“Nevertheless, your work was beneficial in sharing the tribulation with me.”
While affliction…tribulation…is often a tool that God uses to refine his people and his church, the scriptures also insist that we not seek to do so alone. Part of the reason for being a part of the body of Christ is that when one portion suffers the others are able to walk alongside of the one who is hurting and minister to them. Whether this is a result of tragedy, trial, grief, challenges, etc…, this is one of the tasks to which the church must rightly apply itself. As Paul writes, when one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Though separated by distance, this church sought to live this principle out along with the Apostle Paul…and not just as a matter of principle once Paul was arrested, but as Paul will later write, throughout his whole ministry. And their compassion for Paul was sincere; a matter of love, not a matter of duty.
For all the emphasis that Paul places on the believer imitating him as he imitates Christ; this church also leaves us a wonderful model to follow: be a body not just with those in the pew, but also with your pastors and missionaries. Rejoice with them when there is reason to rejoice, but weep with them when there is cause for grief and suffer with them when suffering and tribulation arise. Minister to those who minister to you and serve them who serve you. Be the body, don’t just talk about it.