1 Thessalonians 1:6

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6

The word “followers” gives the sense of imitation or emulation. It is used by Paul five times and once by the author of Hebrews. Those who came to faith in Christ became imitators of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy as just described in the previous verse. In so doing, they became imitators of them “and of the Lord.”

These three men were imitators of Christ Jesus, and those in Thessalonica followed suit, striving to emulate Him through the example they had seen in these three ministers of the gospel. Those in the church perceived the contrast between the infinitely glorious Lord, and their own fallen conduct. They noted how Paul and those with them lived differently than the world at large, having submitted to Christ, and they then emulated what they saw.

Paul then notes they did this by “having received the word in much affliction.” This affliction is partly referred to in Acts 17:5-9. There was a great conflict over the presentation of the gospel. That conflict was initiated by the Jews who refused to believe, and it caused no little consternation. But those who did believe were actually strengthened in their faith through this, even to possessing “joy of the Holy Spirit.”

The furnace of affliction can, and often does, produce great joy in those who are so afflicted. This is all the more true for those who are in Christ. They see the conflict around them, and are comforted that this world is just a temporary abode. The promise which is found in Christ Jesus transcends this walk of woe, and it gives us comfort, and even joy, to know that we will be granted something far, far better when this earthly walk is complete. The choicest and richest blessings lie ahead for those in Christ, and so the joy of that thought is where we can put our hopes when the troubles of this world hem us in. This is what those in Thessalonica came to understand.

Life application: As a believer in Christ, we have the same troubles and trials as anyone else in the world. We are not exempt from times of sickness, loss, and frustration. However, these times of trial are temporary and will some day be behind us. For the world at large who believe this is all there is, of course bad times are a reason for being down. There is nothing else to look forward to, and so any troubles rob them of the precious few moments they believe they possess. But for those in Christ, a life of troubles is a moment which will pass away into eternal glory. O faithful Christian, don’t let the world overcome your joy. Instead, because you have overcome the world, be filled with joy!

Lord God, as a believer in Christ, there is no reason why the world should overcome our joy. Even if a million bad things come tumbling down upon us, it is just a temporary blip on the way to glory. Instead of being overwhelmed with grief, we need to remember that because of Christ we have overcome the world! May this surety we possess be reflected in contentment, and even joy, at all times. Amen.

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