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Everyone needs encouragement.
Paul recognized the needs of the church at Thessalonica. He wanted the people to be established and encouraged in their faith so that they would not be shaken by the inevitable afflictions and trouble they would certainly face.
We sent Timothy . . . to establish you and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these afflictions. For you know quite well that we are appointed for them. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
Paul wanted to do whatever was necessary to encourage and help the believers in this new church. We all need to be established and encouraged in our faith. Everyone who follows Jesus will face difficulties that can be very unsettling!
As certainly as any believer has these needs, so do leaders also. Sometimes established leaders can be so focused on others – so driven to establish and encourage others – that they may neglect themselves!
What do leaders need?
Paul needed to be encouraged and established. He states very plainly that he himself needed the encouragement that would come from the saints. He wanted to see their face because they were a source of joy to him, his hope and crown of rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:17-20).
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. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again – but Satan blocked our way. 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? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20)
Paul recognized that the enemy was trying to prevent this connection. Satan was blocking his way because he knows the great benefit that comes from seeing the fruit of our labor!
But this man of God said that he wanted to come to them, “again and again!” He felt orphaned to be apart from them! He wanted to be with them so that he could impart health to them, but also so that he would be benefited by them! They were a source of joy to him. Their faith and steadfastness was a needed affirmation for Paul.
It is not good to be alone.
Established leaders do not remain “established” automatically. Leaders know that they often feel alone and discouraged. They may be knocked off their feet! They may despair even of life (2 Cor. 1:8).
Just as Paul endeavored to be connected with the people of Thessalonica, we also need to enjoy the company of our people. There is great danger in loneliness. It is not good for man to be alone! Paul needed a sense of belonging. He craved to be a part of someone else. When he was parted from them – even for a short time – he yearned for their company with an “intense longing.”
And often what will get us through the dry seasons is the satisfaction of knowing that there are people who are our family, people who have been helped by us and who are growing in God because of how God has used us to plant the seed and nurture it in their lives.
The people of our ministry are a source of encouragement, given from God.
The people to whom we minister are not just a job. They are not just our clients or our patients. They are not just a project. They are our family and we should freely derive comfort and encouragement from seeing them thrive and grow.
We should rejoice in the godly transformation of those God has given us – as surely as parents find joy and satisfaction and fulfilment in their own children (2 John v. 4; 3 John v. 3-4). We should not apologize for feeling good about the people God has given us.
For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John v. 3-4)
Of course we are not to have prideful boasting about “our church,” but we should certainly have the satisfied pleasure of a parent who can rejoice over a wise son (Prov. 10:1; 15:20; 23:15-16).
My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice – indeed, I myself;
Yes, my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice. (Proverbs 23:15-16, 24-25)
While we labor and travail for those God has entrusted to our care, we are also invited to rejoice in what God has accomplished through us. Paul wanted to be with his people not just so he could teach them, but also so that he could receive refreshing from their company (Rom. 1:9-12; 2 Cor. 7:5-7, 13; 1 Thess. 3:7-9).
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. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 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? (1 Thessalonians 3:7-9)
Do you know that the Lord Himself finds joy and satisfaction in His people? God’s people give Him pleasure! He joys over us with singing and takes delight in us (Zeph. 3:17). The new creation that is the church is a foretaste of the New Heavens and New Earth. While awaiting that glorious future God Himself says that we ought to rejoice in the people He has created (Isa. 65:17-19).
Enjoy the fruit of the ministry. See what the Lord has done and be glad in it!
In a time of personal devotion by yourself alone, go through your “family pictures” in your mind – that is from your ministry family. Reflect on your ministry family, your church or the people you have built in you work as a leader. Yes, you have experienced many sorrows and disappointments, but now think of some successes. Think of a few disasters that were turned into delights!
Think of three specific positive examples of fruitfulness. Write down a single line to remind you of each one. Reflect on each until you smile. Pray for those people who let Jesus shine through them, and thank God for His work through you!