I Thessalonians 3:6-13
“6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7 For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8 For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever 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, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” NRSV
Ministry is a two way street. It’s basically about giving and receiving. It’s not about receiving and giving. The order is key.
Giving in order to receive something in return is a business transaction. It amounts to nothing more than sales. If what I give back is valued less than what I gave, I feel cheated. If I get more in return than what I gave, I’m a good at business. Way too many people place this kind of sales valuation on their financial support of the church. Charlie calls his pastor and says, “I gave $500 to the church this past year and I don’t feel like I got $500 worth of ministry in return. I’m only going to give $300 to the church this year.” Charlie just wants to buy a a fire insurance policy for his eternal existence. He wants the best coverage he can get for the lowest price.
A church full of Charlies will always be in decline, spiritually, numerically, financially, and in its impact on its community. The church never lives up to the sales valuation the Charlies expect.
The church in Thessalonica did not have any Charlies.
The church in Thessalonica was filled with grateful people, grateful for the gift they had been given in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave them new life, purposeful life, abundant life, and the promise of eternal life. They believed to their core that they could never begin to repay God for the transformed, new lease on life, they had been given.
So, they glorified God by sharing the bounty of life they were given through their faith in Jesus Christ with everyone else. Knowing they were expressing their deep gratitude to God through the acts of giving with no expectation in return filled them with joy. That was enough.
Churches filled with this kind of people are always growing in one, if not all, areas.
But God is a generous God. At times least expected and often times most needed, out of the blue, we find ourselves on the receiving end. What comes to us is pure gift, given in love.
We are witnessing Paul as the unexpected receiver in this reading from I Thessalonians. If we pause to think about it, we can all name those moments when grace broke into our lives unexpectedly, too. I like to believe that was God saying a simple thank you for us finding the joy in giving through faith and love in action.
Be a blessing to someone today!