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Romans 1:11 "For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual
gift to you, that you may be established;"
Philip. 4:1 "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy
and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved."
1 Thes. 3:6 "But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought
us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of
us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you,"
2 Tim. 1:4 "longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that
I may be filled with joy."
I don't mean to do any one of these verses a disservice by lumping them
all together, because each of them carry a powerful meaning when they stand
alone, but I wanted to read them together because I wanted for us to see
the strength of Paul's longing to connect with fellow Christians. A longing
God recognized when he created us. Throughout the creation narrative, God
pauses to admire what He's done, several times he says, "It is good," or
"it is very good." There is a predictable cadence to the narrative-a poetic
pattern. But then Genesis 2:18 disrupts the pattern with God's declaration
that something wasn't good-remember what it was? "It is not good for the
man to be alone;"
Have you ever been in a crowd, and yet still feel alone? I don't want
to go into cliche overdrive here, but we are not islands-we need to be
connected to others. People have three core yearnings-a longing to believe,
a longing to become and a longing to belong. Desperately, disillusioned
people want something they can believe it. Disappointed people want to
become somebodies and disenfranchised people want to belong-they want to
Do you long to belong? Paul longed for the people even when he did belong.
In Romans 1:11, Paul writes, "For I long to see you in order that I may
impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;" Paul longed
to be with the people so he could instruct them. There is a strange interdependence
between a teacher and her students and between a Pastor and his congregation.
There is a line in the movie "Widow Maker" that illustrates this interdependence.
Harrison Ford's character is a captain of a Russian Submarine about to
take the boat on its virgin voyage. He gathers his crew so he can address
them before they head out to sea and says, "Without me, you are nothing."
He pauses to let the impact of his words sink into the heart of his crew.
About the time I was ready to write him off as arrogant and full of himself,
he said, "Without you, I am nothing."
Though I'm not ready to apply those words literally to the relationship
of a Pastor and a congregation, I pray that I fill a need in the life of
this congregation and I do know that you fill a need in my life-a need
to serve; a need to lead; a need to teach; a need to love; a need to Pastor.
I long for you. I need you.
There are churches where the relationship between Pastor and people
is antagonistic, to say the least. He berates them from the pulpit and
they belittle him behind his back. To that Pastor I'd say, learn to love
your people, even when they are unlovely and to that congregation I'd say,
learn to respect your Pastor, even when he makes mistakes. I don't believe
God intended the Pastor/congregation relationship to be antagonistic, I
believe he intended it to be interdependent. Before I move to the next
scripture, have I told you lately how much I love you and how I feel I'm
the luckiest Pastor in the world to get to serve you? Thank you for being
the kind of congregation that a Pastor can "long for."
Paul had a healthy relationship-an interdependent relationship with
these people and he longed to connect with them again so he could fulfill
his calling among them.
In Philip. 4:1, Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I
long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved."
Here Paul longs to see the church in Philippi because they are his joy
and his crown. What brings you joy? For Paul, it was fellowshiping with
fellow believers. They brought him joy and his relationship with them was
his greatest accomplishment-they were his crown-his reward. We talk a lot
about changing the world and being on mission together-things we value.
We know that there are things we are supposed to do and accomplish for
the Kingdom of God. Our reward is not when we accomplish one of the things
on our to do list of ministry-it is the fact that we get to do them together.
That's why I urge you to get involved in a ministry team or serve on a
committee with other members. You will get great satisfaction out accomplishing
the work and knowing that you're helping to change the world, but you will
get even greater satisfaction out of doing the work-in community with other
people. Getting involved in ministry, with others is a key to connecting
with people. The work itself becomes the reward.
The 1 Thes. 3:6 passage shows a different kind of longing. Paul longs
to share in the fellowship of a people he loves. "But now that Timothy
has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and
love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as
we also long to see you," He'd heard from Timothy how much the church missed
him, so he writes to let them know how much he misses them too. He longed
to share in their faith and their love, he longs to see them again. This
passage reminds me of the Christmas letters that many of us send to family
and friends that we're not in everyday contact with. Paul wanted to "catch-up"
with people he loves. He was grateful for the report that Timothy gave
him and I'm sure they were glad to hear back from Paul through this letter
and the personal testimony Timothy would naturally give them when he returned.
We long to be connected with people who will share our lives and whose
lives we can share. To that end, I yearn to be with you-to share your joys
and your sorrows and to have you share mine. I yearn for many of our people
who've left to go to the four corners of the world. I miss them-I yearn
to be with them again-I long to have the joy of sharing their lives.
The 2 Tim. 1:4 passage has quite a bit more emotion attached to it.
In it, Paul writes, "longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so
that I may be filled with joy." Paul is entering the final phase of his
ministry and will soon move on to his final reward. But before his life
is poured out as a drink offering, he penned these words to his son in
the ministry. I sense a maturing in his words here. He is not longing to
be with Timothy because he wants to teach him something, or to have someone
to pass the time with-he simply longs to be with someone he loves so he
can rub souls with him. This is the longing that accompanies a mature relationship.
It doesn't come until you've invested sweat, blood and tears into a relationship
and benefitted from the investment of the same things from others. It is
the reward of living in community.
Are you connected? Do you have real, significant relationships? You
can, just as Paul did. As you think about these four passages of scripture,
what do you see that they have in common? We've seen a yearning for interdependence,
for passing time with others and sharing in their lives and allowing them
to share in yours. There's the longing to "catch up" with significant people
in your lives and to know they're OK and to let them know you're OK too,
and then there is the yearning just for "being" with people you've shared
These passage share several things in common. First, they reflect relationships
were people were willing to risk in order to be in community. They were
willing to risk being needed and needing someone else. Second, they involved
sacrifice-the willingness to put the needs of the group before their own
needs. And third, they involved stamina. These were not disposable relationships-they
were lifelong connections.
Are you willing to risk, to sacrifice and to persevere? If so, you can
reap the benefits of being connected with a community of believers, who
are on mission to change the world.