I've been in Peru working with a special group of over 900 children and those who love them. It is a long, hard, expensive trip and the work is exhausting in every way. During the trip, a friend reminded me of Max's words we share below. I felt this was appropriate to explain why we do what we do. The precious one with me is named Mercy. She is written on my heart and my hope is that somehow through our work that she will be able to know Jesus and his love for her. — Phil Ware

You are our hope, our joy, and the crown we will take pride in when our Lord Jesus Christ comes (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV).

Oskar Schindler had his share of less-than-noteworthy characteristics. He was a womanizer and a heavy drinker. He bribed officials and was a member of the German Nazi Party. But buried in the dark of his heart was a diamond of compassion for the condemned Jews of Krakow, Poland.

The ones Hitler sought to kill, Schindler sought to save. He couldn't save them all, but he could save a few, and so he did what he could. What began as a factory for profit became a haven for eleven hundred fortunate souls whose names found their way onto his list—Schindler's list.

If you saw the movie by the same name, you'll remember how the story ends. With the defeat of the Nazis came the reversal of roles. Now Schindler would be hunted and the prisoners would be free. Oskar Schindler prepares to slip into the night. As he walks to his car, his factory workers line both sides of the road. They have come to thank the man who saved them. One of the Jews presents Schindler with a letter signed by each person, documenting his deed. He is also given a ring, formed out of the gold extracted from a worker's tooth. On it is carved a verse from the Talmud, "He who saves a single life saves the world entire."

In that moment, in the brisk air of the Polish night, Schindler is surrounded by the liberated. Row after row of faces. Husbands with wives. Parents with children. They know what Schindler did for them. They will never forget.

What thoughts raced through Schindler's mind in that moment? What emotions surface when a person finds himself face to face with lives he's changed?

Someday you'll find out. Schindler saw the faces of the delivered; you will, too. Schindler heard the gratitude of the redeemed; you'll hear the same. He stood in a community of rescued souls; the same is reserved for you.

When will this occur? It will occur when Christ comes. The promise Paul gives the Thessalonians isn't limited to just the apostle Paul. I'll explain.

You are our hope, our joy, and the crown we will take pride in when our Lord Jesus Christ comes (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV).

It's been about six months since Paul left Thessalonica. He, Timothy, and Silas spent three fruitful weeks in the city. The result of their stay was a nucleus of believers. Luke provides a one-sentence profile of the church when he writes:

Some of them [the Jews] were convinced and joined Paul and Silas, along with many of the Greeks who worshiped God and many of the important women (Acts 17:4).

An eclectic group attended the first church service: Some were Jews, some were Greeks, some were influential females, but all were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. And in a short time, all paid a price for their belief. Literally. The young believers were dragged into the presence of the city leaders and forced to post bond for their own release. That night they helped Paul, Timothy, and Silas sneak out of the city.

Paul moves on, but part of his heart is still in Thessalonica. The little church is so young, so fragile, but oh-so-special. Just the thought of them makes him proud. He longs to see them again:

We always thank God for all of you and mention you when we pray (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
He dreams of the day he might see them again and, even more, dreams of the day they see Christ together.

Note what he says to them:

You are our hope, our joy, and the crown we will take pride in when our Lord Jesus Christ comes (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV).
The verse conjures up an image akin to the one of Schindler and the survivors. An encounter between those freed and the one who led them to freedom. A moment in which those saved can meet the one who led them to salvation.

In this case Paul will meet with the Thessalonians. He will search the sea of faces for his friends. They will find him, and he will find them. And, in the presence of Christ, they will enjoy an eternal reunion.

Try to imagine doing the same. Think about the day Christ comes. There you are in the great circle of the redeemed. Your body has been made new—no more pain or problems. Your mind has been made new—what you once understood in part, you now understand clearly. You feel no fear, no danger, no sorrow. Though you are one of a throng, it's as if you and Jesus are all alone.

And he asks you this question. I'm speculating now, but I wonder if Christ might say these words to you: "I'm so proud that you let me use you. Because of you, others are here today. Would you like to meet them?"

Chances are you'd be surprised at such a statement. It's one thing for the Apostle Paul to hear such words. He was an apostle. We can imagine a foreign missionary or famous evangelist hearing these words — but us?

Most of us wonder what influence we have. (Which is good, for if we knew, we might grow arrogant.) Most of us can relate to the words of the good and righteous in Jesus' famous parable:

Master what are you talking about? (Matthew 25:37 MSG).

