Last night we had a good Bible study on the book of Philemon. We finished a lengthy study of Philippians last week. Until Christmas we'll do some smaller books and thematic studies.
Philemon is a little jewel. One thing that struck me was Paul's between-the-lines betrayal of his ministry passion in verse 7:
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.*
Paul is in prison as he writes this, but his source of joy and comfort is good news concerning people in one of the churches he planted. He isn't giving thanks for physical help or personal encouragement (though he does that elsewhere), but for the work of a brother who refreshed the saints.
I had to ask myself, "Is this what I live for? Is this encouragement and spiritual refreshment of the saints what gives me joy and comfort?"
As a cross-reference, we took a look at Paul's mission statement in Colossians 1:28-2:3:
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.*
I can identify with Paul's passion to some degree, but it is so easy to be distracted with "ministry" things that do not serve this goal of seeing the saints (and pre-saints that we are evangelizing) not only brought to a greater knowledge of Christ, but brought to the point where they are delighted in Christ and refreshed by His truth and love.
*All Bible quotes are from the ESV