Joy and Crown

As the nip of autumn fills the air, my mind turns to Thanksgiving. This is my reminder to thank you who make my ministry possible—you who intercede and give. I struggle every year because words seem inadequate. A gift card or a souvenir is too small. But a larger gift is a conflict of interest. How can I take funds from carefully sacrificed donations and turn around and spend them on a gift to the giver? Such is my strange lifestyle and predicament. 

The Apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation. He relied on the gifts of others to complete his missionary journeys. While in prison, he needed the family of God to send him money and encouragement. And he had absolutely nothing to give in return. So, he wrote letters. Thank-you notes, if you will. To the church at Philippi, he said, I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (1:3-5). 
Along with gratitude, Paul’s deep affection for the church was expressed throughout the letter: God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:8). My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown (4:1).
The frequency of Paul’s gratitude—every time I remember you—and the strength of his expression—my joy and crown—challenges me. How often do I remember you who are so vital to my life? Are you my joy and crown? Can I say, as Paul did in I Thessalonians 2:19, that you are my hope, my joy, and the crown I will be proud of when our Lord Jesus Christ comes?
So, following Paul’s example:

I thank God for you, not just this month, but every time I think about, pray for and communicate with you. I rejoice in your accomplishments, your growth, your commitment to multiply God’s church around the world. The sacrifice of your prayer time and hard-earned cash makes me proud. I love each of you because you care about those who have yet to know and experience freedom in Christ and you entrust me with the privilege of serving workers who strive to make that freedom a reality. You are my joy and crown. Thank you.

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