Paul is absolutely dying to know how they have been going. He’s heard they have been facing trials. The tone starts to make sense. They are the church where he saw the most positive response to Jesus, facing real testing. A mixture of love and excitement has been obvious from the start.
He couldn’t go so he sent Timothy. I love the repeated “when i could stand it no longer”. You really get a sense of his emotions outrunning his eloquence.
But before the big report back from Timothy, he tosses in teaching about suffering. He warned them it was inevitable. So often that is missing from modern teaching where Christianity can come off sounding like a self help regime.
Timothy’s report is sensational. They are standing strong in their hardship, and, sweetly, they have “pleasant memories” of Paul – they don’t hate him! He has a sense of relief. I imagine he worried sick when the gospel he brings causes suffering: “Do they now hate me?” “Is this whole gospel thing a big mistake?”
Their triumph restores his faith and makes his own problems seem surmountable.
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
He has a blessing prayer for them…. May their love ever increase and their hearts ever be stronger. And may he get to see them himself again.
Christianity almost always happens in community. Everything we do has an impact. When it’s real in our lives, is real in everybody’s. Paul made it real for them. They probably didn’t realise as they acted on what they learned from him that they were restoring his faith in return.