We are going to start taking a look at Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica. This epistle is one of the first that Paul wrote, probably even the first. This letter was written in order to give encouragement to the Christians found in Thessalonica. This would have been something the church needed since it was located in Greece. At the time, Greece, not only was highly philosophical, but also believed in many gods. The Christians faith, not only taught against several things the Greek philosophers were teaching, but also taught that there was only one God. In this world, I’m sure Christians needed lots of encouragement.
Paul opens this letter the way he typically opens, with acknowledgement of who is writing and giving thanks for the church and what it is doing. Paul gives thanks for their “faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NLT). These are the marks of the Christian lifestyle. If we are to be true followers of Christ, and get to know the heart of God, than these three things should be present in our own lives as well.
“For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.” (1:5a, NLT). This fits with something Paul writes later, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14, NASB). These two passages together show me that the Spirit matters. Many evangelists get frustrated when they tell people about Jesus, but they see no conversions. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to make any difference in people’s lives. Plus, the Spirit must also be affecting the people you’re talking to, otherwise it won’t make sense to them. People who only see the world, can only think in terms of the world. My mother remembers a time before I became a Christian where I asked the simple question, “How can you believe in a god you can’t see?” I feel that this is common of people who don’t have faith, because they judge the world through scientific observance, which largely relies on experience. Paul was this same way, but if we read Acts 9, we see that his experience changed him into one of these “spiritual people”.
“So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.” (1:6a, NLT). This is also important for us to hear today. The Christian life isn’t easy. Looking back at 1 Corinthians, people often think we are foolish, because they don’t understand Jesus Christ or God. So they make attacks, calling you “dumb”, “silly”, “ignorant”, and when it comes to current issues “hypocrite”, “bigot”, and other hurtful things because you are standing up for the God that loves you. The message of Jesus Christ brings suffering on our lives. It isn’t easy. But it is our duty to spread the message as far and wide as we possibly can, despite any harm that can come to our bodies or reputation.
“And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere,” (1:8a, NLT). Our faithfulness to God, speaks volumes louder than any words we could use. Paul is writing that because of the love and joy the Thessalonians showed, the message of Jesus was spreading just from knowledge of who they were. It reminds me of churches that are known around the world like Passion City Church (Atlanta, GA), Hillsong Church (Sydney, Australia), Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA), among many others. People know these churches, and knowing who they follow causes people to want to search out who this Jesus is. By living like Christians, we cause people to want to know what is up with us. Often times when people first accept Christ, people notice a difference and ask what it is. When they hear that it was Jesus, many others begin to try to find Jesus for themselves. So our own lives and actions can teach better than any amount of speaking and teaching we could ever do.