The Thessalonian church was a ‘’model’’ Christian community in its day (7). Here are three reasons why:
- They imitated Christ (6a): ‘’You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master.’’ The Message. ‘’You remember how you set yourselves to copy us, and through us, Christ himself.’’ J.B. Phillips. The interesting thing is that Paul and his team lived such exemplary lives in front of the new converts (and we will see more of this in chapter 2) that in seeking to mirror their leaders the new believers actually reflected Christ. There is an inescapable challenge in that. Growth in Christlikeness is a vital ingredient of an effective ministry. The other point to notice is that we have to let people get close enough to us to benefit from the power of example. We can’t live secluded, closed-off, selfish lives if we want to be influencers for Jesus. New Christians need more than a course; they require fathers (and mothers). They need a family to love and support them.
- They welcomed the Word (6b): A Christian congregation should be fully open to what God’s Word says, and to all that it says. It may not always be palatable. The Thessalonians discovered from the beginning that it was going to be costly to welcome the message, but that did not put them off. They were prepared to pay the price. Their suffering was ‘’severe’’ but they would not capitulate. The fingered the price label, saw that it was expensive, but still ‘bought the goods’.
They suffered with joy (6b): ‘’Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit! – taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.’’ The Message. Once again I am reminded of the abnormality of the U.K. situation where Christians enjoy a freedom that would be unimaginable in many parts of the world. Yes, there is persecution here, and it may be that it is growing. But it comes in relatively mild forms at the moment. We do, by and large, not face the threat of imprisonment, death or confiscation of property. So we honour with our prayers today many brothers and sisters around the world who continue to ‘welcome’ all that the Bible teaches with Holy Spirit joy, even though it brings great pain.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, for our sakes you became ‘’a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.’’ I pray that you will lovingly undertake for all those who share in the fellowship of your sufferings. Please give them your grace to endure.