1 Thessalonians 1
Evangelists go into all the world to tell people about the gospel. In 1 Thessalonians the people were going into all the world. 2,000 years ago their message is still the same message we’re being told today.
What is it God was doing 2,000 years ago and what is it we can do now? Paul gives the Thessalonians praise; he’s thankful for them. It’s just a lovely letter. ‘Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul and his companions always thanked God for the Thessalonians in their prayers, they knew they were Christians and could see how God was working in them and through them and continued to do so.
People all over the world knew about the church in Thessalonica. They once worshipped idols but turned away to worship the living God. They believed Paul’s message. Their eternity was changed forever. This is true of us today if we’re Christians. We once had idols but now we live for Jesus, putting our faith and trust in Him.
Often in Christian ministry we forget God’s power. It is so infinite and has no end. It takes people who are dead and makes them alive. The Thessalonians were spiritually dead but when God came in person they had new life.
The Power of Beginnings:
People in Thessalonica went about their daily jobs. When Paul arrived (Acts) he preached about Jesus’ death and His resurrection. Why did Paul want to preach this message? On the road to Damascus Paul (then known as Saul), was persecuting Christians, but on that day God worked in power. Saul’s dead spiritual state was brought to life. Before Paul, others were preaching the good news of Jesus, even before that Jesus Himself preached the good news. Even before that there was a time before Jesus walked this earth and people preached the good news – the Old Testament prophets, kings, exiles, Elijah, Joseph and other men in other stories. Go back even further to Adam and Eve, when the created world was ‘very good.’ But then Adam and Eve turned from God and sinned. Even though God made the world and it was very good, that one sin brought death and destruction.
Going back to the very beginning, God knew we would sin. He had a plan before the foundation of the world, when Father, Son and Holy Spirit would come together. God knew you and I would sin. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The power of beginnings is love. Before the foundation of the world, knowing what we would be like, God loved us. Love is powerful, it permeates time, it evokes passions. Right at the start, this gospel came to the Thessalonians because it had a beginning. Despite who we are or what we’ve done, God loves us. We fail God everyday but He still loves us. Jesus died on the cross for our sin. God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to die on a cross for His people.
The Power of the Message:
‘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.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The Thessalonians welcomed the message with joy. Paul didn’t tell the people to try harder, or to have a fresh start. He came with a message so powerful it was going to change their hearts and lives. The Bible is full of history, poetry, songs, narrative. As we open the Bible we see a message of truth, of relevance, that matches our deepest needs, that meets us where we are. The Thessalonians received the message with joy because it met their needs. It’s so powerful.
The message gives us forgiveness. Our sins are forgiven. It cleanses us. We can enter paradise and meet God who will provide everything we need. It’s a message that will change people’s lives for eternity.
There are many messages we may hear, but they can never satisfy us like the message of the gospel. Jesus died so we could have our greatest need met by Him; sins forgiven so we can be welcomed into heaven to be with Him.
The Power of changed Lives:
The Thessalonians not only received the message with joy, but they lived out the message. ‘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 Thessalonians 1:8). They were serving the living, true God, using their time and energy to serve Him. His power had changed their lives. The Thessalonians work was reported everywhere. The message was being lived out. When we live the message out, others start to see, others start to hear. As we see the Thessalonians, we see changed lives. They worshipped a true and living God. They prayed to the true, living God who answered their prayers, a God who gave them everything they needed. They had fellow brothers and sisters who all had similar needs and anxieties, who helped and supported one another, who worshipped together. Their changed lives were reported throughout the world. God was acting in power, giving a message that could change people’s lives.
What do you want for your church? A refurbished vestry, more people to sit in the pews, more money for various projects, to do something different this year that you’ve never done before? This is all good and right. But a greater desire is that God will come and work His power and will take the dead and bring life. That’s what happened in Thessalonica – people had died in trespasses, in sin, but God came and worked in Paul and others, and raised the dead to life. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Let us be joyful people serving the living God. As the Thessalonians did this, others saw and heard.
What do you desire? Pray for God to work in power, for when He works in power the world is turned upside down.