July 10, 2010
Building Strong Friendships in Christ
Left Behind Today
“Therefore when we could no endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone.”
1 Thessalonians 3:1
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Paul had several friends that helped him minister to the Gentiles. You may recall that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy greeted the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. At times, Paul sent Timothy on important missions, where they each labored in different cities for a while. In this case, the ministry team showed great flexibility, and confidence in Timothy serving as a messenger for the team. Today I want to focus upon the way the team felt about the Thessalonians.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:1, Paul used the phrase: “could endure it no longer.” Paul had just concluded his testimony about the Thessalonians holding a dear place in the heart of the ministry team. The team eagerly looked forward to seeing them again. Within their hearts, they had to endure the strong desire to go to Thessalonica, but it was not possible for all the team to go.
In most lives, people do not have bonds of love with other believers, and often, with anyone. Most believers could not truthfully say that they are eager to see anyone. Yet, the ministry team had formed those strong bonds by imparting their lives and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Thessalonians. The ministry team made a deliberate effort to plan their lives, as the Lord Jesus lead them, in keeping with their relationships with other believers, and according to the ministry entrusted to them.
Another important point about team ministry surfaced right here. If you build a single-person ministry, and not a team ministry, you will not have the benefit of greater flexibility. Jesus built the ministry team here so that it would have no problem splitting up, for a time, so that each member could go where needed. The team did not always have to stay together, and each team member could go where needed, as Jesus lead them.
Ultimately, as believers, we only have one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-7). Within that essential unity, Jesus leads a diversity of believers, individually gifted by the Holy Spirit, to maintain the bonds of unity, and function together as one body of Christ, the church, knit together in love. In Christ, we will never be left behind spiritually, because we can never be separated from Jesus or His love. Facing the cross, Jesus Himself said He was not alone, even after all the disciples had left Him, because the Father was with Him (John 16:32), who would forsake Him, by delivering Him to death.
So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.
● Strong bonds of friendship form when we labor together in Christ, and go where Christ leads us.
● Strong bonds of friendship grow when we encourage team members to go see other believers we love, so that we all may be strengthened together in Christ.
● We harm our bonds of friendship when we refuse to follow Christ’s leading, even if it means separating the ministry team for a while. Sometimes our desire to learn more about our absent friends overcomes our desire to pursue other ministry goals. We lose our way in Christ when we ignore His efforts to use the ministry team at different places at the same time.
Application for Today
Today, I will watch Jesus use His worldwide ministry team to encourage believers around the world, but especially in my area of the world. For some of my friends, I know Jesus will lead them to form new ministry teams, and visit new places. Who will you encourage today to visit people you love together?