2:17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you— certainly I, Paul, did, again and again— but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy. 3:1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
This is an appropriate piece of scripture to reflect on over the summer as the community of Christian Student Fellowship is dispersed throughout the world. During the school year CSF exists as a community of college students who seek to grow as followers of Jesus Christ and help others come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. CSF is a community of friends who regularly meet together to pray for each other, to worship as one, to learn, and to have fun!
As the pastor of CSF, I am so blessed to be able to know each of you, to spend time with you, to help you grow in your faith. I feel kind of like Paul over the summer though, orphaned by being separated from you for a time (2:17). In other words, I miss you!
Paul was separated physically from the Thessalonian Christians, though not in thought as he continued to pray for them. Paul knew they would be facing trials and persecution (3:3). Yearning to know how they were doing, he sent his coworker Timothy to them. Timothy returned with a good and encouraging report (3:6). Knowing that the Thessalonians are enduring through persecution, Paul can say he only now is really living (3:8)! That is a powerful statement! Paul says he experiences life to the fullest when he knows the new Christians in Thessalonica are growing in their faith.
How are you doing? Are you growing in your faith this summer? What is the Holy Spirit teaching you? How are you facing the difficulties of being home with family and old friends?
Paul had to wait for Timothy to return with a report. Today we have email, telephone and Facebook. I would love to hear from you, to hear how life is going and to know how I can pray for you while we are apart physically. I desire to echo Paul, to be encouraged by a good report from you, to experience life to the fullest in knowing you are growing in your faith.
After receiving the report from Timothy, Paul writes this letter, telling the Christians in Thessalonica that he hopes to see them so he can add to what is lacking in their faith (3:10). Basically, this means Paul has more to teach them (and some of these teachings will come up in chapters 4-5). Likewise, I look forward to the day when we can be back together, having Bible study and worship, learning as a community how to live out faith on the college campus. We still have a lot to learn and work to do! Until that time, I leave you with the prayer Paul says for the Thessalonians in 3:11-13, a prayer that we could be saying for each other while we are apart physically:
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.