Paul gave thanks always for the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:2). They were a joy of his. We can see in 1 Thessalonians 1 why they so profoundly impacted his heart. Chuck Swindoll, in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians, highlights how the people of God in Thessalonica had committed to three things: each other, non-believers, and Christ. We would do well to look at what their commitments entailed.
1. Commit To Stir Each Other On
If I am to live a life of faith, love, and hope like the believers in Thessalonica, I need help. I’m prone to discouragement. That is something that is engrained in me due to circumstances and sin and I’m constantly needing to work on that part of my heart. I don’t naturally live with vibrant hope. That’s where friends and fellow church members come in. In my years here in Vernon, I have been the recipient of words of affirmation that have helped me to keep going and to keep ministering. It’s likely that you need others too. It’s not weakness to need to be lifted up from time to time. Living life as a follower of Jesus is difficult in a fallen world. We need to encourage each other more than we do.
We need to be deeply committed to one another. We live in a culture of isolated nuclear families. That culture effects how we read the Scriptures and how we apply them. We are designed to be together. I’ve sought to break through some of this milieu by telling people that my home is open to anyone and everyone. I try and live a life of deep openness. In doing this my prayer is that people come to realize that one, pastors are normal men, and two, life is better when we’re walking through it together.
The church in Thessalonica was known for its works of faith, labors of love, and steadfastness of hope. If we want our churches to be known for the same things, we need to equip and empower one another to pursue those things.
2. Commit To Live In A Way That Draws Non-Christians In
The church in Thessalonica was known for its powerful response to the gospel.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. – 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
The surrounding regions knew about the faith of these Thessalonian believers. That’s a powerful testimony.
It gets me thinking. Do my actions and way of life match up with what I claim to believe about Jesus? Are non-believers drawn into the community of faith I’m a part of because they see a man who is wholly different than them?
Or, do they see a man who claims to worship the King but fails to live for the King in certain areas of my life, either public or private.
My prayer is that I would be different.
Whenever I feel at home in our country, our culture, our community, it gives me pause. Yes, God has a purpose for me in any place I find myself. But I should never be too comfortable here. This isn’t my home. And if I never feel different or distinct or placeless, then I likely am not living in a way that is too different from those around me.
We as God’s people need to commit to live in such a way that draws others in.
3. Commit to Pursue Christ Rather Than Idols
The church in Thessalonica was also known for their turning from idolatry.
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we have among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, – 1 Thessalonians 1:9
What are your idols?
It’s highly unlikely you have statues to other gods in your living room.
Idolatry in our modern church is much more insidious and subtle and dangerous.
A good diagnostic question to help you discover your idols is “what makes you the most angry?”
What posts on social media or news stories or conversations or circumstances get you riled up the quickest? At the heart of whatever it is is something you value. We get angry when that which we value or that which we love is threatened.
So what gets you angry?
I know for me it is typically revolving around respect. I’m an insecure man and when I feel like I’m not getting the respect I think I deserve, I get angry. This caused problems in my marriage early on, and still threatens to impact many of my relationships. I’ve had to realize that I idolize being respected and affirmed. So when I’m not, which is often, I can get heated. It doesn’t often come out in words, but it certainly fills my mind and heart and spirit. This is an idol I have to actively rid myself of.
The church in Thessalonica moved to the living and true God. They moved away from idolatry. They were committed to this endeavor.
Paul’s words urge us to be free from any and all entanglements that pull us away from the Savior. – Chuck Swindoll
This is easier said than done.
It’s painful for me when I come face to face with the idols I’ve placed above God.
But on the other side of that pain is the joy of finding my security and identity in Christ.
The church in Thessalonica was committed to each other, the non-believers around them, and Christ.
May we do the same.