Journal 1 Thes 1 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “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.
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.” 1 Thes 1:6-8
Observation: Some scripture is difficult to analyze because it gets clouded. The “cloud” that can be applied are preconceived ideas and convictions.
Analysis: The beginning of Paul’s letters is called a preamble. Dictionary says: “a preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction.”
Lots of stuff found in the preamble. I think Paul uses it to soften up the readers for what is coming next, but for sure these are coordinating statements—let’s get everyone reading from the same sheet of music.
I see questions embedded that previously I have overlooked, thinking this was just flowery and wordy language: a bunch of words strung together that didn’t mean much except for a “hooray for you” sort of emotion. Recently, I have been asking more questions:
- Why did these folks become imitators of them? And of the Lord. What did they imitate?
- They received the word in affliction and joy? What word did they receive? General words or something specific?
- Receiving these words made them an example. Again, what? And, how?
A good sermon or two maybe doesn’t cut it. I try to be a good listener but outside of the last sermon, I don’t remember much. In fact, there are only 2 or 3 messages that I do remember the gist of over the past 20 years—they made that kind of impact on me.
So, what does cut it?
For me, it was a determination to be serious, fiercely serious about my Christianity. If I am determined to be an example to others, then I must determine to live an exemplary life—not at a standard of showing off my Christianity—but starting off to be exemplary in private and with a few (like my wife who could testify candidly) and progressing outward to the public realm.
My conversion experience was not one of being convicted of my sin and/or wanting to be saved. It was a conviction of following Jesus was the preferable future I wanted and that, if I was going to be a Christian, it was not going to be anything but jumping into the deep end of the pool.
Result? Stop, start; fall off the horse but get back on; skinned my knees and embraced sin for a while here and there. But, never far from the Whisper in my heart.
If I am going to be the joy of His Heart, then I press in. It may not the path normally taken, but it will be the path historically taken.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for letting me write. I will read these words in a year and I hope I understand them then. We’ll see, won’t we? Until then, allow me, make me, enable me to hear Your whisper while I read and embrace Your word. AMEN.