“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy,
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; or our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
“You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
1 Thessalonians 1:1–10
Sunday’s Bible reading is 1 Thessalonians 1–3. I don’t usually quote this much for the opening verses of a post, but the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians is so marvelous I wanted to give you a taste of the letter so that if you’ve never read it before you will dive into it.
In 1 Thessalonians you find a new church, a healthy church, a church that resonates with love for God and love for each other. Paul’s loving pastoral care runs through this letter. If any letter reminds me of my early days as a believer during the Jesus Movement, it’s this letter. I even remember the guy who shared the good news about Jesus with me, teaching from 1 Thessalonians 2 on the discipling of new believers.
Once for the women’s Bible study in a new church, I co-wrote and co-taught a study of 1 Thessalonians. There were new Christians present and some women who had been believers in Jesus for decades. We had a wonderful time slowly working our way through this letter discussing the Lord Jesus and our lives together as Christians.
In these opening verses of 1 Thessalonians, Paul mentions they received the Word in much tribulation. You can find the background of this church in Acts 17:1-15. As Paul, Silas and Timothy travel through Macedonia, they come to Thessalonica. There Paul proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ, and many Jews and Gentiles become believers. This upsets other Jews, and a mob gathers to riot. In the aftermath Paul and Silas are released and sent away and go to Berea; however, when the non-believing Jews hear that Paul is preaching there, they go to Berea and stir up the people. Paul then has to leave for Athens. That gives you an idea of the atmosphere of the city this brand-new church was in. Yet, they were not buckling under persecution—they were thriving!
This begs the question as to why were they thriving? The letter tells us. Look at just a small section:
“…you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…”
1 Thessalonians 1:9b–10a
They turned to God from idols; their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope is witness to their true conversion. Their faith in Christ was proved authentic by their transformed life (1:6–7). Their love was proved authentic by their practice to their fellow believers in Macedonia (4:9–10). Their hope was proved authentic by their endurance under suffering (2:14–15b).
Faith, love, hope…these three abide and remain.
“For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.”
1 Thessalonians 1:8
All of which answers the question as to why our churches don’t thrive.
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Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter