The disciples each loved Jesus, but Jesus was burdened that they would love each other. The Thessalonians loved Paul, but he was burdened that they would grow in their love for each other. A love that travels vertically must also travel horizontally. Loving others is the mark of an authentic love for God, and it is the sure indication that our faith is maturing.
Have you ever said that to someone you loved? I suppose we all have. But the real question is, "Why do you want to reunite with people?" For Paul, it was more than just the emotional satisfaction of looking again at the faces he loved. For him it was the opportunity to invest again in someone's faith--to nurture their soul for the Lord!
Every mother understands this. We all know that Paul suffered his fair share of affliction and pain, but what we might not know is what provided a major source of comfort in that pain. The spiritual health of his converts served as a spiritual pain killer for him! He breathed better and felt more alive when he knew that his disciples were going on for the Lord.
I hate dentist appointments! The smell, the sound of the drill, the pain, the HUGE needle--all of it! But it's a necessary appointment, I (reluctantly) suppose. Did you know that God has actually scheduled some affliction appointments for us? Yes, he has. And while we might not like them, we come away with better looking teeth!
Trials shake us. More dangerously, they can move us away from the Lord. "Immovable" might be the most forgotten adjective in the Christian life. But we are called to immovability in our walk with the Lord. Our faith, our commitment, our doctrine, our passion should remain affixed on and for Jesus Christ.
We've all heard the lament: "I would love the ministry if it weren't for the people!" And when we say it playfully, it always seems to get a laugh. But, in truth, ministry IS people. Not programs. Not buildings. Not events. People. Don't allow ministry to be otherwise defined in your life.
When we suffer, we tend to focus on the moment... on the pain. But the Bible consistently equates suffering with fellowship. It is the way by which we know Jesus more intimately, and the way by which we identify with him most clearly. It connects us with hosts of other believers in different times and spaces. It ennobles our trials and elevates our struggle.
Have you ever heard someone say that? Usually it's a tongue in cheek comment about putting on a happy face in spite of the way you feel. But unfortunately it's also a dangerously prevalent ministry practice--hypocrisy through and through. Paul understood that both his message and behavior were a part of his preaching. When one disagrees with the other, people dismiss the truth.
I vividly remember the first time I held each one of our children. I don't think it's possible to adequately explain how much love a parent feels at that moment! It's one of life's most tender and precious moments. Paul shares a metaphor of this very kind of love--the love of a parent for an infant--as the description of his commitment to new believers!
We must learn to view ministry not primarily as something we *have* to do, but as something we *get* to do! That's what Paul did. In fact, he viewed preaching the Gospel as something God allowed him to do, something that pleased God when he did it, and something that we will one day answer to God for. Strong motivation!