A trustworthy friend is a great comfort in the midst of trials. Yet authentic friendships are hard to come by. How are we to measure the strength of a friendship? And what is that makes a friendship grow? Paul the apostle has some insights for us.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 3:6:
“But now, because Timothy has come to us from you and has brought good news to us of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, desiring to see us just as also we desire to see you” (LEB).
Paul was prevented from making it back to Thessalonica, to visit the fledgling church there (1 Thessalonians 2:17–19). Thus he sent Timothy in his stead. At the heart of this decision was a deep-rooted friendship between Paul and Timothy (compare the letters of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy). Paul and Timothy were so close that Paul completely trusted Timothy to handle whatever would come up at Thessalonica.
Out of the friendship of Paul and Timothy came great transformation for the world. It was Paul, Timothy, and Silas (also called Silvanus) who first journeyed to Thessalonica and brought many Christians to faith there (Acts 17:4–10).
At Thessalonica something incredible was happening for the sake of the gospel of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:6). And this itself was based in friendship—the friendship that Paul, Timothy, and Silas had built with the Thessalonians.
Today, it seems that friendship is undervalued. I often wonder if this is one of the primary reasons why we have not brought the gospel to the last of the unreached people groups in the world. I also wonder if it’s why so many of our churches in the U.S. struggle: Are we more concerned with what we can receive that what we can give? Are we more interested in a transaction than a relationship? Have the values of consumerism so crept into our churches that we no longer know how to build authentic relationships?
If I was pressed to explain how I determine if a friendship is authentic, I would say that a friendship is first based in self-sacrifice for one another. Second, the value of a friendship is determined by how much good comes from the relationship—for one another and others around the world. Trust, loyalty, and honesty stand at the core of everything.
Jesus starts with relationship and bases everything out of relationship. It is through relationship that we will see our world transformed. We desperately need to make room in our lives for friendships. We each personally need it. Our communities need it. Our world needs it.
How can you invest more in authentic friendships? What ministry work can God build from your friendships?
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