A HIGH CALLING INDEED
Lord, we depend on the strength we derive from one another.
Read 1 THESSALONIANS 2:17 – 3:5
Paul’s Longing to See the Thessalonians
17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
3 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”’ (John 21:16)
Paul speaks here, as elsewhere (Rom 1:13; 15:22), of the opposition and hindrances that have impeded his plans to visit and encourage believers. His detractors accused him of running away from Thessalonica when the going got hard, abandoning his disciples, and failing to care enough for them to return and visit. He says that he was torn away (2:17), using a Greek verb not used elsewhere in the New Testament implying bereavement (‘we were bereft of you’ in the RSV) (John Stott, Thessalonians, IVP, 1991, p61). He really wants to visit them, despite being turned away by satanic interference. The apostle reveals his loving, pastoral heart here and his care for the well-being of those he has led to Christ and has also discipled. Is this a picture of your motivation for Christian service and ministry?
There is a further insight into what inspired God’s servant here. He regards the Thessalonians as his hope, joy, and crown, in which he will glory when Christ returns (19). He also reassures them that they will be in the presence of Jesus when He comes. This use of hope is not like our modern usage of the word, but it is rather a confident assurance built upon God’s firm promises. ‘For Paul, “hope abides” (1 Cor 13:13, AV) in the sense that one lives in absolute confidence of a sure future that has been guaranteed by Christ’s own resurrection from the dead.’ (Gordon Fee, Thessalonians, Eerdmans, 2009, p108) This hope of glory should give us strength to fulfill our calling today.
Sending Timothy is no cop-out. This young man is God’s fellow-worker (3:2) – a high calling indeed and a huge commendation. He is sent to strengthen and encourage them in their faith and then to bring news back to their founder and team leader. Pastors cannot always meet the needs of those they care for; sometimes they should delegate.
Do you see yourself as God’s fellow-worker? He does (1 Cor 3:9) Give thanks to God for this immense privilege and ask for grace to fulfill its responsibilities.
Lord, help us not to be shaken by the afflictions that we suffer or that we see others in Christ suffer.