At that point Jesus might — again, these are wild speculations — but Jesus might turn to the crowd and invite them. With his hand on your shoulder, he announces, "Do we have any here who were influenced by this child of mine?"

One by one, they begin to step out and walk forward.

The first is your neighbor, a crusty old sort who lived next door. To be frank, you didn't expect to see him. "You never knew I was watching," he explains, "but I was. And because of you, I am here."

And then comes a cluster of people, a half-dozen or so. One speaks for the others and says, "You helped out with the youth devotional when we were kids. You didn't open your mouth much, but you opened your house. We became Christians in your living room."

The line continues. A coworker noticed how you controlled your temper. A receptionist remarks how you greeted her each morning.

Someone you don't even remember reminds you of the time you saw her in the hospital. You came to visit a friend in the next bed, but on the way out you stopped and spoke a word of hope with this stranger who looked lonely.

You are most amazed by the people from other countries. After all, you never even traveled to Asia or Africa or Latin America, but look! Cambodians, Nigerians, Colombians. How did you influence them? Christ reminds you of the missionaries who came your way. Your friends said you had a soft spot for them. You always gave money. "I can't go, but I can send," you'd say. Now you understand; you didn't have a soft spot. You had the Holy Spirit. And because you were obedient to the Spirit, Utan from Cambodia wants to say thanks. So does Kinsley from Nigeria and Maria from Colombia.

It's not long before you and your Savior are encircled by the delightful collection of souls you've touched. Some you know, most you don't, but for each you feel the same. You feel what Paul felt for the Thessalonians: pride. You understand what he meant when he said:

You are our hope, our joy, and the crown we will take pride in when our Lord Jesus Christ comes (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV).

"I could have done more..."
Not a haughty, look-what-I've-done pride. But rather an awestruck joy which declares, "I'm so proud of your faith."

But Jesus isn't finished. He loves to save the best for last, and I can't help but imagine him doing the same in heaven. You've seen the neighbors, the coworkers, the people you hardly knew, the foreigners you never knew, but there is one more group. And Jesus parts the crowd so you will see them.

Your family.

Your spouse is the first to embrace you. There were times when you wondered if either of you would make it. But now you hear the words whispered in your ear, "Thanks for not giving up on me."

Then your parents. No longer frail like you last saw them, but robust and renewed. "We're proud of you," they say. Next come your children. Children for whom you cared and over whom you prayed. They thank you; over and over they thank you. They know how hard it was, and how hard you tried, and they thank you.

And then some faces you don't recognize. You have to be told — these are grandchildren and great-grandchildren and descendants you never saw until today. They, like the others, thank you for an inherited legacy of faith.

They thank you.

Will such a moment occur? I don't know. If it does, you can be certain of two things. First, its grandeur and glory will far outstrip any description these words can carry:

No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him... (1 Corinthians 2:9).

And that "no one" certainly includes this one.

Second, if such a moment of reunion occurs, you can be certain you won't regret any sacrifice you made for the kingdom. The hours of service for Christ? You won't regret them. The money you gave? You'd give it a thousand times over. The times you helped the poor and loved the lost? You'd do it again.

Oskar Schindler would have. Earlier we wondered about Schindler's final thoughts. We wondered how he felt, surrounded by the people he had saved. His last appearance in the movie gives us a good idea. There, in the presence of the survivors, he tucks the letter away in his coat. He accepts the ring, and looks from face to face. For the first time, he shows emotion. He leans toward Isaac Stern, the factory foreman, and says something in a voice so low, Stern asks him to repeat it. He does.

"I could have done more," he says, gesturing toward a car he could have sold. "That would have released ten prisoners." The gold pin on his lapel would have bribed an official to release two more. In that moment, Schindler's life is reduced to one value. Profit is forgotten. The factory doesn't matter. All the tears and tragedy of the nightmare are distilled into one truth. People. Only one thing counts — people.

I suggest you'll feel the same. Oh, you won't feel the regrets. Heaven knows no regret. Our God is too kind to let us face the opportunities we missed. But he is happy to let us see the ones we seized. In that moment, when you see the people God let you love, I dare say, you'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

You'd change the diapers, fix the cars, prepare the lessons, repair the roofs. One look into the faces of the ones you love, and you'd do it all again.

In a heartbeat... a heavenly heartbeat.

© Max Lucado, 1999. From his book, When Christ Comes, Nashville: Word Publishing. Used by permission.