“A Committed Ministry” – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

July 31, 2022

“A Committed Ministry” – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13
Service Type:

Open with me in your copies of the Bible to 1 Thessalonians 2:17. We're picking up where we left off a few weeks ago by studying 1 Thessalonians 2:17 through 3:13. It's a bit longer of a passage, but it's all tied together and unified as a whole. So hear now the word of the Lord from 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13, I will be reading as usual of the English Standard Version.

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?20 For you are our glory and joy.
3 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what 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, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13, ESV

This is the Word of the Lord. In the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Canada, there was a British athlete who became well known not for successfully mastering his sport, but rather for how terrible and out of place he was. Michael Edwards, otherwise known as "Eddie the Eagle", had originally set out to make the 1988 Olympics as a downhill skier, but he wasn't quite good enough to make the British team in that sport. And yet, with his Olympic dreams still before him and a steadfast commitment to compete in the Olympics, he decided to switch sports to ski jumping, which is something I always wanted to try. Which was a sport with far less competition in England, the downhill skiing, because in fact there were no ski jumpers in England and there hadn't been since 1928. In fact, all he had to do to even qualify as a British ski jumper was to just finish at an international competition. So he did. He finished dead last in an international competition the year before the Olympics.

So then with his Olympic dream secured the next year in the 1988 Winter Games, Edwards once again finished last, dead last. It wasn't even close, he was horrible. To quote one author who wrote a retrospective on The Eagle's career, "While other ski jumpers flew, it was said that only The Eagle could launch off a mountain and plummet like a dead parrot."

Now, after the '88 games, the International Olympic Committee closed the loophole that allowed Edwards to compete in the Games in the first place, but that didn't stop him from trying. In fact, he tried to qualify again and again and again. He tried to qualify for the '92 games, the '94 games and the '98 games, but failed each time. You see, Edwards might have been a mediocre ski jumper, but one thing he was not was relentlessly uncommitted, even to the annoyance of so many others who thought he was an embarrassment to the sport and should just give up now.

Well, it's difficult, I think, for us to understand the kind of relentless commitment that Edwards had to a sport that didn't seem to be going his way. It may also perhaps be difficult for us to understand the kind of commitment that the Apostle Paul has to the church in Thessalonica that shines through the passage before us.

You see, throughout our passage, Paul gives us a window into the steadfast, enduring commitment that he had to the church in Thessalonica, even when he was physically separated from them. As the series of events unfolded, Paul first planted the church in Thessalonica with his two companions, Sylvanus and Timothy. They were with the church for about a month, and then they were forced out of town because of opposition that emerged from those outside the church both against them and their ministry.

Though Paul was physically severed from the church at that point, while he remained utterly committed to their well-being. So much so that throughout this passage before us, we hear him recount for us the stomach churning anxiety that he had for the church's well-being. For the love and affection that never diminished for the church and her members. Then the tangible steps he took to ensure as best as he could, their perseverance. In all of these ways, we see before us an apostle who has relentlessly committed to Jesus' church and in the process challenges us in our commitments to Jesus's church too.

see, perhaps to some of us, the kind of commitment that shines through this passage, as we'll see in a moment, might sound a bit crazy. Michael Edwards kind of crazy. Because in our low commitment world where the one commitment that we are often faithful to pursue with utmost zeal is the commitment to personal autonomy and happiness, the kind of self-sacrificial, other centered, God glorifying commitment that Paul exhibits in our passage isn't what we often prize. Yet it's this kind of committed ministry that Paul upholds as virtuous and this kind of ministry that God would have us as his church pursue today.

So our big idea is we study the passage before us as this be affectionately committed to the people of God..

As we study the passage of before us, we'll see an essence that Paul outlines through his own relationship with the church what we'll call a fourfold Ministry of Commitment.
1. A Commitment of Presence
2. A Commitment that Foregoes Comfort
3. A Commitment Centered on Christ's Purposes
4. A Commitment to Prayer
Those are four points that we're going to be studying today.

