It is instructive to consider how Paul showed his love and concern for the new Christians in Thessalonica:
- He sacrificed Timothy to go and see about their welfare (1, 2). He went without his friend’s companionship and assistance so that they could have his help. Paul and Silas and Timothy were a close knit team, and it must have been hard to let Timothy go. (In fact, reading the account in Acts 17, it seems that Paul may have been alone in Athens for a time, in which case the sacrifice was probably even greater.) But ‘love does’! Loving involves giving and putting others first. Real love is Christ-like in its quality and one measure of love is, ‘What am I prepared to give up for the sake of another?’ (By the way, there’s a saying that ‘’Two’s company; three’s a crowd.’’ Many of us will understand, from experience, how this can be so. But the grace of God can overcome all natural obstacles, and these three men were able to work together for the cause of the Kingdom of God.)
- He used words that conveyed how precious they were to him. He wasn’t afraid to let his feelings show. He told them what they meant to him; how much he wanted to be with them and how he prayed that it might be so. He poured this love into ink and letter format. Who should you drop a line to soon, to thank them, let them you’re thinking about them, and that you’re praying for them etc.? Still today, in this digital age, (and perhaps more so because of it), people love to receive hand-written letters. Many will be kept, and even discovered by family and friends after the recipient has died. Letter-writing can be a wonderful ministry in itself.
- He spelled out the difficult implications of what it means to be a Christian; he warned them about the uncomfortable ramifications of discipleship, just like Jesus did (3, 4). (We will return to this theme in tomorrow’s notes.) But Paul and his team showed ‘tough love’. ‘’Not that the troubles should come as any surprise to you. You’ve always known that we’re in for this kind of thing. It’s part of our calling. When we were with you, we made it quite clear that there was trouble ahead. And now that it’s happened, you know what it’s like.’’ The Message.
- He prayed. He prayed for their growth in love and holiness (12, 13). He prayed for the way back to Thessalonica to become unblocked so that he could see them again and serve them again (10, 11). He prayed ‘’earnestly’’…’’Night and day…’’ (Again, we will think a little more about the content of Paul’s prayer in Thursday’s notes.)
Still today Christian leaders can apply these timeless lessons from Paul, Silas and Timothy. We are to both show and tell God’s people how much we love them; serving them, sacrificing for them, praying for them, and being totally honest about all the implications of following Jesus.
‘’In the middle of our trouble and hard times here, just knowing how you’re doing keeps us going. Knowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.’’
This wonderful intertwining of hearts lies at the very core of pastoral ministry. May it be in evidence in every local church!