Who do you have specific memories of spending life-giving, faith-building time with? Thank God for them.
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ faith
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell 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 rescues us from the coming wrath.
It is within the setting of severe suffering and persecution that the Thessalonian church is living out their faith. Paul can empathise with this: among his many other trials, before reaching Thessalonica, in Philippi he and Silas were sent to jail and flogged (see Acts 16). In the same astounding way that Paul and Silas sang songs in prison, the Thessalonians welcome his message ‘with joy’. What does this similarity tell us (v 6)?
During and since his visit, the Thessalonians have made an impression on Paul with their faith, love and endurance (v 3). He has seen the amazing impact of a dynamic gospel expression on their lives (v 5). From those few brave enough to respond to the message in the synagogues and take the first steps to follow the resurrected Jesus (see Acts 17), they are now a community with a reputation (v 7). What is their reputation for (vs 3,8–10)?
In this initial greeting of the letter, the Thessalonians are reminded that those who know and understand them, who initially shared the gospel with them, and who dedicated time and energy to live alongside them, are still praying for them. There may be churches you know of that have a real impact in the communities around them. How could you partner with them in prayer?
Who can you encourage today in their faith? Remind them that they are in your prayers.
Deeper Bible study
Think about this tough question: ‘If everyone in my church were just like me, what kind of church would my church be?’
Despite all that Paul and Silas had suffered in Philippi,1 they walked on about a hundred miles to Thessalonica. There they went to the synagogue,2 where they hoped for an opportunity to share their faith. Their boldness and their presentation of the gospel made a big impact on their listeners. Those who received their message followed them closely, imitating their lifestyle and behaviour (vs 5,6). From this beginning, the Thessalonians became a gospel-centred group. Faith, love and endurance marked their discipleship (v 3) because they had seen all three in their founders, Paul, Silas and Timothy. In their turn, the Thessalonian Christians became examples to all believers in their region. We should never forget that we are always modelling something before others. A great deal of emphasis is placed on mentoring today and we are all called to make disciples, which is fundamentally a mentoring process,3 but you will never lead anyone any further than you have gone yourself.
Paul mentions both the power and the joy of the Holy Spirit. This church was born of the gospel, but the midwife was the Spirit of God. Without power, their faith would have been stillborn and their ministry void. Stripped of joy, they could not have survived the persecution that followed, nor would their message have spread so effectively. As in the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, ‘without his witness ours is futile’.4 Do the power and joy of the Spirit mark our witness too? If they do, the impact will go far beyond our immediate circle, as people hear about both our faith and our lifestyle (vs 8,9).
‘Turn … serve … wait’, ends the apostle (see vs 9,10). Turn from every substitute for God. Serve the living God. Wait in expectancy and hope for the climax of the ages, for Christ is risen!
Are you intentionally mentoring or discipling anyone else as you follow the Lord? If so, pray for them now. If not, is that something God wants you to consider?
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Deuteronomy 2,3; Matthew 26
Pray for Scripture Union
It is 25 years since the first Easter Cracked. Praise God for its growth and impact on thousands of children. Pray for originator Wayne Dixon of local mission partner Christian Connections in Schools as he runs the programme again, and for all who will use it and similar programmes in schools and churches in the run-up to Easter.