1 Thessalonians 1
And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don't need to tell them about it. – 1 Thessalonians 1:8 NLT
Paul is writing to the new believers in Thessalonica. It had been a year since he and Silas has been there, preaching the Good News and helping lead these pagan Gentiles to salvation in Jesus Christ. His letter, probably written from Corinth, was meant to offer them words of encouragement, exhortation and clarification. As was the case with all of Paul's letters, he was having to write them because he couldn't physically be with them. These people had not had it easy since their acceptance of the gospel message. Their conversions had not come without cost, in the form of persecution and, to a certain degree, confusion. Thessalonica was a wealthy and influential city in the region of Macedonia. The book of Acts tells us that those who accepted the message of salvation through Jesus Christ included some Jews, God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. These individuals found their faith in Christ immediately challenged because of the hostility of their own community to the Gospel message. During their missionary excursion to Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had been forced to flee for their lives when the crowds turned ugly, accusing them of treason against Caesar because they professed allegiance to another king – Jesus.
Like all new believers, these people were struggling with a certain degree of confusion. There was much they did not know. Their knowledge of Jesus and their understanding of His ultimate return were limited. While they had received the anointing of the Holy Spirit and knew first-hand that the message Paul had preached to them was true, they were limited in their understanding of what the Spirit-led life was to look like. Yet Paul was able to commend them for the faithful work, loving deeds and enduring hope. In fact, they had become an example of faith to all the believers in Greece. Word of their faith in the face of persecution and difficulty had gotten out. News of their acceptance of Christ and rejection of worthless idols had spread, influencing others to follow their example. Their commitment to Christ had not been without cost. But it had not been without real change either. These people had been radically transformed by the message of salvation through faith in Christ alone.
Paul commended them. "So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NLT). Salvation had brought suffering. Faith had put them under fire. Accepting Christ had led to rejection and ridicule. But they had remained faithful. A year later, Paul had received news that they were still holding firm in their faith, and this letter was his attempt to encourage and exhort them to remain faithful and strong. How easy it is for us to lose hope when our faith gets challenged or our walk with Christ becomes difficult. Accepting Christ requires nothing on our part, but walking with Him daily demands a great deal from us. We have to trust Him when things don't make sense. We have to believe in His love when the circumstances we find ourselves going through seem anything but loving. We have to rest in His promises, even when they seem unlikely or uncertain. The life of faith is anything but easy. But it is worth it.
Father, salvation cost me nothing. But the life of faith costs me daily. I have to die to self. I have to endure the animosity and alienation of this world. I have to give up my will for Yours. I have to sacrifice my desires and place the needs of others ahead of my own. I have to wait when I would rather act. I have to trust You when I would rather trust my own judgment. But any cost to me is well worth it. The gain is so much greater than any pain I might have to endure. The benefits far outweigh the costs. Thank You for that reminder today. Amen.