Vol. 6, No. 4
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When Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, he greeted them with tender and complimentary words. He remembered their "work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope..." (1 Thessalonians 1:3). He admired them for receiving the Word of God even in much affliction (1:6; 2:14). He gave them accolades for being such a good example to the churches in the area (1:8). Paul appreciated these brethren.
Paul had preached in Thessalonica to get the church started there (Acts 17:1ff.) As usual, there were some who gladly obeyed and others who bitterly opposed the teaching. In this case, those who were bitter became also aggressive. Upon not finding Paul, they aimed to punish some of those who had become Christians. Jason and some brethren were dragged to rulers of the city. They were accused of turning the world upside down and harboring those regarded as criminals (Paul and company). Such a troublesome beginning probably caused the church there to develop a closeness in the oft-sung-about blessed tie that binds. While Paul felt emotionally close to so many churches with which he had association, his words in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 express a special tenderness:
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you -- even I, Paul, time and again -- but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
Paul expressed an intense grief at not being able to see them for such a long time. He had a "great desire" to come to them "time and again," but Satan had hindered him. They were his hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing. Finally, Paul could no longer endure without at least hearing news from them. Although he did not like being left alone, he sent his companion Timothy to be sure that they were not tempted to fall away from their salvation, lest his "labor might be in vain."
These are good thoughts for our meditation. It is a time of the year when family ties are focused upon. We join with those we cherish and remember those from whom we are parted. We share memories and plan futures. During such a time of reflection, let us not only focus on our families bound by blood, but our family bound by the blessed tie. Jesus said that whoever did the will of his Father was his family (Mark 3:31-35). We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We remember those who have fought a good fight and gone on before. We long for those who have moved away but still share our very hearts. We love and appreciate those whom we get to see every Sunday and Wednesday, and hopefully in between. It is a blessed fellowship -- a partnership in the greatest purpose on earth -- in which we partake. May we ever cherish and remember our loved ones in the faith. They are, indeed, "our glory and joy" (1 Thessalonians 2:20).