“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 3:8 NIV).
In this passage of his first letter to the Thessalonians, written from Athens (see Acts 17), Paul has been explaining how he had missed the Thessalonian Christians and had been concerned for them. After waiting as long as he could stand, he sent one of his most trusted friends, Timothy, to check in on them. When Timothy arrived back in Athens, he found that Paul had moved on to Corinth and he went there to give his report. When Paul heard about the Thessalonians’ standing firm in their faith, his heart was greatly encouraged. The church was thriving! Paul was so filled with joy that he told them it felt like now he was really living. It’s almost as if he wrote, “I’ve been worried to death about you, but now that I hear you are well, I feel alive again!”
From the perspective of a pastor, I can relate to Paul’s joy. Few things bring us greater joy than seeing the people in our congregations, whom we love and care for deeply, growing in their faith and being transformed by the Holy Spirit. We know that we can do little to make this happen (see Mark 4:26-29), but when you grow we want to say with Paul, “Now we really live!” Success for a pastor is not measured in dollars, building campaigns, or memorized mission statements. It’s when a church member makes a sacrificial gift for the first time or when someone discovers and pursues their calling with ardor. It’s when a congregant makes a difficult decision out of obedience to God’s Word. It’s when someone visits a hospital to pray for a sick friend or when a congregation goes above and beyond in its generosity toward missions. It could even be something as simple as singing with heartfelt expression in worship (I love when the church sings so loud they drown out the band).
My prayer for you this week is that you, like the Thessalonians, would stand firm in your faith no matter what challenges the week presents, and in so doing, would fill my heart with joy so that I (or whoever your pastor is) can say with Paul, “Now I am really living!”