A Commitment of Presence
So let's start out first with a commitment to presence. Now, you may recall that up until this point in 1 Thessalonians, Paul has reflected at length on the time when he was physically with the church in Thessalonica. He shared quite a bit about his gospel ministry from the one month period of time that he spent with the church in their presence. But now when we turn to verse 17, our first verse that we're looking at, we see that Paul shifts focus from the time when he was physically with the church to the agony of the next six months, he spent apart from them. In commenting on his own absence, the first thing he tells us is that it's not good to be absent. And in fact, if he had it his way, he would be with them right now, as he writes.

Now, you may recall, as we've been working through 1 Thessalonians, if you've been with us, that Paul has already deployed a number of what we call family metaphors to describe his relationship with the church. At several points in the letter in 1 Thessalonians, he refers to members of the church as his brothers. It's not unusual in the New Testament, we see that all the time. In chapter two, verse seven, he referred to himself as a nursing mother towards the church. And now, in 2:17, in the first verse we're looking at, he mentions how he was torn away from the church. Which is a verb that literally refers to being orphaned, in fact, that's how the NIV translates it.

You see, as Paul sees it, when he was driven out of the city of Thessalonica six months earlier, it wasn't as if he only lost a ministry opportunity or as if it was just a lost job or he lost his influence. Rather, as Paul sees it, he was orphaned from the spiritual family that he loved. That's exactly why he was so eager to return, as verse 18 indicates, where he made attempts again and again, apparently to come back to them. Now, unfortunately, Paul tells us those attempts were continually thwarted. Specifically, he notes that Satan hindered those efforts to return. While we're not quite sure what the historical manifestation of Satan's hindrances in this situation looked like. One thing that's abundantly clear is that Paul loves his spiritual family, and he recognizes that it's never good to be separated at length from the spiritual family you're committed to.

If this is the posture of his heart and the pursuit that he's already undertaken at several points, well, when we look at versus 19 through 20, he underscored, as we see, the importance of presence by ascribing to the church and her members some extravagant praise. Notice in verse 19 that Paul essentially credits the church with being his magnum opus. That is his greatest work of art, as it were. Specifically, he calls them his hope and his joy and his crown of boasting.

Now, in the ancient world, when an athlete won a race, they would often be crowned with a laurel wreath as a sign of their victory, something that Eddie the Eagle surely never received. But as Paul sees it, the church in Thessalonica is the wreath that he will don when Jesus comes again. They're, the evidence that his ministry had not been in vain. And for Paul, the assurance of his own faith and calling. If they prove to be flourishing, even in their affliction, and the gospel has indeed taken root in their hearts. Well, as Paul sees it, that's assurance for him that he hasn't been laboring in vain, nor trusting in a dull and lifeless gospel.

John Stott puts it like this. He writes, quote, "What Paul seems to mean is that his joy in this world and his glory in the next are tied up with the Thessalonians whom Christ through his apostles ministry has so obviously transformed." Now, this is, quite frankly, a remarkable claim. It's almost as if Paul is saying, I'm incomplete apart from you. That the church in Thessalonica in some sense completes him, and therefore it would be far better to be present with them so that he can be encouraged and complete in his own faith and calling through their faith and calling.

I'm reminded at this point of something that C.S. Lewis once wrote in one of his books entitled "The Four Loves". There's a point in that book where Lewis reflects at length on friendship and specifically on the loss of one of his closest friends. He comments that when his friend Charles Williams died, it wasn't just Charles whom he lost. According to Lewis, when Charles died, there was a sense in which something also died in his other friends, too. It was almost as if the loss was a collective loss. This is how Lewis puts it. He writes, quote, "In each of my friends, there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specific joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him to myself, now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald."

You see, according to Lewis, in losing Charles, there was something lost in the whole friendship dynamic. His other friends weren't the same, he wasn't the same and the whole friendship dynamic was changed. I'm sure some of you who have lost someone dear can relate with that.

According to Paul, there's a sense in which the church in Thessalonica so completes him that should he find that those believers have not endured, well, that would be a loss so deep that later in the passage, he implicitly equates that potential loss with death itself. Understand that for Paul, this is why he longs to be with the church in Thessalonica. They complete him, and although he's providentially hindered in the moment from being with them, and we can't blame Paul for that, his heart beats with his church family. He longs to be with them.

