Jump Start # 3134
1 Thessalonians 3:5 “For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.”
The Thessalonian church was young. And, this letter to them, that we call 1 Thessalonians, is believed to have been Paul’s first letter of inspiration. Young in faith and on their own, made Paul anxious about them. Were the holding on? Were they growing? Were they falling apart? Had they given up? Some will do that. As long as mom and dad are around, they come to worship. Once mom and dad are out of the picture, they drop out. Their faith was simply to please mom and dad.
So, Paul couldn’t stand it any more. He had to know. He sent Timothy to find out. And, the following verse is what Timothy saw. There was good news about their faith and love. They missed Paul and longed to see him. Things were good. Things were progressing just as they ought to be.
That idea our verse presents is fascinating. Imagine sending a report to an apostle about the congregation where you worship. What would be included? What would stand out? What would you want the apostle to know?
Here are some thoughts:
First, I wonder if much too often we get excited about the externals that really do not matter. Would we report that we recently painted a classroom at the church building and got a new pump for the baptistery? Would we include because of the hot, dry summer that the yard around the church building is looking rather brown?
Sometimes we focus too much on the things that do not matter. When we read about the seven churches in Revelation, nothing is said about attendance, contribution, church buildings or who was preaching. Those things seem to be at the top of our list much more than they ought to be.
Second, would we be excited about growing faith. Would we notice a young couple having others in their home for a Bible study? Would we see new faces teaching? Would we see people bringing their friends to worship? Timothy returned to Paul with news about the faith of the Thessalonians. What would he have seen? Passionate worship. Bible studies. Families talking about the Lord. Faith that continued on after Sunday worship was over. Members serving. Shepherds leading. Deacons connected. The word of God being shared. Hope. Love. That’s how faith is demonstrated. That’s what Timothy would have seen. Is that what we see?
Third, as the letter of 1 Corinthian’s begins, Paul has received word from Chloe’s people that things were not going well. Division, quarrels and trouble was taking place. Paul begin with that report and immediately dealt with the problem of division. Chloe’s people cared. They wanted to give Paul an honest assessment of what was taking place.
Some only see darkness and never anything good. Unless there is trouble, some have nothing to talk about. But the opposite is just as true. Some close their eyes to trouble and refuse to admit that things are not as they ought to be. This is more than being optimistic, this is being blind to the reality of what is going on. One can have a leaky roof and just ignore it. They can refuse to look at the ceiling dripping water. The rest of the house is fine and there is no need to be bothered by that one little spot, is the attitude of some. Enough time passes, and part of the ceiling falls in. Problems do not clear up and go away.
Being able to see what needs to be worked on without throwing in the towel and thinking all is bad is essential for shepherds and preachers. Rose colored glasses and denial are the two extremes that must be avoided. Honest appraisal is what is necessary. All of us can do better. All of us can step up our game. All of us can be involved more. Yet, that doesn’t mean the ship is about to sink. That doesn’t mean all is gloom and doom.
The word from Timothy was good, honest and helpful for Paul as he would continue to help the young Thessalonians.
What would you say about your congregation? All good? All bad? Do you see bright spots? Do you see areas that can be improved? That kind of evaluation helps determine what classes and what sermons and what special studies that need to be presented. Seeing what needs to be improved, allows leaders to make adjustments and focus some special attention.
How are you doing personally? Are you growing? Are you improving? Are you stuck? Are you stale? Are you drifting? Do you know? You can make some mid course corrections to get things better in your life. You can do the same for your family.
What would you tell an apostle about your faith? Interesting thought…more interesting is what we would reveal.