Usually we read and study the apostle Paul’s New Testament letters focusing on the exact words (content) that he wrote to the various churches and individuals. Of course, we want to properly understand the issues, doctrines, and topics he was addressing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But maybe we miss some other obvious things because we don’t step back and look at it from a broader or more general perspective. Instead of focusing on what Paul was directly saying or teaching, we also need to focus on what he was doing. In other words, what can we learn indirectly from Paul?
Paul, on his missionary journeys, met many individuals and started new churches – but he didn’t just forget about them. He continued to be concerned for them, made efforts to keep in touch, and prayed for them. We know this because he wrote them letters that became a part of the canon of Scripture. Do we care for people this way? Do we remember people? Or do we just forget about them? It certainly would have been easier for Paul to have made a clean break after he started a church, and focus entirely on the new work. Yet, Paul took the time to communicate and show that he cared for the people from the previous places. While we are likely not church planters nor moving around like Paul, are we taking time for the people in our lives in this way?
Little things can make such a difference: A phone call to inquire how the week is going for someone who shared a concern or struggle. Getting together for coffee with someone for mutual support and encouragement. Dropping a note card in the mail to let someone know you have prayed for them. (I know postal mail is not so common anymore but it can be more personal than a text or e-mail, and more tangible as well.)
Another small observation is that not only was Paul praying for his churches, he also let them know in his letters that he was praying for them. My point? Ever share a prayer request or a problem, and then never have anyone inquire or touch base about it? I have. It makes me doubt that anyone actually remembered or prayed. Now perhaps they did, but I did not know it. You can’t be encouraged by something if you don’t know it is taking place! Right? I’m sure that the believers were encouraged to know that Paul was praying for them. Again, consider reaching out in a personal way and let someone know they are in your thoughts and prayers.
While I’m encouraging you to imitate Paul in this post, ultimately this is about imitating Jesus. Paul had a tremendous focus on Christ. In Jesus Christ, the God of the universe stepped into this world in a personal way. Jesus was never too busy for individuals and took the time for them. May it be so with us.