What about you? Ask yourself, is it important for me to be with my church family? What about this morning? Did it feel like a burden just to get up and to be with those you've committed yourself to? Now, of course, there will always be times and weeks when we may be providentially hindered from actually being here, and that's completely understandable. But ask yourself, is the posture of my heart to want to be with my church family? If that's not the case, why? And more than that, understand that when we come together and pursue this ideal of presence that Paul holds out for us, that also requires that we actually pursue each other when we're physically together.

In a recent book by a theologian named Michael Horton, he makes the following observation, which I think is especially relevant to what we're talking about right now. Horton writes this, he says, quote, "As has often been frequently pointed out, even when we are with other people, we are often alone together. We express ourselves, but nobody is even listening, since they are also expressing themselves too. This can happen even at the church where we basically have private experiences in the same room with other people. These experiences may be shared with others, but they remain uniquely individual, like being alone together."

Friends, when you are with your church family, are you committed to pursuing other members of that church family of seeking to meet their needs? Or if you're honest with yourself, are there times when it's just about you and your experience and your needs? Do you rejoice in the well-being of your brothers and sisters in Christ and long to glory in their spiritual well-being? Do they, in a sense, complete you? Or even when you're physically here, do you find your approach more akin to that of a consumer. Committed, but only so long as other people in the body continue to be useful?

Understand that the ideal picture of presence that Paul paints here is a picture that he paints elsewhere in his letters too, notably in 1 Corinthians 12:26, where in that text Paul writes, "If one member suffers all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together." This is Paul's heart towards the church in Thessalonica. It's the kind of heart he would have us inculcate towards each other, too. As he continues in the passage, he reminds us that this committed posture of presence is also a commitment that willingly sacrifices comfort for the sake of each other and ultimately for the glory of God. So this leads to the second point.

A Commitment that Foregoes Comfort

Second, a commitment that foregoes comfort. Now, when we turn to the first verse of chapter three, we notice that Paul continues to recount his time away from the church. He notes that one day his affectionate commitment to the church in Thessalonica spilled over into a concrete course of action. According to Paul here, when he could bear being apart from the church no longer, and as he grew concern that his so-called crown of boasting may be caving to the lies of Satan. Well, he took action, even when that meant incurring great personal cost himself.

So what did he do? Well, according to verses one or two, when Paul was in Athens, he was willing to be left alone for the sake of the church. You see, after Paul and Sylvanus and Timothy were driven out of Thessalonica from those who opposed their gospel ministry, after that, Paul eventually makes his way to the city of Athens. But rather than having Silvanus and Timothy stay with him there, provide a little bit of comfort and encouragement for himself, he sends them elsewhere. It's not entirely clear where Sylvanus goes after that, but it is clear that Timothy is sent back to Thessalonica in order to strengthen the church and encourage them in their faith, who are by this point, experiencing a great deal of affliction themselves.

This was no costless action on Paul's efforts to take, because we learn from the Book of Acts that when Paul was alone in Athens by himself, he found himself in what I would consider to be a really intimidating position. First, we know from Acts 17 that he ran into some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the marketplace. These learned philosophers of the day, these heavyweight intellectuals with whom he then spoke and defended his faith. Then he took up this invitation to speak by himself alone to the Areopagus, so the intellectual authorities in Athens. This was no easy feat, and especially not alone and yet Paul was willing to suffer insecurity and loneliness and possibly derision. He was willing to incur a cost if it meant that the church in Thessalonica might mature through Timothy and better endure in their own form of suffering.

It's their suffering that Paul remarks on next. Just as he willingly suffered a loneliness, a different kind of suffering in his commitment to the church. He reminds them that suffering is a normal experience in the life of a Christian. Apparently, as Paul notes in verse four, that this is a message he kept on telling the church when he was with them. Namely that a committed Christian should expect affliction and not be unsettled by it. Paul says here, in essence, what Peter says in 1 Peter 4:12, where Peter writes, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."

