I just read some from 1 Thessalonians, and I was delighted by these verses.
"Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what is our proud reward and crown? It is you! Yes, you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again. For you are our pride and joy."--1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
Isn't that beautiful. I almost blush reading it; it sounds so much like a personal love letter between lovers. Just a few tweaks, "My dearest love, Though distance keeps us apart, my heart remains with you. The intensity of my longing to be with you is unbearable! It is you who brings me joy!" I can almost smell the perfume on the parchment!
But its not a love letter between two lovers. It is a letter from Paul to a body of brothers and sisters in Christ. The love and bond that Christians share with one another is the most beautiful example of relationship the world can see. The rest of the world's relationships are centered on causes, interests, societal relations, hobbies, but for the Christian--we are bonded together by the living Spirit of God! And for these particular believers, they were also bonded together in there experiences in suffering for the sake of Christ. No wonder Paul was so joyous. These believers accepted the message Paul preached to them as the very words of God, because through the leading of the Spirit, they were the very words of God! They knew Paul had been persecuted for this message, and they knew they would be persecuted themselves, yet they held firm. What a great joy to Paul to be able to know that he will stand with these believers on the day Christ returns. These men and women who once were lost in sin, now willingly suffer for the sake of Christ. Is there any bond in all humanity like that of the body of Christ that endures hardship together, yet stands firm?
I get this challenge from Paul. First, do I love the youth in Fosston Baptist youth group with that kind of intensity? Second, where do I find my joy? Does my joy come from delivering a good Wednesday night talk? How many laughs I get at a joke? How successful an event was? Or am I experiencing joy because youth who were lost are making Jesus the Lord of their life, and I can know that I will stand next to them on the day of Christ's return.
I know I have sought my joy in petty things. I really want to strive to see young people know the Lord. I don't want to miss out on that kind of joy.