Devotional # 175. 2/4/16. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
Intro. In the last Devotional we talked about a lot of great things but what is probably most important for us to remember in order to apply to this weeks is that when Paul gave the gospel to the Thessalonians it wasn’t “in word only“. It was in power, the Holy Spirit and much assurance (v. 5). This week we will see how the people of Thessalonica latched onto the truth, having been worshipers of idols they responded to the living God. Today’s section of Scripture will challenge us but if we hold to it and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us we will move mountains!
v. 6. Paul says that the Thessalonians became “followers of us and of the Lord“. When he says “followers of us” he means they had seen Paul, Silas and Timothy living out their faith, trusting in the word of the Lord, praying for them and fellowshipping. And in so doing the Thessalonians were also “followers…of the Lord.” It’s the beautiful picture of how we first trust in the Lord. We must “hear it” and how can we hear it unless there are people preaching it (Romans 10:14)? The Thessalonian church came about in just three weeks of Paul being there (Acts 17:2). They trusted in him and what he was saying because it was proved as they started trusting “in the Lord“. The great part is that they weren’t holding Paul, Silas and Timothy up on a pedestal as we often do with Christian pastors and speakers. No, if that’s what your entire faith is based upon you will be disappointed. I’ve actually seen people walk away from the faith because a pastor was adulterous or caught in sheisty business deals. Yes, this is disappointing and should break our hearts but they’re just people who can be corrupted. And so we lean upon the one who cannot be corrupted. We lean upon our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
How do I know that the Thessalonians trusted and loved Paul but held Jesus as preeminent and worshipped Him only? Because in the second part of this verse it says, “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” If it had just been Paul’s word that they were receiving it would’ve faltered and there would’ve been no reason for them to cling to it through “much affliction“. WARNING (I have to pause here and say what I’ve said many times): the Christian life is not easy and you will go through many difficulties. In fact we’re going to see a couple chapters from now that we are actually “appointed to [afflictions]” (1 Thess. 3:3). So if someone is telling you that as a Christian your life is going to be all roses they don’t know that God has actually chosen (“appointed“) each of us to go through some really tough stuff for His sake*. Not only did the Thessalonians go through trials but it was very evident that they had the “joy of the Holy Spirit“. This cannot be replicated or faked for any sustainable amount of time. This “joy” in the midst of severe hardships and beatings and persecution (“much affliction“) cannot happen without the Holy Spirit living and working inside of you.
* Trials for His Sake: Sometimes Christians make the mistake of thinking that just because they’re going through a difficulty they are enduring persecutions for the Lord. But that’s just not always the case. Sometimes it is because we have sinned and although we have confessed that sin and God has forgiven us for it there are still consequences to it. Sometimes you’ve just made a poor decision, it wasn’t necessarily sinful, but again there are consequences for our stupidity. So the next time that you’re going through something difficult don’t just pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I’m just going through a trial for the Lord’. Instead pray that the Lord would reveal whether it was your stupidity that brought this about or the fact that you’ve truly stood for Him and are being persecuted for your faith in Him. I know when I do this in my life it puts things in perspective: it makes me not want to sin and do stupid things and makes me more cognizant of when I am in line with His will and therefore being persecuted either by sinful people or by Satan who hates that I am loving as Jesus loved and bringing more people to the foot of the cross.
vv. 7-8. We see that when you live with the type of life that the Thessalonians were living you become an example to others. If you become a Christian and continue to be one even when times get tough and not only that but have joy during those times, then people will look at you as a spiritual role model. Paul takes the time to clarify that this is being a role model to other Christians (“all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe“). Does this scare you? Do you not want to be held as an example? Think of it like this: have you ever been encouraged by another Christian? Chances are good that person was scared of being an example but God used them anyway. In his book on leadership called Leading With a Limp, Dan B. Allender talks about how the #1 qualification we should be looking for in a leader is someone who was put in a leading situation, failed at it but has returned hesitantly yet willingly to serve again. Why? Because they have been humbled and they realize power and popularity are really difficult to manage. They also understand they may not be the best choice for a job but they’re simply willing to be of service anyway. You have a choice today: accept what God calls you to do and do it with His help and power or not to do it. If you don’t do it you will have a difficult life because you’re running from the call of God and also you will have to answer to Him in heaven someday about why you told him “no”.
If you say “yes” you will also have a hard life (“many afflictions“) but you will have Him working through you, you will receive his peace, you will be used to bring someone to faith in Jesus which results in them escaping hell and going to heaven, and you will receive crowns (see Devotional #136 for the full list) for being faithful. As for me, I will be faithful to His call.
You see it wasn’t that the people in Thessalonians had become popular it was that “the word of the Lord” had been proclaimed and not just to Macedonia and Achaia “but also in every place.” The gospel had been preached so well by them that Paul didn’t have to hit those areas, not only that but he didn’t have to remind the Thessalonians to do the preaching because they had done such a great job. They actually made his life easier so that he could go on and focus on others. Don’t you see that’s how God uses us? You’re afraid of going out of your comfort zone but really you’re expected to take up some of the slack and by you answering the call of God you make other Christian’s lives easier which in turn makes your life easier to focus.
vv. 9-10. Paul shows how others were talking about how the Thessalonians had such a dramatic change in their life. They had been idol worshipers and they left that and followed after “the living and true God” instead. They waited on Jesus. It’s interesting how Paul puts this; he shows that Jesus is the “living and true God’s…Son from heaven.” Not only that but Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father and it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” This is great because not only is Paul acknowledging who Jesus is and what He has done but is also summarizing the very gospel message that the Thessalonians are now famous for preaching!