June 24, 2020
Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you for your consistency in prayer each Wednesday for our prodigals and for revival. Prayer is a great responsibility but also a great privilege.
Paul uses the word, “imitator” twice over in this letter. The first is in chapter one, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thes. 1:6-7). The second one shows up in chapter two, “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind” (1 Thes. 2:14-15).
The word in the Greek is mimētēs (mim-ay-tace’) and means to follow, to imitate, or to mimic. This last word often carries a negative connotation in our minds, maybe because many of us as children felt the sting of being ridiculed with mocking mimicry by peers. However, in the context of Thessalonians, the mimicking reveals the believers’ respect and high regard. It was essential for their Christian growth for them to follow Paul, the Lord, and the other churches of God. How did these believers mimic the good examples of those who went before them? Let’s consider four:
Firstly, they copied them through their wholehearted reception of the Word. Paul said, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction.” It wasn’t easy for them to receive the gospel. It was under pressure, difficulty, and trouble. Some of us who were born into Christian homes may not understand, but others of you know exactly what these believers experienced. Family turned their backs on them. Friends became enemies. Neighbors shunned them. They were instantly labeled and rejected or worse. These believers were not the first to suffer due to the message; the Savior suffered because of it, as did those who brought the message. And now the ones who received it also suffered.
Receiving truth can be difficult, even after conversion. To wholeheartedly receive God’s truth means to have a heart and mind that are sensitive to what God says, even when it contradicts certain ways of living which we may have grown up with. It is being open to the possibility that I may have been wrong in certain areas. How do you presently react to the correcting voice of God in your life?
Secondly, they were imitators by their exceeding joy of the Holy Spirit. “With the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Paul and Silas, the believers saw the reality of God’s life even in the midst of huge opposition. As you read the story back in Acts, the Jews of the city made a great uproar and shouted, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6). This is what the joy of the Holy Spirit can do! It can make the unrepentant mad with anger, but it will contagiously draw the true seeker to Christ.
In “The Daily Article,” Dr. Jim Denison recently wrote: “A recent General Social Survey shows that just 14 percent of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31 percent who said the same two years ago. That year, 23 percent said they had often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks. Now, 50 percent say that. In total, fewer Americans are likely to call themselves happy than at any point since the survey began in 1972. The study aligns with research analyzing words on Twitter, which reported that Americans’ happiness is recent weeks was the lowest ever recorded.” True Holy Spirit joy will be visible to those around us. As we rub shoulders with a “sad world” His joy will enable you to keep going, (Heb 12:2) through difficult times, and will simultaneously attract sinners to your Savior.
Thirdly, they were imitators by their devoted faith in God. Their salvation was not a “flash in the pan” event. It was transformational and continual. They were steadfast in faith — they didn’t give up. Their faith was in God and, like the Lord Jesus who “endured the cross,” they stayed under the trial, they remained in suffering, they persevered despite pain. “Your faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that we need not say anything” (1 Thes. 1:8). God has called us to a life of faith, which means trusting Him both in the good and the difficult times. Charles Spurgeon once said, “God does not need your strength; he has more than enough on his own. He asks your weakness; he has none of that.” When in human weakness we depend upon our God, He will supply the strength and our faith will grow.
Lastly, they were imitators by their exemplary suffering in their trials. Paul makes reference back to the suffering of Christ on the cross, “You suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed…the Lord Jesus.” Pain is never easy, whether it be physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual. Jesus experienced it all on the cross and He understands fully what you are going through. As we keep our eyes on Him and seek to mimic Him, He will provide help to meet all our present needs.
Thanks again for praying.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel