Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. 4 Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. 5 That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.
6 But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. 7 So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. 8 It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.
9 How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.
11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]
I remember the song: Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. I’m not sure I realized how true that was until many years after that 2nd grade musical lesson. But I realize now just how true it is. And I really enjoy connecting with friends – most especially those who are friends in the faith.
I have a number of good acquaintances in the photo club of which I am a member. I enjoy being with them. But there is a special and deeper connection with those who are friends in the faith. Members of the congregation I previously served and of which I am still a member may wonder. We’ve been absent from St. John for months on end. Good reasons: Travel to be with family. Serving another congregation during their vacancy. Travel to Tanzania to teach leadership with PLI International. Even an enjoyable vacation in northern Michigan this summer.
But there are times we do connect and those times are delightful. We hosted a get-together to share the opportunity to support our work in Tanzania. Little pressure to give. Lots of conversation, food, and fellowship. We will gather again with friends who are interested in traveling to Ireland next spring. A great time with friends who love each other. We’ve had friends visit us while serving a church in the Rio Grande Valley. We’ve made great connections with the people here and enjoy their company too.
These visits bless us. We hope they bless those who gather with us as well. We share a common faith. There is never an awkward moment when we suggest a prayer. There is much good will and grace as we opine, discuss, or explore God’s word together.
A friend shared a manner in which he deals with sleeplessness. We had spoken of our mutual occasions to wake up at 3:00 AM with things on our minds and no easy path back to sleep. I shared praying the Lord’s Prayer, the Angus Dei (“Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us your peace…”) or the Kyrie (“Lord, have mercy!”). He shared the idea of thinking of specific things for which he is thankful. Reciting them as prayers of thanks to God. I’ve since added that to my resources for middle-of-the-night prayer sessions.
Paul speaks of his friends in the faith as well as partners in ministry. They are precious to him and he hopes he is precious to them. They build each other up in the faith and bring great joy. The same is true for me. Friends in the faith are the silver and gold of human relationships. They are a delightful blessing for with we can thank God: in the middle of the night, and in this very moment. Thank you, God, for our friends in faith. They make the love of Jesus ever more real.