I Thessalonians 2:19, 20
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Paul is writing the Thessalonian Christians, a few months after he first visited this city on his second missionary journey in 51 AD. With the conversion of many (see Acts 17:4), a church was founded in this Roman city. When the apostle wrote to the believers there a few months later, he said this about them in I Thessalonians 2:19 and 20:
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
Paul is speaking of these Christians as his reward in heaven as he and they stand before Jesus at the Bema Seat Judgment (see I Corinthians 3:11-15; II Corinthians 5:10). They, and we, will receive rewards (or lack of them) of crowns (see I Corinthians 9:25; Philippians 4:1; II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; I Peter 5:6) and assigned responsibilities! (See Luke 19:16-19).
Richard is one who is my glory and joy!
When I pastored in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Richard’s wife came to me, troubled over his involvement in sexual sin and thievery. I, and a deacon from the church, visited this man at his home. We found a gentle person, in his fifties, who graciously received us. We didn’t mention anything directly about his sinful actions, but I told him, “If we can do anything to help you, please let us know.” He thanked us for coming, and we left.
The next Sunday , Richard, who had not been in church in a long time, came to the evening service! And he attended every evening service for several weeks! About six weeks into his attendance, when the gathering was leaving, Richard broke down crying! His lifestyle had gotten to him! As others gathered around him to comfort and pray for him, he kept his head down as tears continued to bawl. I don’t know if Richard had previously accepted Jesus as his Savior, but this was still a conversion time for him! When his tears stopped, Richard asked those who had surrounded him, “Who was the person next to me, that one who was wearing a long white dress and sandals?”
“No one was there of that description ,” several people said.
“Yes there was!” Richard exclaimed. “Someone was right next to me. My head was down so I didn’t see the face, but there was someone there who had a hand on my shoulder and was calming me!”
Who was that one who wore sandals, a long white dress (or robe), and had a real calming effect on Richard? He, and I, believe it was the Lord Jesus Christ!
This gentle man became my best friend! And he was a great blessing to the church and also to God’s ministry beyond! Richard was instrumental in starting two ministries:
- Addicts Victorious – The name says it all.
- The Lighthouse – A ministry to unchurched youth in the local area. This ministry continues today, 35 years later, with a budget of $2,000,000 a year!
A busy church can be a stressful time for a pastor. I was no exception. Many times I would call Richard and shout, “Pizza attack! ” And we, with our wives, would head for our favorite pizza parlor where we would have a wonderful feast, and solve the problems of our church and the world!
I moved, called to another church on the other side of the state. At times I would travel back to visit some of the dear folks of my former church. Without notification of my coming, I would show up at Richard’s doorstep with suitcase in hand, and announce, “Here I am for a few days!” He and his wife would warmly welcome me, and they never tired of me as their guest!
As he approached his 80th year, Richard’s health greatly failed. My wife, Hope, and I visited him as often as we could. Then it was the last visit. I told him I loved him and would see him again in heaven. A few days later I conducted Richard’s funeral, a sad but joyous occasion of a saint gone home to his Lord!
For what is...[my] hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you [Richard] in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are ...[my] glory and joy.