What is Our Crown of Boasting . . . ?
The Apostle Paul’s priority for Christian ministry was to pour his life into people and make them into disciples of Christ. He told the Christians in Thessalonica, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Th. 2:19-20 [ESV]). His “crown of boasting” at the conclusion of his earthly service to Christ was not going to be the 13 letters he contributed to the New Testament, or the famous people he preached to, or the miracles he performed, or even raising Eutychus from the dead . . . his crowning achievement when he stood before the Lord would be the people he poured his life into.
Paul loved those people at Thessalonica. He had preached the gospel to them, and the Spirit of God had opened their hearts to receive his message of salvation as the very words of God (1:5; 2:13). He labored hard to serve them (2:9) and thought of himself as their father (2:11-12). He remembers them fondly: “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2:8).
Now, he had been “torn away” from them and was eager to see them again (2:17). He could hardly bear to be away from them, they had become so dear to him (3:1, 5). Without knowing exactly when he would see them again, he was hopeful that he would only be away “for a short time” (2:17). He was separated from them in his body, but his heart was still with them (2:17).
Do you have relationships like this within the body of Christ? If you had to leave your town or city in the middle of the night (as Paul had to leave Thessalonica), is there anyone you would feel “torn away” from and long to return to? Who in the local body of Christ is very dear to you? Who have you allowed yourself to become “affectionately desirous” of?
Let us pour our lives into our brothers and sisters in the church and help one another grow as disciples of Christ!
Making disciples requires a commitment to invest in people. It is not a “one time” event. It cannot be accomplished in an hour at an outreach dinner or even over one week during a children’s camp. Making disciples is an ongoing process that takes time and investment and patience and sweat and perseverance. The process of discipleship begins with conversion, but it continues until the day we die. Jesus expects us to teach one another “to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). You could quite possibly “make a disciple” of the same person for a lifetime. (I expect to be discipling my children for as long as I live!)
When Paul is judged by Christ for his service to the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:10), his crown is going to have people’s names on it. Whose names will be on your crown of boasting when you stand before the Lord Jesus at his coming? Who are you pouring your life into? May we have great affection and desire for our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we share both the gospel and our lives with them!