…but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us….For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory…But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you….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? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thess 2:7ff
Read through 1 Thessalonians and ask yourself, what is the heart and goal of Paul’s ministry?
I find his emphasis on people striking. It feels a bit unnatural, coming from my Western, goal-oriented, productivity-focused culture. The Christians of the Thessalonian church are not first of all clients, or group members, or employees, or even colleagues. They’re Paul’s spiritual children (v7, 11).
Similarly, what is Paul’s crown, his joy, his big achievement, his success story? What is he going to put on his CV or talk about in his year-end appraisal? What is he going to spread before Jesus Himself at His coming? It’s not attendance figures, or annual turn-over, or any other objective ‘thing’. It’s the Thessalonians themselves (v19-20).
I’m realising I’m much too good at valuing the objective, visible ‘achievements’ over the slow, often unseen process of investing in and loving other people. And loving people for themselves, not as a means to some more concrete, ‘higher’ goal. Happily, God has got no such problems! I’m praying for a heart more in tune with His.