easy to overlook these words. How often do I think of fellow believers as my “glory and joy?” Paul had poured his life into this group of people. What we invest in is close to our heart. It reminds me of an artist shaping a work of art; that’s perhaps how Paul felt. He stood back and looked and felt a surge of joy.

Now, however, Paul was worried that he’d hear that the believers were broken and scattered by the persecution; that all his work would have been for nothing (v. 5). Now that summer is coming I can picture a beautiful sandcastle wiped out by a huge wave; so easily can all of our work be wiped out like it never existed.

When Paul hears the news that they endure and remain faithful his joy overflows. He can’t resist stopping a minute to exhort; he reminds them he had predicted they would suffer so they should not be surprised. Then the passage erupts in his words of joy. Here are his phrases, “fond memories,” “ your faith and love,” “now we really live, now that you are standing firm in the Lord.” What joy and relief he feels.

Last week a friend of mine, after many years of effort, became a US Citizen. She told me how overnight she feels secure in a way she can hardly describe. Paul says, “now I really live,” knowing his dear friends persist in the Lord. And what prayer does he leave with them? That their love would increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else. As I consider our body of believers at St. Matthews, I want to pray that we would have this love. It wouldn’t be a gift just for us; it would be a love which would cause others to know Christ.

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