For the past few months, I’ve been studying the books of First and Second Thessalonians during my personal time in the Word. I’ve often tagged these books as being primarily about Rapture and the Second Coming.
While it is true that both of these books do have the prominent themes of Christ’s appearing–both to gather His saints to Himself and to carry out His righteous vengeance on those who do not believe– I have found that there is so much more to these books! As I’ve read and re-read these books, it has struck me how intensely personal Paul is in both of these books: Paul writes in such a tender, affectionate manner that his relationship towards this group of new believers is hard to miss.
Not only is Paul’s style of writing very personal and affectionate, but throughout each of these books, we see him develop a theme that is easily overlooked: Paul’s joy in the believers.
Read the following verses and pay close attention to how Paul expresses his affection and love for the Thessalonian believers:
1 Thess. 1:2-3 – We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thess. 2:8 – So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thess. 2:13 – And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
1 Thess. 2:19-20 – For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thess. 3:9 – For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
2 Thess. 1:3 – We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
2 Thess. 1:4 – Therefore we boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
2 Thess. 2:13 – But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved…
Did you catch that theme, repeatedly woven throughout all of those verses?
We give thanks and boast about you and you are our glory and joy and affectionately desirous of you: in each instance, Paul expresses the joy he finds in the Thessalonian believers.
Many times, this joy takes on the form of specific thanksgiving to God, reflecting the various aspects of their lives for which Paul is praising God. Paul finds great personal joy in their their faith, love, and hope (1 Ts. 1:2-3), their relationship with him (1 Ts 2:8), their reception of the Word (1 Ts. 2:13), their spiritual growth (2 Ts. 1:3), their perseverance in the face of persecution (2 Ts. 1:4), and last, but not least, the marvelous fact that God saved them (2 Ts. 2:13).
Plain and simple, Paul found incredible joy in these believers. In turn, I believe he has left us a beautiful example to imitate.
This concept of finding joy in other believers is somewhat of a foreign concept to me: concerning the Christian walk, we read passages that instruct us to find our complete satisfaction in the Lord. We find comfort and encouragement that God will accomplish His intended work in the life of the believer. We often hear about the importance of instructing believers towards greater maturity in Christ. We are prodded along towards godliness as we read that we are to love our brother.
All of these things are true and important in the Christian’s daily walk. But they all seem to be in reference to our own personal growth and maturity.
However, I don’t think I’ve ever grasped the concept that we are to find great and intense joy in other believers as we see God at work in their lives! Furthermore, not only are we to greatly rejoice in this, but it should produce in us the giving of praise, thanks, and glory to God. Wow.
I cannot help but reflect on my current relationships with believers around me:
Do I give thanks to God for their spiritual growth?
Do I yearn to be with other believers because of the glorious gospel that binds us together?
Do I find such intense joy in them that I can echo Paul’s words that at Christ’s coming, “You are our glory and joy”?
When I see other believers going through affliction, do I praise God for His work in their hearts to produce perseverance, steadfastness, and faith in their hearts?
And finally, who has God placed in my life right now for whom I can be thanking Him for His work in their life?
(All verses are quoted in the ESV)