“For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:5
In this passage of scripture, Paul was expressing a very common stress that pastors, ministers, and all laborers in the Lord experience. Let’s face it, from the new convert to the seasoned Apostle, we all have Spiritual mothers and fathers, as well as fellow laborers in the Lord who have labored to establish us, strengthen us, and grow us spiritually. Often we concern ourselves with how we effect the faith of those coming up under us (and we should), but how often do we concern ourselves with how we effect the faith of those we might consider to be equal to or above us? We tend to think of those more spiritually seasoned then ourselves in the same manner that children think of their parents. We think they are the way they are by default, strong encouragers who see to the needs of others because it’s just who they are. Just like with our earthly parents and siblings, we don’t always see the prayers, labors, struggles, stresses, and worries they go through trying to help us grow up into strong, stable, wise, mature, and selfless adults. For most of us we will never really come to understand what our parents went through, and therefore be able to really appreciate it, until we are parents ourselves. I think it is often the same with those who fill the roles of spiritual parents, and this passage gives us a rare glimpse into that reality that we so often over look.
In our opening passage we see Paul expressing his great concern and even stress that the Thessalonian believers may have fallen into error and strayed from the faith. Not only was this a worry for their souls but it was also discouragement to Paul that all their labors raising up this people might have been in vain. Knowing the time, energy, effort, prayer, fasting, seeking, teaching, instructing, spiritual and physical attacks, and so on, that he had born in his efforts to raise up these people spiritually, the idea of it all being in vain was very disheartening. It’s a discouragement that all who seek to disciple others know all too well, and we know from other passages that Paul knew it also.
However, in the verses that follow we get to see the other end of the spectrum as Paul expresses his great joy and encouragement upon hearing that his disciples had not been tempted, deceived, or led astray by the enemy of their soul, but had chosen to stand strong against the wilds of the devil and continued to grow in God!
“But now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8
What a great joy and encouragement this was to Paul! Even in his persecution, affliction, and distress he was encouraged by the reminder that, at least for these people, it was not in vain! I think there is a great lesson in this to remind us that we have the power to build the faith of those that labor to build us! We know the devil comes hard against us everyday and wearies us to give up the fight, how much more then must he come against those who labor to keep us in the fight? What greater joy and encouragement for them then to know that their labors are not in vain and that those they have sown into are baring much fruit for the Kingdom? So stop today and take a moment to pray for those who have sown into you spiritually and let them know that it was not in vain. They don’t need to be showered in praise or adoration as much as they need to simply be shown that what they have sown into you is alive and growing. So step out of your boat and commit something more for God (more of your time, more of your skills, more humility, more bible study, more prayer, more worship, more faith, witness to someone, sing a song, disciple someone, encourage someone, forgive someone, seek God to use you more) and let them know! Testify! They will be encouraged even in their sure afflictions by your continued growth! After all, the farmer is never happier and his work more worth while then when he looks upon his orchard after long seasons of labor and sees the trees healthy and baring much fruit!
“For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” – 3 John 1:3-4