Photo by Arkady Golod

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 (ESV)
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
6 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,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Photo by Arkady Golod

When I read this text this morning as an include to an email to my bride, it hit me just how focused this passage should be in the lives of believers today.  Paul is writing to these Christians primarily to show great thanksgiving to God for His supernatural work through the Gospel in their lives.  He also uses this time to stand up against adversaries of the truth and encourages the Thessalonians to continually see God’s work among them.

We reflect the light of God in our proclamation

Let’s put this in perspective of our own lives as believers.  If we truly are saved by the transforming power of the Gospel, then our lives will declare the power of God.  Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  In this power, God gives us faith, light, and the power to be transformed by Him.  If we are believers, shouldn’t our lives reflect that claim?

It seems that more and more people are continually making excuses for sinful living and apathy every day.  People who claim faith in the transforming power of Christ are daily walking further away from the image of God.  This does not make sense according to scripture.  Of course, we will struggle with the sin that fights against God’s nature, but our lives will be marked as we suffer to fight for joy and rest in the grace of God.

In the referenced text we see Paul showing amazing gratitude to God for saving the Thessalonians and reminding them in verse 4 and 5 that God did the work, not them nor the apostles.  In essence, Paul is helping them to stay focused on God’s work among them resulting in salvation.  In this, the church should pay close attention: “our gospel came to you… in word…”.  See Paul’s reminder?  He is saying, we preached the words of Christ to you, not words about Christ, or examples to follow, but the truth was proclaimed.  This is the only way that people will know the true Christ – His word.

Also consider that Paul states this is not the ONLY way the gospel came, but it also came by POWER in the Holy Spirit and with CONVICTION!  Wow, let’s think about that for a second.  How often do we look for power, conviction and the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and try all sorts of things, even teaching people who to ‘tap’ into God’s power and forsake the very real power which comes only through God’s word?  Pay attention:  The word of God will do His work!  He doesn’t need our creativity and charisma to make people see the light.

We reflect the light of God in our person

When God’s word did His work, the apostles did not need to set themselves up as experts, holy men, or men with supernatural power, the life change that happened supernaturally in the lives of the Thessalonians was proof enough.  See verse five, the last part: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  In context, there were those who were refuting the apostles and their teachings and even starting to say there were other ‘ways’ of knowing the truth.  This is happening today.  Men and women who claim to have an inside knowledge of God in a deeper way and they twist and use scripture to try and prove ‘their’ worth or authority.

As we live transformed, holy lives, the world we see the power of God and it will MATCH our words.  Even Jesus warned the people about the Pharisees, He said, “Listen to what they say and obey them, but do not do what they do…”  They had the right words but would stand condemned in the end without hope for their religion.

We reflect the light of God as others proclaim the truth of our changed lives

6 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,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

See this text?  Oh, how I wish I could just pour this more and more fully into my heart each moment and how I wish I could just push it right off the page or screen into your hearts.  However, this text tells much more than I have time or the strength to write today.  The Thessalonians did not have to give testimonies of how good life was.  They didn’t have to stand up and make a big deal about what God was doing for them.  They didn’t write journals and make revival meetings and pass out fliers or preach all over the world.  They continued to live where God had planted them but their lives were marked; different and set apart.

The POWER of the preached word became TRUE in the lives of these people, they became believers by the will of God and the power of the Gospel, who is God!  Then their lives began to change immediately and their hearts were set on eternity, not this earth or its pleasures.  They didn’t live for their careers, their platforms or their future, but for the future of hope in Christ.

The power of God was reflected in their lives and the church was growing stronger in other areas.

We reflect the light of God and the church is strengthened – everywhere

Notice that Paul made mention of the fact that other cities had noticed and were striving to see that change in their lives.  The Thessalonians were examples, verse 7, to other believers in other places.  When we live as examples, the body of Christ across the world is edified and stronger.  Paul continues and says that not only has their faith and the power of God in their lives made a difference at home and in neighboring cities, but that their faith in God has become known everywhere!

When we reflect the light of God in our lives by living holy and passionately for the gospel, evangelism happens organically.  We don’t have to worry about how many events, outreaches and networks we build so that people will share their faith, true faith yields fruit.  A fruitless faith is evidence of a faith that is not saving faith!

We reflect the light of God and the Gospel goes before us

Look at the last part of verse 8, “we need not say anything…”  What?!  In other words, the faith and testimony of power in Christ for these people had reached to other regions of the globe.  When the apostles had gotten to their destinations, they just confirmed the message that had already been sent – God is light and He is the message in Christ that gives YOU salvation.  “We see it, we know it is true, we have heard about those people and want to know more!”  How would you like that to be the coffee talk at your job, school or buzz in the community?

What testimony was that?  Well let’s read it: 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…”

They had reports from around the world about the apostles ministry to them and how they had turned to God!  Not just numbers on a page or people down the isle, but lives that bore fruit from the beginning.  They turned from idols!  That’s they gave up what was ultimate and precious in their lives and worshiped what was true!  “I don’t have idols” you might say, however, we all do.  We are a perpetual idol factory and we love our church, our family, our jobs, money, stuff and self-worth.  We have love for our knowledge and our intellect and the way we communicate.  We have idols, not just graven images that we think are gods, but ulitmate things in our lives.  Our very sinful desires and the small things that we just say, “eh, no big deal…”.  These are idols.

