It is still clear to me how I met you for the first time, how we had that first conversation about the gospel, and how we had our first Bible study date ever. Since then, God allowed many unforgettable moments in our relationship as friends but more importantly as family.
I may have known you from just few weeks or months ago. Or we could have been friends for years already. But regardless of how long we have known each other, I am thankful because God blessed me with you. You are a source of joy (1 Thessalonians 1:19-20).
Our memories together consist of laughters and tears, ups and downs, boomerangs and bloopers, movies and sleepovers, victories and failures, surprises and can-I-hug-you? moments, breakthroughs and challenges, answered prayers and prayer requests, trusts and doubts, even misunderstandings and reconciliations. But by the grace of God, we continue to run the race God has marked out for us to persevere on and finish (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2).
Please forgive me for the times when I was not able to set a good example to you or if I have disappointed you in many ways. I am thankful because His grace and mercy kept you hanging on to Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, even in the midst of God working on a lot about my character as His daughter and disciple.
I am blessed to have witnessed the times when you have chosen God and others above yourself. Your faith has encouraged and challenged me several times, too. I praise the Lord for the times when you prioritised your relationship with God and serving others even when you are tired from work, training and school, tired from many family/relational problems, and inflicted with crises on health and finances.
I praise the Lord for the times, even with tears in your eyes, when you acted in total surrender to the Lord – repenting before Him your sins and fears, and surrendering to Him by faith the things, emotions, worldly desires, personal aspirations that He has called you to surrender.
I praise the Lord for the times when you wrestled in prayer before Him, and battled against the enemy who is waging war against your personal time with the Lord.
I praise the Lord for the times when you admitted in humility the things that God is teaching and correcting in you. I also praise the Lord for the times when you forgave those who hurt you, loved the unlovable, and cared for those who pull you down.
I praise the Lord for the times when you shared the gospel to your friends, families and even to strangers even with knees shaking and words stuttering. I praise the Lord for the times you reached out to someone and talked to him/her about your relationship with Jesus or about how Jesus transformed your life. I praise the Lord for the times when you relentlessly invested your life on others with a mind fixed on an eternal reward – Jesus.
I praise the Lord for the times when you could have just easily given up, selfishly turned your back against God and his people, and thought of yourself only, but still you chose to pursue Jesus; still you chose to follow Him and His ways.
I give glory to the Lord because it is He who is faithfully at work in your lives.
Do you remember our friends who left? Those whom we loved on a life-to-life level yet chose to leave the race we are running together at? I still remember them, too. I also remember the sadness we felt when they stopped showing up because they chose to chase themselves and other things apart from Christ (Hebrews 10:25). Like you, I still pray for them too. Like you, I still have that hope that one day, in God’s time, they will return not for us but for Christ.
There were times, in my walk with Christ, when I wanted to give up caring. I would lie if I tell you that I never got weary and anxious of figuring out how I can pray for you and attend to your needs. I would lie to you if I tell you that all the effort, salary and time I spent in love were not done by faith. I would lie if I tell you that I do not get sad when you bail out/cancel on me last minute. I would lie if I tell you that I do not get hurt whenever you make decisions by flesh and feelings, and not by faith.
There were times, in my walk with Christ, when I wanted to turn my back from making disciples. But God would always remind me of why I am doing what I am doing in the first place. And there has always been one answer: Jesus.
I care for you not because of what I can do for you or what you can do for me, but because of Jesus and what He has done for us. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19; 1 John 4:16).
I thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so I cared for you. Because I loved you so much, I was delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but my life as well.
As a father deals with his own children, I encourage, comfort and urge you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.
– from 1 Thessalonians 13, 8, 11 and 12