“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you—because our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…And you became imitators of us and of the Lord for you received the Word in much affliction (and) with the joy of the Holy Spirit SO THAT you became an example to all the believers… (1 Thes 1:4-7a)
There is a message here. It is the same kind of message that we have received when we needed a boost, a reminder of vision—not of what can be done but what HAS been done and what will be done…
I wonder what prompted Paul to write this preamble to the Church.
What did he hear along the road? What messages about Thessalonica’s health were brought to him? I think for sure that Paul had that “Wise Master Builder” cap firmly on his head as this was being written.
I read this and I am buoyed emotionally. This creates some firmness in my backbone. My eyes are brighter and my faith is strengthening. I remember He chose me, gospel coming in power in the Spirit and with conviction.
And…I remember my feet of clay; how I am frightened and faithless for the day to come. Affliction is not only knocking on my door it is hammering (at least I imagine that hammering is coming).
Joy? Hah! Being an example to all the believers? Really? Moi? Not hardly.
Yet…this is where the Normal Christian Life lives—between the two extremes. While my Inner Man is being renewed, my Outer Man is decaying, sloughing off (wasting away) (2 Cor 4:16). So I have successes and not so successes.
What do I do then? How do I respond? In either swing of the pendulum I remember the Gospel AND speak it to myself.
I am encouraged. This is because of the Gospel, not only of the salvation aspects (which is defined under God’s Sovereignty) but of the Sanctification piece (defined under Human Responsibility). The Triune God leads the way with me in tow…because He wants me.
I am discouraged. This is because of the Gospel, not only because I am eaten up with indwelling Sin but also I am tempted to forget the Grace and Mercy of the Triune God in my life and how He views me. I am not lovable, but loved despite—all because He chose to love. I fight temptation in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t seem to avoid the highs and lows of life. I am probably not alone. Scripturally I know I am not alone. That is why that God designed the Gospel the way it is from before time began so that I know that I must not only lean on but continually surrender to Him. After all, His stated intention is to make me in the Image of the Son (Ro 8:29). Pretty cool.
Prayer: Father, I am reminded that this is part of the community of Believers that you intend the Local Church to be, specifically how we are to interact with one another. The writer of Hebrews gave us a concrete device to help each other along the Way: “But exhort (or encourage) one another (every day, as long as it is called “today”) that none of (us) may be hardened by the deceitfulness of Sin (Heb 3:13).
Help me to avoid that “evil, unbelieving heart”, O God. AMEN.