1 Thessalonians 1
1I, Paul, together here with Silas and Timothy, send greetings to the church at Thessalonica, Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ. God’s amazing grace be with you! God’s robust peace!
Convictions of Steel
2-5Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. 5-6You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble. 7-10Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.
God has been placing people and circumstances in my life to “toughen” me up. I recently had an experience where I had to defend my beliefs. Through this experience, God has shown me the many different ways that we can be spiritually blind. I say “we” because I have been there too. No one is excluded from it, but all are forgiven of it. Isn’t that just glorious? That we are all included in God’s magnificent plan. The good, the bad and the ugly.
We are not be fingerpointers or accusers. We are called to be givers, lovers and encouragers. We are to BUILD ONE ANOTHER up in LOVE, not tear each other down in bitterness and strife. We have to take the good with the bad and keep moving forward to share the joy that we, as believers, share in knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Especially when it is hard.
That’s when the Holy Spirit is at work! I have to always remember that someone embraced me with the love of Christ and that I need to pay it forward and embrace others in the same manner. No, it’s not easy and yes it can be done. I never thought I could do it-but several months ago I took a bible study called “Experiencing God” and God showed me some things about myself that I didn’t like. It was hard to swallow-and it was bitter going down-but I needed to “hear” it. It was only when I was truthful with myself that I could be transformed from the inside out. The truth hurts but sometimes it is needed. I want to experience everything that God has planned for my life and I don’t want anything to get in the way! I also want others to experience this joy with me. We have to give up our bondage to self, to envy, strife and warfare with one another. We have got to be imitators of Jesus Christ. We must always strive to please our heavenly Father, not the world.
We don’t do things because someone told us we couldn’t, or we don’t discourage others because we have been discouraged and we don’t share bitterness of the tongue when we are unforgiving of the past. Don’t you see? It is when we DON’T do these things, the things that the world expects us to do, that we BECOME LIKE CHRIST. When we want to lash out with words in anger and instead we hold our tongue and listen- THAT is when the Holy Spirit WORKS! When we are discouraged but we encourage anyway-even when we don’t feel like it- THAT is the POWER of GOD. When we put off our bitterness and put on sweet words of honey- God is there in our midst. When we feel unforgiving and we ask God to help us be forgiving then we can be loosened from our chains of bondage. It is awful to be unforgiving and unforgiven. God has set us free from our wretched mess-why do we want to keep going back to it? When we act this way, we are pounding those spikes right back in Jesus’ wrists and feet. Let’s grab a hold of that power and let the Holy Spirit work! It’s there for each and everyone of us who will accept it. We have to have willing hearts. Hearts that are willing to change, to listen, and to act. That’s obedience. No, it’s not easy, but it sure beats living with the chains of bondage wrapped around our lives.
I love each and everyone of you and I want you all to experience the amazing JOY that is available to each of you in knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Will you grab my hand and let me walk with you? I’d love to show you the way…