Each of us loves affirmation. What kind means the most to you?
Paul must have been affirmed by the visible fruit of his ministry in Thessalonica. After all, he had seen peoples’ lives and priorities change. The kinds of things they gave themselves to as a result of his preaching was different. He had seen evidence with his own eyes that his gospel message had deeply impacted their lives. That visible fruit that must have affirmed him greatly.
Paul could have been affirmed by audible words of value and praise that the Thessalonians offered to him. “Thank you so much!” “God used you!” “My life is different because of you!” He likely heard expressions like those. And, if he was like most of us, it must have felt good to hear them.
But while visible fruit and audible words must have given him a good feeling about his ministry, there was a higher calling and a greater affirmation he sought. He expresses it in 2:4:
“On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”
The two sentences of that verse help greatly those who rely on visible fruit or audible words. The Lord had entrusted him with the gospel. As a result, Paul sought to please the Lord. Though the apostle must have yearned for fruit, he would be no less affirmed if no one had responded. Had he sensitively, faithfully, and accurately conveyed the message? If so, God was pleased.
What if no one had offered audible words of praise and affirmation? It made not difference, because that was not the kind of thing he sought. If God was pleased, no human pat on the back was needed.
As you yearn for affirmation, be careful that you do not place too much value on visible fruit or audible words. There is something greater still. Instead, seek divine pleasure that comes from knowing you did/said that which blessed the Lord.