If our sins don’t shake us up, even our small ones, then we are on a very slippery slope.  WE might have a small love for Godly things, but if we have God in us, our hatred for sin will grow deeper and our love for God’s nature, holiness, will explode into a passion that can never be quenched!

If we do not find this hope, if we do not have this ‘reflection’ of faith, we need to stop worshiping our salvation date and repent and believe.  After all, the purpose of faith is to trust in the true, the one who is faithful – Jesus Christ.

We reflect the light of God and His eternal promise in Christ

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

This is what the true church has focused in their hearts.  Not growth, mission, vision etc, but Christ and His eternal kingdom.  Friends, our sole hope is that Christ will bring us to Himself and fit us for the presence of Holy God!  Jesus is the victor, He is the elect, He is the righteousness of God – let’s make sure that we are found in Him.

Staying Stupid, James H. Tippins

It seems that no matter how long you live, life just seems to stay busy.  Think about it.  We want to get done with all of our obligations so that we can actually sit and do nothing.  But then when we have nothing planned, we find ourselves right back in the “I need something to do” line to satisfy our need to be busy.

Although no one would actually say, “I really need more to do.”  We do say this by the way we commit ourselves in so many ways.  I know what you might be thinking, “Aren’t we supposed to be committed and busy?”  After all, the bible teaches that if a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat.  Yes, it’s good to work, be productive and helpful and to make good use of our time and not to be idle.  But there is a fine line between being busy and being productive.

I’ll take just a minute to define the two and what the scriptures teach about the life of a believer in this regard.  Always having our lives filled with events, scheduled times and commitments is not necessarily a good thing.  Even if this filling is spiritual in nature.  For example, if you are at a ‘church’ related event four nights per week and then on the weekend you spend all day Saturday planning your bible lesson for Sunday school, how do you find time to listen to God?  How do you know His will for your life?  Have you  enjoyed the smile of your spouse or children?  How many people have you taken time to pray for and get to know outside of your commitments?

If you really think about it, the more we have to do, the less God can do with us.  Consider for just a moment how you should be living your life.  Think about all the things you ‘do’ on a weekly basis.  Now ask yourself, “Which of these things are making a direct difference in the life of someone for Christ?”  and  “Which of these things are teaching me to be closer to Christ and know Him more?”

The funny thing is that several years ago, I found myself in this same corner, looking around trying to discern where my life was actually going and if it was fruitful at all.  I found that I had so much to do , that I had no time for God’s calling to minister to people and effectively disciple them in Christ.  My ‘ministry’ even became a ‘job’ to get finished with so that I might have time to just rest.

When our lives are so busy that adding relationships are a strain, we need to think about Jesus’ teaching on this matter.  So many times you’ll hear people tell you that you ‘must’ do something because it’s URGENT.  How long are we going to live under the URGENT while we ignore God’s direction in our lives?

Productivity is only productive when you are accomplishing your goals.  So, what are your goals for life?  Are they to be busy, grow old and die with things still left to finalize?  Or is your life centered around what God desires of you and how He can use you to share Christ with the world around you?

Jesus gives us a great example that we cannot place the URGENT before the immediate.  In other words, we place so much emphasis on getting the goals and commitments finalized that we overlook or don’t have time for those things or people that are right in front of us.  The argument that we have to ‘overlook’ God’s call for the greater good is a weak one in this example.  When Jesus stopped, people died.  Read this section of Mark chapter 5.

Mark 5:22-43 (ESV)

22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet
23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”
24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,
26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.
28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.
29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”
31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 And he looked around to see who had done it.
33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Jarius was a very important man in society and the sickness of his daughter was a very important issue to Jesus.  However, along the way when this poor woman touched Jesus’ garment, he had no reason to stop.  She didn’t need him to take time for her but he did.  Jesus stopped to minister to the needs of this poor ‘nobody’ in society and as a result the daughter of a very important man died.

In our society, anyone who got in our way with any need on the way to Jarius’ home would have been told to hold on and we’ll talk later.  Sadly, when we are too busy with life, this is exactly the message we send.  As the father of four children, I have to be careful not to push their little needs off for even a minute or the more important needs of their future will come and go without my concern.  Even worse, they might even stop depending on ‘daddy’ to be there.  As a reflection of Christ our my home, life, job, school and community are we showing the lost world and our family that we have peace and time for those around us or are we showing them that we are so busy, that God’s ministry doesn’t even matter?

Take time today to make a mental list of your commitments.  Scripture teaches us that we can only have one master.  Is it Christ or our life goals that are placed on the front lines each day?  Ask yourself, “What in my life does Christ need me to stop doing?”  Be fruitful in Christ and do all things for His glory.  Let’s be available for God’s calling and ministry in us and through us to a lost and hurting world.

Being Wise and More Stupid,