I am finding this tour was a turning point in my Christian walk and the ministry to which I was called. I was very ill at the beginning of the tour and quite discouraged. There are some who do not believe a Christian should struggle with discouragement, and I am inclined to agree. However, sometimes God brings another Christian brother along at the exact right time to pull alongside, encourage and help in many ways.
Paul and his helpers found three reasons to thank God the church in Thessalonica. Regarding the tour, the middle one was most applicable, "the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth." We should thank God for those He brings across our paths to keep us going strong in the ministry, who reach out and put the love for the brethren in action. That is the definition of charity. Love in action.
II Thessalonians 1:1-4 - Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
What we fail to realize, however, is that others can be weakened due to a discouraging word (pardon my use of this, I am from the West, where these are seldom heard) or self-seeking, arrogant attitude. In a very real sense, our conduct encourages or discourages others. I am sure Paul had many examples (the church of Corinth, for instance) of Christians who did not grow in faith or extend charity to one another. There were also some who were not patient and faithful in their persecutions. We can all point to examples of those who we thought would be the last to leave the stuff who did leave the stuff. As a young man in the ministry, I remember being very discouraged when I would hear of another preacher falling into sin or a faithful church member leaving the church because of personality conflict.
Our lack of concern for others and the desire to advance our own viewpoint can cause others to stumble.
I Corinthians 13:1-10 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.(4) Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Charity is to be acted upon in a sincere way, and this will cause the faith of others to increase, because people can always tell when we are faking our charity toward them.
Romans 12:9-10 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
I will also always remember and be thankful for the fellowship of like-minded believers as I experienced on the Baptist history tour. Thank you Jeff, David, Luke, Aaron, Josh, Ben, Ted and others for your faithfulness and pulling a brother up when you didn't realize you were doing so. I do not recall a single preacher on that tour that was self-seeking and the love of Christ was demonstrated constantly and consistently.
Lord, thank you for the men and the love, respect and Christ-like attitudes they displayed. Thank you for bringing, if for a brief time, men into my life that unwittingly pulled along side and helped a brother.