1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?…
The crown of a man's life is that which he desires above all things. A crown of rejoicing is that which gives him the greatest joy. The apostle's life joy was bound up with the salvation of souls. If that failed his life was joyless.
I. THE SWEETEST JOY THAT EARTH GIVES IS THE JOY OF DOING GOOD.
1. Here is a high hill, its sides rocky, its surface sterile, its contour uncomely. Nobody wants it or values it. Presently a wise man walks over it, purchases it, cuts away at its sides, and after long and expensive toil lays bare a wealth of precious minerals. So there is many a deed of kindness that waits to be done; yet no one does it. It seems an unpleasant, hard, costly thing; yet he who at last does it finds in it a treasure. In every kindness there is a joy locked up for your own soul, and the more difficult it is the sweeter the joy. It is sweet to take a loaf of bread to the starving, although it may leave you hungry; to deny yourself of some ornament to clothe the naked; to lose your own sleep to watch beside the suffering. Pearls are found in the unsightly oyster, so pearls of joy are found in tasks from which we shrink.
2. But the sweetest joy is that of saving souls. A man once saved a child's life by snatching it from under the feet of a galloping horse, and ever after that one deed illumined that man's life. He lay for years in prison cells, but the joys of that heroic hour shone ever in upon his gloom. If it is so blessed to save from physical, how much more to save from eternal death! When Dr. Lyman Beecher was dying some one asked him what was the greatest of all things. He answered, "It is not theology; it is not controversy; it is saving souls." As the Christian approaches the sunset of life he feels that this is the only work worth doing, A preacher may draw crowds, and be rewarded with academic titles, and achieve great fame; but if souls are not saved his ministry is a failure.
II. THOSE WHOM WE LEAD TO CHRIST WILL BE OUR CROWN OF JOY IN HEAVEN.
1. Reference is here made to the ancient games. At the end of the race the victor is crowned. So at the end of the apostle's course he should receive a crown jemmed with saved souls. He who gives a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple will be rewarded, and he who saves souls will receive the most glorious rewards.
2. There seems also to have been in the apostle's mind the thought that his spiritual children would be grouped round him as a glory, as children gather round a parent. Jesus is the Saviour around whom all the saved shall gather. But that one family will be broken up into countless groups gathered about those who have led them to Jesus. All whom we have helped to the Saviour will greet us as we pass inside heaven's gates. Every Christian pastor or worker will, in heaven, be like a tree with many or few branches on which all the fruits of his life will hang. Conclusion: Our joy in heaven will be measured by our deeds of kindness on earth. The gold and silver we have spent in benefitting our race, will be transmuted into crowns of glory. Those who are spending themselves for Christ are weaving fadeless garlands for their brows. They who are saving souls are gathering and polishing jewels for their heavenly crowns.
(J. R. Miller.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?