…encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 

1 Thessalonians [2:12] 

Around 50 AD, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church in Thessalonica that he had founded just three months earlier. The letter today is called 1st Thessalonians in the New Testament. The letter’s purpose was to instruct those in the church to not give up their Christian values, despite outside temptations and persecution.  

The church was under siege by external influences (and even some from within), attempting to get them to compromise their values. As a new church, there were growing pains. Paul’s letter encouraged the church members to stay their course and not let temptation affect their actions. While the tone of this letter was one of encouragement, it also included reminders to live lives worthy of God.  

Over the last few years, I have become friends with a man who has had some remarkable challenges in his life. After struggling for the first few years of his career, he recently found success. He is now earning significantly more than he had in the past and has been promoted twice in the last three years. He bought a home, and life was good.  

But when he first arrived at his new company, many encouraged him to take a few shortcuts. He was challenged to bend a few rules and was told not to worry about getting caught. He listened quietly, knowing it was the wrong approach, and silently refused to comply.  

This caused some ripples with his co-workers, but he held on to his beliefs. Sure, he missed a few sales because he didn’t mislead potential customers. But the customers he did land became loyal because of his honesty. Slowly, his sales numbers grew, and he was soon bringing in more business than those taking shortcuts. He was asked to help train new salespeople. Those he trained also started to do well. 

One of the senior vice-presidents noticed not only that his sales were great, but that those who had attended his training classes were exceeding their goals as well. He was called into his boss’s office and told he would be promoted—they were putting him in charge of training all the new salespeople.  

After his early years of struggling and trying to find the right job, it seemed my friend had found a perfect fit. The struggle to make ends meet became a distant memory. Simply being honorable and not giving in to temptation has paid off.  

I enjoy talking with my friend. I love hearing his low-key and humble approach to his work. He doesn’t brag about his accomplishments. Instead, he humbly gives credit to God for all he has accomplished. He doesn’t think he is remarkable. Yet he is: despite outside influences, he stays the course of honesty. His lesson to me is that being great at work is achieved simply by adhering to Christian values. This might seem boring, but living this way every day takes personal inner strength.   

This was Paul’s point to the Thessalonians: simply live lives worthy of God. However, some days it takes encouragement and endurance to continue living that kind of life. And Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is designed to remind us even today to stay the course in following Jesus.  

Today, I encourage you to read 1st Thessalonians and become uplifted. It will only take fifteen minutes to read, and the letter serves as a reminder that trials will always exist, but when we live lives worthy of God, we will endure.   

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 

2nd Corinthians [9:11] 

Through the amazing blessing of Zoom, I was able to talk with a close friend, Tracey, while she was serving the homeless in Atlantic City. Using her phone, she tied into my Zoom meeting to show me the help she and forty others provided to the homeless.  

Connie and I have become deeply attached to the church Tracey attends. It is a tiny church, and on a good Sunday, ten to fifteen people attend. But their story isn’t about attendance; it is about serving and giving.

Each year, Tracey and friends create 20,000 meals for those in need in their community. In addition, at least twice a month, they are asked to provide clothing and toys to the homeless or destitute in the area. Oftentimes they bring a thirty-foot truck filled to the brim with donations.

We might wonder how they find out who needs help. Here’s how. They might get a call from a local town or another church and are asked to help out. Sometimes the towns are close; other times they’re a longer drive. They have also gotten calls from Army base commanders to help temporarily-housed refugees. Even the head of the State Police has sometimes called to ask if they will go to a town struck by the economic impact of COVID.

Tracey and her congregation never know when they will get a call or what they will be asked to do. It just happens. As such, they are constantly given clothing from donors and sorting out the best garments from the rags. They even receive toys and pet food. When their next call for help comes, Tracey and crew take the bounty given to them and help make others’ lives better.

On this particular Saturday morning, Tracey was in Atlantic City. The purpose of my Zoom call was to serve as a digital journalist and to create a video to help her church receive more clothing and money for their work. I asked Tracey the typical five questions: what, where, how, when, and why.

As I asked each question, Tracey got more exuberant and animated. She answered so fast, I sometimes couldn’t ask follow-up questions. Passion was bursting forth from this wonderful, everyday person. I sat, enthralled, not just at what she was saying, but by her energy and enthusiasm.

When I asked Tracey, “Why?” she slowed and became emotional. She said, “I give because I am blessed.” She tried hard to hide them, but I could see that tears of joy were close to the surface. Tracey’s lower lip quivered, and she composed herself, fighting back the tears of joy.

Then she explained with a far more profound statement. She said, “The people who I help always say thank you and are respectful. And they always say, ‘Bless you.’ But I feel more blessed to be able to help.”

The joy Tracey was feeling isn’t uncommon. Tom Locke, the head of a very large mission organization, told me something about this joy years earlier. Tom is a good friend who has spent his whole life giving. When he asked others why they gave, he often witnessed tears of joy. I have thought about this phenomenon many times since Tom mentioned these experiences, and I’ve quizzed many other servant leaders about why these tears of joy happen.

Recently, I read 2nd Corinthians [9:11] and finally connected the dots. The verse says, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

The statement, “Your generosity results in thanksgiving to God,” can’t be explained through human logic; rather, it is demonstrated through our faith. God is always compelling us to give—essentially assigning us a responsibility to serve. When we answer this profound request from God, we feel blessed. Then we give thanks to God, whether consciously or subconsciously. We know we have been touched by God and, in turn, experience joy. This joy is unique because it is from God.

In the past, I tried to understand this phenomenon through human logic and had always been unsuccessful though I’d seen it many times and knew it exists. In my counseling business, I always tell people that they will feel better when they give. Some don’t understand this statement at first, but when they take my advice, they, too, are filled with joy. God blesses us when we give. Or, as Tracey put it, “I feel more blessed when I give.”

This concept might sound illogical, but that is the point. It isn’t logical until our faith makes it so. Trust that when we demonstrate generosity, God is involved, and know that when we serve and give to others, it is far better than receiving.

In our moments of service to others, we are blessed with joy.