1 Thessalonians 2:13–20 (NKJV)
13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.I Thessalonians 2:13-16
Paul addresses the Thessalonian Christians in this passage, lauding them for their welcome reception of the word of God. They received it as what it truly was, the truth of God, and they saw its effectiveness working in them. The unfortunate, yet expected, end of this was that they were being persecuted for their faith, just as the churches in Judea (Israel) were being persecuted. As a matter of fact, they are suffering the same opposition as Jesus Christ Himself and the prophets suffered at the hand of the Jews, and that Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles faces in cities all over Asia Minor and Europe. They have been forbidden to speak to the Gentiles, yet they continue preaching to anyone who will believe. In the process of opposing the work of the gospel, the enemies of the church are drawing upon themselves the wrath of God. This struggle is real, and the opposition can be harsh, but the rewards are epic!
17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. 18 Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 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? 20 For you are our glory and joy.I Thessalonians 2:17-20
Paul offers his regret that he has not been able to visit Thessalonica in person and see the disciples face-to-face. He longs to visit them, but has been hindered by many things. The letter to the Thessalonians was not written from prison, but from another location. He accentuates his desire to visit them again, having won them originally in his first visit. He has no doubt been accused of forsaking the Thessalonians, but here typifies his leaving as having been torn away from them. His desire to see them again had been “hindered by Satan” over and over again. The severe nature of the work of Satan is heartbreaking to Paul, and he wants to communicate this clearly here. Paul then goes on to describe the Christians to whom he writes as his “hope, or joy, or crown.” Paul is honored to have the Thessalonian Christians as converts, friends, and disciples. He longs to see them again on earth, and at the coming of the Lord. They bring Paul glory and joy, and he loves them as a father, a pastor, a brother.
One thing that should be learned here is that Christians should have deep and meaningful relationships that endure with those around them and with those abroad who have been part of their faith journey. Friends you meet on missions trips, friends you meet on vacations, friends you meet at church, mentors, disciples, etc., should not just be here today, gone tomorrow in your thoughts and prayers. Maintain contact, pray for them, seek God for their good. Let them know often that your love has not waned. Send various forms of communication and visit when possible. God does the same for you, so do this simple thing for those in your circle of care as well.
Artwork from https://calvarydayton.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/1thes02_13.jpg and https://dailybiblememe.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/1thessalonians2-19.jpg.