Friday, July 20, 2007

How to Really Live

1 Thess. 3:8: "For now we live, if you are standing firm in the Lord."

What a profound truth Paul expresses here. Paul - who teaches us that our life is hid with Christ in God ... who states that to LIVE is Christ ... who says that he has died and his life is Christ through Paul ... this Paul indicates that this life in Christ is associated with the steadfast faith ... of other believers? Did we read that right?? Catch the context ...

3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. 6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

This is Paul's heart for ministry shining through here. Paul doesn't share the Gospel and find the door. He doesn't expect them to take their new hearts, filled with the Holy Spirit though they are, and operate in a new realm, a new worldview, without guidance. While in their midst, Paul works hard, treats them gently, embraces them as children (applying both maternal and paternal characteristics to his team's treatment of them). When he is away and suffering for the Gospel, he worries that they might fall away. They'd seen him suffer, and they'd heard him teach of more suffering to come ... yet he worries. A good report from Timothy is welcome news - the Thessalonians are standing firm in the Gospel. What's more, we learn from chapter 1 that their faith is spreading throughout the region. They are "famous" for it and in the process making God famous.

At this report Paul is able to say "now we live". The NASB translates "Now we really live". Paul and his team were "alive" physically before, and certainly were "alive" in the Lord, and yet there was a fullness to that life that Paul did not, could not, experience apart from the successful perseverance of the saints at Thessalonica. While among them, he worked by speaking the truth in love and setting an example to impart this perseverance. Apart from them, he prays (verses 11-13) for God to establish it in their hearts. And the word that comes lets him know God is moving. Now he really lives. Now the team really lives.

I'm convinced that in our western individualistic mindset we don't have a sense of the community of the Spirit that God intends. This community is supposed to be so strong that it takes all of us together to truly have spiritual "life". Our gifts work together for the building up of the body. Hebrews 11 even tells us that apart from the faith of post-resurrection believers, the faith of the Old Testament saints could not be made complete. This is far more than dinners on the ground and the occasional women's conference. This is a daily relationship that encourages, strengthens, challenges, exhorts ... that depends on one another in the Spirit. The persecution Paul's team encountered set a relational context that caused the team to go deep with new believers quickly! And as a result they really lived when those new believers persevered.

That's kind of how I feel about this blog. I long to encourage you - you who are far beyond me in terms of service - to finish the race, to persevere. When you are successful through a struggle of faith, I really live. When you sign on for another season of ministry, I really live. When I see answered prayers in your newsletters, I really live.

As you work and minister today, seek someone whom you can encourage to persevere. I promise - you will really live as a result!

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