Jeremiah 12:1-13:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Psalms 78:70-72; Proverbs 19:15-16
NT: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace. We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full assurance. You know how we lived among you for your benefit, and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out. Therefore, we don’t need to say anything, for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 CSB)
The story of the founding of the church in Thessalonica can be found in Acts 17:1-9. After being arrested, beaten and run out of Philippi, Paul and Silas (Silvanus) traveled to the city of Thessalonica. There, as was their practice, they went to the local Jewish synagogue and began preaching the gospel of Jesus. Some of the Jews, along with a large number of God-fearing Greeks and prominent women, responded to the gospel in faith. The rest of the Jews in the city became jealous of Paul’s success, so they formed a mob, started a riot, and forced Paul and his team out of the city. After being forced out of Thessalonica, Paul and Silas went to nearby Berea. When the Thessalonian Jews learned that Paul was preaching in Berea, they caused a stir and forced Paul and Silas out of Berea as well. After Berea, Paul ended up for a short time in Athens. While in Athens, Paul grew concerned for the fledgling congregation that he had to hastily leave behind in Thessalonica – so he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to find out how they were doing. Timothy met back up with Paul while he was in Corinth. To Paul’s relief and joy, Timothy reported that the Thessalonians were doing well. After receiving the good report, Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Thessalonica.
There is good reason to believe that Paul was only able to remain in Thessalonica for about a month before he was forced to flee under the cover of night. Imagine the joy Paul had when he heard that, not only was the church in Thessalonica alive, they were thriving and sharing their faith throughout the region. Paul specifically commended their faith, hope and love. They were obeying the word of God in faith while being motivated by love… and were enduring through hardships and persecutions by the hope that inspired them. When Paul was among them, he didn’t just proclaim empty words – he demonstrated the truth of those words through power by the Holy Spirit. Paul was thrilled to hear that the church of the Thessalonians was following his example. Despite severe persecution, they were welcoming the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and demonstrating the power of the gospel wherever they went. As Paul was an example of Spirit-filled faith, hope and love to them, they had now become an example of Spirit-filled faith, hope and love to the entire regions of Macedonia and Achaia.
It is amazing what an amazing catalyst persecution, combined with steadfast faith in Christ is. Here in the United States, where there is relatively very little persecution against followers of Christ, it can take years – even decades – for a church to be established and become influential in a city, much less a region. Paul was only in Thessalonica for a few weeks before he had to prematurely leave amidst severe persecution. Yet, this months-old fledgling church had become more influential for the kingdom of God than many churches in the states become in a lifetime. It shouldn’t take years to develop steadfast and faithful disciples of Christ. What did Paul do in his short time in Thessalonica… what did the Thessalonians continue doing after his departure that we are missing here in the states? Could it be authoritative declaration followed by Holy Spirit-empowered demonstration? Could it be sincere and steadfast faith, deeply motivating love, and unwavering hope through the work of the Holy Spirit? Could it be that they truly and completely turned from worshipping idols to worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ? Let us allow Paul and the Thessalonians to become and example for us all – and by imitating them, may we awaken to the powerful and impactful life God has called all of His church to walk in.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that in You I find all that I need to endure in faith… and not just endure, but to thrive and have a lasting impact on all around me. Help me to be strong in faith, full of love and inspired by hope as I fully follow You… that through Your work in and through me, I can be an impactful and life-giving example to others. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.