But whether we're talking about Paul's sacrifice or the church's steadfast suffering, whatever that looked like, a committed ministry that loves God and loves each other, a committed church family is one that willingly forgoes comfort for the sake of each other and for the sake of the Gospel. Understand friends that love is costly. I probably don't need to say that you probably know that, but love is costly.

First, to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength as the Scriptures call us to do well that requires, for one thing, that we give up those things that are so obviously sin. After all, Jesus tells us in John 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." We can't love God when we at the same time are coddling the idols that we hold so dear. But for another thing, to love God requires that we willingly endure like the church in Thessalonica, whatever afflictions those who are at enmity with Christ and his church throw our way. To love God requires that we accept the incompatibility of certain comforts in this world with the love of God, even if our rejection of those comforts brings contempt upon us.

But just as the love of God that's costly, so too is the love that we're called to have towards each other in the church too. To love each other well, requires that we sacrifice like Paul. It requires that we think less of ourselves. That we put ourselves in positions that we might not naturally want to put ourselves in for the sake of love. And that we set aside our idolatrous obsession with comfort in order to build each other up, even when that means being somewhat uncomfortable ourselves for a time. There's no escaping, friends, that loving each other in the church just as loving God, that's a costly investment.

This is something that C.S. Lewis recognized, too. In the same book that I quoted earlier, the "Four Loves", C.s. Lewis says something really insightful. I'm going to quote him here. He writes this, he says, "There is no safe investment. To love it all is to be vulnerable. Love anything in your heart will be certainly rung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around your hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your own selfishness."

Friends to invest in love, like Paul did in his love for the church and like the church did in their love for God, requires that we willingly forgo comfort when God calls us to do that. Now, of course, we should also qualify this and say that a committed ministry forgoes comfort. Well, that's true. It's perhaps more accurate to say that a committed ministry exchanges one kind of comfort for another. It's not the case that the gospel doesn't offer us comfort. It, in fact, does and really, it's a more enduring and substantive kind of comfort. But in receiving the comfort of the gospel, the comfort that comes through forgiveness of our sins, through faith in Christ alone, we must willingly lay aside the kind of comfort that our world so often prizes.

Yet it's also true that exchanging one kind of comfort for another, which is exactly what Paul calls us to do here, is only possible if you know and are likewise committed to the gospel. This is where Paul goes next when in verse six or ten, we come to find out that a committed ministry is also one that centered on Christ's gospel purposes. This leads to our third point a commitment that's centered on Christ's purposes.

A Commitment That's Centered on Christ's Purposes

So as Paul continues here to recount his time away from the church and some of the angst that gripped his heart as he waited to hear how the church was faring. Well, we now learn in versus six through ten that once Timothy returned to Paul with his report, that Paul was relieved and almost ecstatic because he discovered from Timothy that the church was doing well. Yet their wellness had nothing to do with numerical success. They may have grown large, but Paul doesn't say, nor because they were wealthy, they probably weren't, but we don't know that either. But in fact, because the Gospel wasn't obscured among them.

Notice that the only thing Timothy highlights about the church in verse six is, quote, "The good news of their faith in love." Something that Calvin calls the entire sum of true piety. Now, elsewhere in Paul's letters, these two virtues of faith and love are likewise highlighted as the core of true ministry, they're really, really important. For example, when Paul writes to Timothy later in his own ministry in 1 Timothy 1:5, he tells Timothy something that Timothy probably witnessed firsthand from his journeys in Thessalonica. Paul says, "The aim of our charge as an apostle is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

When Timothy returns to Paul with his report, as he does here, he tells Paul that the church in Thessalonica had made that their own charge. For one thing, they trusted through faith, alone in Christ, even in the midst of their affliction. For another thing, they loved each other well, including Paul and his companions, who they remembered kindly and longed to see again.

Now, in a moment, we're going to look directly at the positive effect that Timothy's report had in relieving Paul's anxiety. But for now, don't miss the significance in the ordinariness of Timothy's report. Nothing else is said about them, at least not yet, except for their faith and love. But that's enough for Paul. And yet it raises the question, I think, is that enough for you?

