S (Scripture): 1 Thessalonians 2:17
But when we were separated from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time (in presence, not in affection) we became all the more fervent in our great desire to see you in person. 18 For we wanted to come to you (I, Paul, in fact tried again and again) but Satan thwarted us. 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown to boast of before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not of course you? 20 For you are our glory and joy!
O (Observation): Paul writes the church in Thessalonica, and shows his deep desire to see the believers there. He focuses his desire on the people with whom he has built a relationship. His crown, his glory, is the PEOPLE, the BELIEVERS!
Paul brings to mind a message that is simple, but hard: Discipleship is a people on people thing.
From the work that Paul had done with the church that he helped to establish, he formed a deep, deep love for the people. That kind of love only comes from being steeped in relationships and working through life issues with one another for some time.
A (Application): Paul reminds us of what should bring us great joy, of what should be our crown: the people we disciple!
We can get caught up in appetite, approval, and ambition. We try to satisfy our appetite to be known for our good work. We seek approval from others, so we will bend our values to the breaking point, and forget that God has already said, “I love you.” We seek greater and greater ambition, reaching for the top, standing on the heads of those we work with and walk beside.
Relationships are key. Paul realizes this, and his zeal for relationship has a purpose beyond his own joy. Paul needs to be able to speak with authority in the lives of the people he brought along in the faith.
At the congregation I serve, our New Member process comes down to one word: Relationships! These folks who wish to journey with us will need fellow disciples with whom they can journey. So, we focus on relationships, teaching and guiding as we go along.
How are your relationships coming along? Is your fruit the people you have worked with in discipleship? Have you sensed God calling you to bear fruit by way of those you journey with in discipleship?
If you want to know how to get involved in this kind of work with fellow members of the body of Christ, let me know : )
P (Prayer): Lord, you call us to bear fruit for your kingdom. Help us to do this always. Let our joy and crown be the fruit of disciple-making for your glory. Amen.