Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is possibly the first letter he wrote to a young church. It was around AD51 that Paul, Silas and Timothy brought the Good News of Jesus to Thessalonica: the prosperous trading capital of the province of Macedonia (Northern Greece). Paul and the others were actually run out of town after just three weeks with the Thessalonians, because some people thought that they were defying Caesar’s decree by saying there was another King, called Jesus. Paul was obviously very worried about his fledgling church which could have fallen away from the faith when faced with such opposition. He sent Timothy to find out how they were and when he returned full of joy at their continuing faith, Paul wrote this letter to them.
Paul was overjoyed that the Thessalonians, far from falling away and giving in to opposition were working out their salvation in faith, hope and love. There was real evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in them because real changes were taking place in them. It reminds me very much of the frightened group of disciples who were in the upper room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came and settled on each of them like tongues of fire. The experience enabled them to speak in tongues and then to spread the Word of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection across the known world, many of them being martyred for their faith. Paul, himself was changed from a murderer of Christians to someone who was prepared to endure daily floggings and several prison sentences, after an amazing conversion on the road to Damascus.
Meeting Jesus changes all of us and we are called to help others to change also. The Thessalonians believed because of the example Paul showed to them. They in turn were affecting the lives of other Thessalonians and the Word was spreading across Asia due to traders arriving in Thessalonica and meeting the Christians there. Paul reminded them that they had been chosen by God to do this work (V.4)
We are chosen too. In the book of Jeremiah we read: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer 1:5) I am constantly amazed that God should choose me with all my failings but that He actually planned which family I would be born into and at which stage of history is something else!
Give thanks for those whose example you have followed and those who still guide you in your Christian life.
Ask God if there is anyone He wants you to be an example of faith to today.