In Michael Horton's excellent book by the name, it's entitled "Ordinary". He argues that one of the biggest fears that we face, especially in the west, is the fear of being stuck in the boredom of the ordinary. Now, to change the world and to take risks in pursuit of greatness, of course, requires vision and drive and courage. But Horton rightly argues that it's actually in the very ordinary day to day rhythms of work and family and paying your bills where we need real courage, even more so than in our pursuit of greatness, because we are petrified of the boredom of the ordinary.

Now, while this is true of life in general, which is one of the reasons I think we have such a commitment problem in the west, this has also played itself out in the history of the American church, too. Where generation after generation who have grown bored with ordinary things like faith and love, have sought to center church around the next big thing, only to find that the next big thing quickly becomes the thing of last year. Rather than being fed by ordinary doctrines and disciplines that have trained Christians for 2,000 years, so often the American church has gravitated towards movements to change the world. Things that might get our blood pumping for a little bit, but things that ultimately in the end fizzle out. This is how Horton puts it, he writes, "In many ways, it's more fun to be part of movements than churches. We can express our own individuality, pick our favorite leaders, and be swept off our feet at conferences. We can be anonymous. Although encouraged by like-minded believers, we are not bound up with them so that we should feel compelled to bear their burdens or suffer their rebukes. Yet this movement mentality makes us restless and makes ordinary life in submission to an actual church seem intolerably confining and terribly ordinary."

Yet, what does Paul celebrate in our passage? It's the terribly ordinary. He celebrates the ordinary stuff of discipleship that brings real, long lasting spiritual maturity. Look with me in verse seven through ten to see just how Paul responds to what might seem like to us as so ordinary and plain.

First, Paul tells us that it's for this reason because the church excels not in numerical success or financial muscle, but because they excel in ordinary things like faith and love that he, even in his own affliction, is comforted by them. Remarkably, even though Paul is immersed in his own stuff, he's got his own distress and affliction to deal with. He's still able to find relief and comfort in the spiritual maturity of this so called crown of his boasting. As a good spiritual father who's affectionally committed to his children, their spiritual successes are his spiritual successes. He exemplifies what it means here to rejoice with those who rejoice.

Then in verse eight, he ratchets things up even further when he claims that because of their enduring but terribly ordinary faith and love, we live. Paul, once again, he's so ties himself and his own well-being to the church in Thessalonica that presumably, if they weren't doing well, well, that would probably feel like death. But fortunately the opposite is true. They are doing well. Even though he's geographically distant from them, Paul claims that because they excel in the ordinary things of faith and love that he lives, that's his heartbeat.

Friends understand that to be an encouragement to other members in your church family, you don't have to be a rock star. You don't have to be the most theologically erudite person in the room. You're very simple and very ordinary life of faith and love is enough to encourage other members in Christ body who are just trying to figure out how to live in the ordinary themselves too. To see other Christians walk through conflict with the grace and patience that comes only from the Spirit. To see other Christians really stick it out in their commitments when the going gets tough. To watch other Christians walk through seasons of real suffering with such grace and fortitude in the Gospel is real encouragement.

So if you're looking for encouragement in the ordinary, look to those in the church who have silently but faithfully plodded along in the ordinary. If that's you understand that you are a very real encouragement in your ordinary discipleship to the many restless souls in the body of Christ right now.

Now from Paul's extravagant praise that he lavishes upon the church, we might think that the church in Thessalonica is basically perfect, right? They don't get anything wrong. Yet, in verse ten, we learned that one of the reasons Paul longs to return to the church as he does is because he wants to supply what is lacking in their faith.

You see, for as well as they're doing until Christ comes again, friends, there will always be issues to work on. There will always be areas to grow in. But notice also that Paul doesn't see that as a burden or a barrier to gospel ministry and we can't forget that either. You see, understand that in the church people's problems are not a burden or a barrier for us to get past so that we can achieve some type of utopia in our body. Not at all. People can never be treated as a burden or a barrier to true gospel ministry when they are, in fact, flesh and blood image bearers redeemed members of the body who we are called to love and help grow and cherish. Just as we hope other people in the body love us and help us grow as well.

