The most impersonated person in the world is, of course, Elvis Presley. There are currently more than 400,000 professional Elvis impersonators in the world. Interestingly, at the time of his death in 1977 there were only 170. As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth,”*
The Apostle Paul wrote two short letters to the Church of the Thessalonians. In his first letter he writes to all believers in the Church, his brothers and sisters in Christ, to remind them of their purpose as part of God’s family. “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1:6), “And you became a model to all the believers…” (1:7), “For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches…” (2:14). The question that needs be asked is this, what were they to be imitators of? What were they as believers called to model? Paul, in this letter and others provides the answers to these questions. We are to be imitators of the Lord, living a life that is upright and holy, filled with integrity, faith and love so that others will be built up in the promises of the Lord. We are called to care for each other thorough toils and hardships – to be encouragers, comforters and leaders who live lives worthy of God. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (4:7-8)
Imagine for a minute that the 2.2 billion adherents of the Christian faith lived their lives according to the prescribed model that Paul describes. Imagine the impact that we could have in the world today if all of us (you and I are included in that 2.2 billion) lived a life that imitated that of Christ. A life filled with an unbridled passion for God that sparks a fire of compassion for His people in all walks of life. Paul concludes his letter with these powerful words, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify (purify, cleanse) you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (5:23-24). As believers in Christ, I pray that this is who God has called you to be.
*(stats have not been fully verified, they are based on a basic internet search and are for illustrative purposes).
Paul understood the power of prayer; you might think this is an obvious statement and wonder why I might even bring it up. As we read through 1 & 2 Thessalonians we see over and over how Paul is dedicated to praying for the Thessalonians, he knows the challenges they will continue to face and can rejoice and be thankful with them for the good things the Lord has done in their lives.
Paul as an apostle, as a leader is setting the bar for how we need to be living today as Christians in what I think we can consider a similar situation as the Thessalonians only in a different time and place. Today we as leaders have to have the same passion for prayer as Paul did, we need to be praying for the people in our churches and in our communities constantly.
As we continue to grow as leaders and committed followers of Christ one of the things we can learn from Paul is not to be afraid to ask for prayer. Even as Paul continually prays for others he is asking for prayer as he carries on the work of the Lord. We need to humble ourselves and be open and available to ask for prayer in our own lives and for the work of the Lord to be accomplished through the gifts he has given us.
After dropping a letter in the mailbox or clicking on the send button to send off an email have you ever wondered if you would have to write a second letter to explain yourself? I wonder if Paul after writing his first letter to the Thessalonians wondered the same thing.
In his first letter we read into the references about the believers who have died and the day of the coming of the Lord. There would have been some confusion and questions, as Paul may not have had the proper amount of time among the people to explain the details and circumstances around these topics. After receiving word that the Thessalonians were concerned regarding the coming of the Lord in their own lifetime, Paul writes this second letter to help clarify his previous statements.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul continues to encourage and pray for them as they grow in their understanding of their new life in Christ. Paul had to reassure the Thessalonian people that even though they were experiencing troubles they were not the troubles that signaled the end times. Paul continues to be a strong voice in teaching them to stand strong and hold on to the teachings he had given them. Verses 16 and 17 offered a powerful encouragement to the Thessalonians and is still a timeless passage for us today to be encouraged and strengthened.
15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word”.
Paul could have sat back and been happy with Timothy’s encouraging report of how the Thessalonians have been growing in their faith and confidence in the Lord. Paul continues to write to them pushing them to go beyond what the Lord has called them to do “now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” (vs:1b)
I think Paul understood the position of the Thessalonians well, they were in a place were they may have felt that they were “walking on water”, Paul did not want them to be comfortable in their faith, he wanted them to realize that they could be doing more. The first half of chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians teaches us that the Thessalonian people were surrounded by the same temptations and evils of sexual immorality we are faced with today. These instructions were not something Paul had come up with on his own; it was by the authority of the Lord Jesus that Paul could present these instructions to them.
Each time I read through this passage I have to think about the fact that Paul was writing these words as a letter to the Thessalonians, I can only imagine the longing Paul had to be with them. Chapter 2:18 Paul writes that “Satan blocked our way”, Paul knew that Satan was keeping them separated so as to discourage and dishearten them, yet Paul continued to encourage and teach through these written words.
Just like Paul and the Thessalonians Satan tosses up similar roadblocks in our lives today, trying to send us in a different direction away from God. Paul’s words are as much alive today as they were back then, our lives and our focus has to be on the Lord. When we accept and live out the instructions of purity and holy living we will be living a life that is pleasing God.
I remember many years ago starting a new job working in a warehouse receiving shipments and putting them into their appropriate places. For the first three months I was on probation, I was working through a period of time testing my abilities and character. Once past the three months I received a letter from the president of the company welcoming me to the “family”, I was given a formal evaluation with encouraging responses and hopes of a bright future within the company.
As new believers working through some of their first experiences particularly in the face of adversity would have been encouraged by the words of Paul’s first letter to them. Reading the introduction to this letter reminded me of that letter (in the sense of being encouraged) I received early on in my job as a warehouse receiver.
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and you endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess.1:3)
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (vs.6)
“…you became a model to all the believers” (vs.7)
“…your faith in God has become known everywhere. (vs.8)
These words of encouragement and acknowledgment for the Thessalonians would have bolstered their confidence and faith in the work that they were doing, learning for themselves to continue the work of Paul and the other apostles after they left.
Imitation… verse 6 holds one of the essential keys to leadership in the church today. When we as leaders do the best we can to model the life of Christ in all that we do, we effectively become better leaders. Imitating Christ’s love should reveal through us His perfect example of love and forgiveness. Even as new Christians the Thessalonians became models to all the believers, it was their faith in God that became known.