Have you ever done something or went somewhere and then said to yourself, “Boy, that was a waste of time!” I remember waiting in line to get the autograph of one of my favorite authors. I had one of his books with me and was so excited for him to sign his name on the inside cover of the book and take a picture with me.
I waited in line almost an hour and my favorite author still wasn’t there. Suddenly, I heard the crowd at the front of the line grumble. Word passed from front to back that the author was unable to sign autographs after all. He wasn’t feeling well and was heading to the airport to fly home. I remember rolling my eyes and sighing with everyone else, saying, “Boy, that sure was a waste of time!”
When we spend a lot of time or energy doing something, we want it to be worth something. We want it to count. We want it to matter. We never want to waste our time. Paul wanted the Thessalonian Christians to know that he had not wasted his time with them. He wrote, “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain” (v. 1). You see, being a Christian in Thessalonica was not easy. Christians were not popular in this city. Paul himself suffered in this city, but he wanted the Thessalonians to know their time and his time was not wasted.
Why? Why would Paul’s time with these Christians not be wasted? And how does Paul know this? Is it worth it to follow Christ when it’s not a popular thing to do? Is it a waste of time to go to church? Is it a waste of time to have family devotions? Is it a waste of time to intentionally pray or share the gospel with your neighbor?
We will never waste our time when we talk about, think about, and share the gospel. Spending time on the gospel is always time well spent. Paul had shared the gospel with these Christians “in the midst of much conflict” (v. 2). Through all the trouble Paul faced, he continued to share the gospel and do whatever it took for these Thessalonians to believe in Jesus. Paul didn’t waste time trying to please other people because he wanted to please God. Paul didn’t waste time keeping the gospel to himself. The gospel was given to him, so he wanted to give it to others (v. 4). Paul didn’t waste his time bragging on himself. Instead, he spent his time bragging on Jesus (v. 5-6).
Paul shared everything he had with the Thessalonians. Most importantly he worked “night and day” both earning a living and sharing the gospel (v. 9). He didn’t waste his time with what he taught the Thessalonians. He taught them the gospel and showed them how to live it out each day (v. 10-12).
Do you know how Paul knows his time wasn’t wasted? First, he obeyed God’s command to teach and preach the gospel. You will never waste your time obeying God. But his time was also not wasted because the gospel found a home in the hearts of the Thessalonians and they were changed. They started imitating Jesus (v. 14). They suffered for Christ (v. 15). When the gospel changes your life, you know you are not wasting your time in church or in Bible study or in family devotions or sharing the gospel with your neighbor. Whatever helps you look more like Jesus is not a waste of time.
You can do a lot of things that are a waste of time. Following Jesus is never one of them. You will never waste your life following Jesus. You will find it.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.