We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. –II Thessalonians 1:3, 4
I heard a story once about two men who were hiking through the woods. As they walked along they saw a bear some distance ahead. Both men stopped and stood still, but the bear saw them and began charging toward them. One of the men quickly reached into his backpack and pulled out a pair of running shoes which he proceeded to hurriedly put on. As the men ran from the bear the one asked the other, “So, do you think those running shoes will help you run faster than the bear?” I don’t have to run faster than the bear,” the man replied, “I just have to run faster than you.”
As I ponder that silly story I am inclined to consider the way believers sometimes think that we are in competition with each other. So often we feel perhaps some envy toward another congregation that is growing faster than ours, baptizing more people, is larger, or has more programs. Such feelings can not only get in the way of the love we are to hold in our hearts for one another, but it can also hinder the work of the church in which we serve. Paul the Apostle told the believers in II Thessalonians chapter one that he was thankful to God that their faith was growing as was their love for one another. From that faith and love grew perseverance in the midst of the trials they were facing. Such an attitude fosters the love of Christ in our hearts which facilitates increased fellowship in the church.
When our hearts are set upon the Lord Jesus and our focus is upon Him, we will not become caught up in feelings of envy or strife toward another believer or congregation. Instead, we will take Paul’s attitude and rejoice that the Lord is working in their midst. We are brothers and sisters in Christ sharing a common goal: Reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anytime we hear of another church in the community that is proclaiming the gospel, baptizing people, and growing in the faith, our response is to be one of praise and rejoicing. We can also pray that such a spirit of revival will take place in our fellowship as well.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, you do not have to try to run faster than me and I will not try to run faster than you. Instead, let us seek to walk together in shared fellowship and service to the Lord. Let's strive to encourage one another along the way. When you are being blessed I will rejoice. And I pray that as the Lord works in my life that you will rejoice along with me.
Be of good cheer and be encouraged today. We are indeed co-laborers in Christ Jesus.