Do You Have Reverberating Faith? (1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10)
GIST: Lives changed by Jesus are examples that make a reverberating difference.
“5b You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 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, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 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. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and 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 delivers us from the wrath to come.”
After talking to the church in Thessalonica about how God’s love was poured out by the gospel being spread, Paul gives us a little picture of what saving love produces. The picture he paints is one of… reverberating faith.
I. Lives Changed By Jesus
He starts by saying, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5b). This description in itself is really interesting. He’s not talking about the face they put on, but who they really were. Their characters were proven, and that was done for the sake of the Thessalonians. What does that mean? Paul and his companions came to Thessalonica physically spent. Still, they intentionally shared the life-rescuing gospel with these people they’d never met. They weren’t set to profit from their efforts. It wasn’t some forced kindness steeped in ulterior motives. It was natural for them because they’d been changed by Jesus. Their lives weren’t about themselves anymore. They were driven by the call and, now, heart desire to love God and love people.
I don’t want to draw this out unnecessarily, but I do want to at least make this observation. When we’re talking about Jesus changing you, we’re talking about a change that is real. Please don’t misunderstand me. We won’t be perfect— we’re still sinners covered by grace; we’ll still stumble; we’ll still screw up (just come see one of my basketball games when I’m coaching my little kids!)— but we should be more and more like Him. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling me about someone they looked up to or thought of as a strong Christian who falls and falls hard and it becomes incredibly evident that they’d learned to put their best face forward, but nothing had really ever changed in their lives. Who are you outside the church, in the privacy of your own home? We all need to examine our hearts to see if we’re really letting Jesus make that kind of change in our lives! We don’t outgrow that need to take up our cross daily and follow Him!
Now, I’d be remiss if I left it there without saying this though. When you do stumble, even if you have been faking it entirely, that doesn’t have to be the end of your story either! There is forgiveness and grace for you still. Come to Him, and let Him make a lasting difference!
Not only is this important because really belonging to Jesus is what saves you (which we’ll see in just a second, as well), but lives changed (and that word is key because all of our starting points are brokenness) by Jesus→
II. Are Examples That Make A Reverberating Difference
The Thessalonians saw this, and it changed them forever. In fact, Paul continues with: “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). Now, I know this can sound a little murky. Don’t we talk all the time about wholeheartedly following after Jesus? Are we to imitate spiritual leaders as well? Only in so much as those leaders reflect the heart of Jesus to us. That puts a burden of discernment on us, and a weight of responsibility on leaders for sure. As Christians, we need to take our faith seriously. Know the Bible. Don’t depend on others to bring the word to you. Then, when something is said that isn’t right, you’re spiritual hackles will stand up. As leaders, we need to be very careful to guard our hearts and keep following Jesus and seeking His face and will the number one priority of our lives!
Even with all that, though, look at the full context of what these believers imitated. The church, like Paul, received the word, but it wasn’t easy. It is safe to say Jesus also faced much affliction for the cause of the gospel! However, His defining characteristic wasn’t sorrow. He exuded hope and love. Now, the Thessalonians—like Paul and because of Jesus— were covered in the joy of the Holy Spirit. Affliction might be part of our story, but it no longer defines those rescued by amazing grace! Instead, we can face the struggles that come—even the struggles that come as a result of following Jesus when it’s not easy—with the joy of the Holy Spirit filling our souls!
And here’s where we see the echo. Paul was faithful to follow Jesus and proclaim His word. This impacted the church in Thessalonica to the point that they “... became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia”; in fact, their faith echoed “forth everywhere”, so Paul didn’t have to tell people what had happened there (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
This faith was an echoing faith… because it was real. Look at how this chapter ends. Paul recounts that people from all around “report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Five(ish) weeks ago, we started this study, and I told you each chapter has some kind of reference to Jesus coming back. Here, we see that in the context of what their lives are now about. Real faith turns from sin (there is an actual change in our lives) to grace-filled, gospel-driven (which is summarized there ☺️) expectancy as life becomes not about us but about the rescuing, loving Jesus! They have turned from worshiping emptiness to looking forward to the God of reality coming back and making everything as it was always meant to be!
Ok, let just break down one takeaway today→
What’s reverberating from your life? Is your faith real? Is it impacting the lives around you?