Yet, in light of what they do lack, which Paul actually is going to address in the second half of 1 Thessalonians, it's instructive that the first place he turns after that comment isn't to give them a to do list. To tell them, here's what you need to do, because you lack in some things. No, the first place he turns is to the one who ultimately sanctifies his people. He turns to the Lord in prayer again.

While Paul is thankful for much, he also recognizes that neither his race nor their race is over. In the long road ahead, all parties need the Lord's guiding and sanctifying hand upon them. So he turns to prayer for them. The first thing he prays for is that God would open a door, as it were, particularly to bring him back to Thessalonica. Now Paul told us earlier that he sought to return to Thessalonica in the intervening time, but Satan hindered his way. While we don't know what that looked like, we do know that Paul recognized that in the midst of the very real earthly struggles he was engaged in, that he was also engaged in spiritual struggles.

Well, we often functionally, at least, live as if this two dimensional material world is all that there is. Look at Paul. Paul recognizes the spiritual realities at play, and so the first place he goes is to pray, to the all sovereign God that his desire to be with the church would in fact become a reality. Interestingly, we come to find that in Acts chapter 20, this prayer is actually answered in Paul's so-called third missionary journey. So that's the first thing he prays for.

Second, Paul prays in verse 12 that love, something the church is already doing well, but he prays even more so that love would continue to abound among the members of the church. That it would also not just abound within them, but would reach beyond their walls to everyone.

He prays that even in the midst of their affliction, which they’re dealing with some pretty severe affliction right now, as Paul writes, that they wouldn't grow so callous towards their persecutors nor adopt a kind of militant survival mentality and grow inward. But rather that their commitment to each other and their commitment to the Gospel would spill over into love for those even in their community, those who are persecuting them, too.

Then finally, Paul prays in verse 13 that the church would be established in holiness in view of Christ's second coming. He prays that they would have an eye to the future, and rather than living for the fleeting, momentary pleasures of the present, that they would be committed to, the hard work and the hard work of living in accordance with who they have already been set apart in Christ to be. That doesn't mean that their salvation is in any way held in the balance until Christ returns. But it does mean that the future promises of Christ second coming, something that Paul's going to tell us a little bit more about in 1 Thessalonians, should drive both them and us in the present towards holiness.

Now, it's in the contents of Paul's prayer here in verses 11 through 13, where I think we're challenged a bit in our own commitments, are we committed to the same kind of expansive love that Paul prays for the church? Are we really committed to a long term ideal growth in holiness? We all know how to plan for the future and to think about the future, but do we think about our future holiness, or do we really only think about securing for ourselves our future comforts?

Well, Paul's prayer, I think, offers us a window into what we as a church should value and what we should prioritize, but at the same time don't mistake the fact that these are also prayers for the spiritual needs of other people. In that the challenge before us is ratcheted it up even higher. As Richard Phillips puts it, quote, "Whereas many of us pray for ourselves and our material needs, Paul prayed almost exclusively for others and for spiritual priorities."

In your commitment to your church, family, friends, pray for each other. Yes, serve each other. Yes, think about each other, but also spend time on your knees, as it were, praying to the all sovereign God for those that you're committed to in our church family.

As we prepare to close, let me leave us with this closing exhortation, closing thoughts. Friends don't give up on each other. Understand that we live in a world mentioned this a few times that shamefully low on commitment. As soon as other people stop being useful to us or frustrate us, well, we so often move on. But the kind of ministry, the kind of church, the kind of spiritual relationships that Paul holds up in our passage are ones where we really and truly love each other. Ones where we are willing to sacrifice for the good of each other, ones where we get excited about the spiritual well-being of each other, and ones where we pray regularly for each other. Harvest, may that be our approach in ministry and in church life together to pray with me.

Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you for these needed words, these hard words about our own commitments and how we're challenged in them. Lord, I pray that we would take to heart the various ways that we've been challenged and in through seeing Paul's commitment. And yet, at the same time, I pray that now, and especially as we go to the supper, that you would remind us that the only hope we have in our commitments is the commitment that you first and foremost showed towards us in the gospel of our salvation. Lord, I pray that you would comfort us in that gospel so that we, in turn, can be a comfort to those in our church family. We pray that you would nourish us in those gospel realities through your word and through sacrament. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.