When most Americans hear the word “church”, they think of a building, facility, or structure sitting on a piece of property. In this definition of church, it is fixed, not moving, and not active. However, the biblical definition of the church is the people who have put their hope and trust in Jesus Christ. These people are to be active, not stationary. The Holy Spirit is to work in and through them, wherever they are, to accomplish His purposes.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, Paul describes the church (people) in Thessalonica. He uses several verbs, action words, to signify what is happening in and through these people. As we look at each one, may we be spurred to action as well.
The word of the Lord “sounded forth” from the Thessalonians in both Macedonia and Achaia and everywhere. Sounding forth should be a natural outflow after we have received the word. The Thessalonians had been instructed in the things of the Lord and now they were sharing that truth in nearby regions as well as everywhere. How much time have you spent reading the Word lately? (If you are looking for a daily Bible reading plan check out these options.) How much of what you have read have you shared with someone else? Is God’s Word “sounding forth” from you? As we “sound forth” the word, it should bring edification and encouragement to ourselves and others. The standards of God’s Word cause us to change our thoughts, words, and actions. The promises of God’s Word offer hope and comfort. The descriptions of God give us reasons to praise Him, worship Him, and point others to Him.
Their faith has “gone forth” as well. Some synonyms for faith are trust, belief, and dependence. Their faith in Jesus wasn’t just an intellectual acknowledgment, but a call to action. James tells us that faith should lead to action. If it doesn’t lead to action then our faith is dead. There was a great tightrope walker who walked back and forth between two tall buildings. Did the crowd believe that he could do it while pushing a wheelbarrow? “Yes”, they shouted. What about if someone were in the wheelbarrow? Again, the crowd glamoured, “Yes!” Then the tightrope walker asked which person would get in the wheelbarrow. No one jumped in, so did the crowd really believe he could do it? For the Thessalonians, their faith went forward not just in words, but in their actions. What they did and how they lived gave evidence that they were following Jesus.
They “turned” from idols “to serve” God. The Thessalonians realized that idols are useless – they have no power (Psalm 115:4-11). These idols did not contain life, but the One True God does give life and they embraced Him. Out of gratitude, the Thessalonians “served” God. They were not trying to gain God’s favor by their service, but because they had received God’s love and acceptance, they served Him. Their lives became a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Are you serving the Lord with the gifts, talents, abilities, and resources that God has given you? Are you doing this out of gratitude and a proper understanding of who God is? Since we have been bought with a price, our lives are not our own. By faith, we are to yield our lives to the Lord and serve Him in whatever way He chooses.
Lastly, the Thessalonians waited. This may not sound or look like an action word, but it is. Waiting is active, not passive. They eagerly fixed their eyes upon Jesus and anticipated his return. They put into practice the truths they knew as they grew in their faith. Knowing that Jesus would one day return and knowing that Jesus delivers us from God’s wrath gave the Thessalonians the ability to navigate their current circumstances with confidence. Although everything was not perfect, they could echo David’s sentiment in Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”
“Sound forth”, “go forth”, “turn”, “serve”, and “wait” are action words that describe the Thessalonian church, and these same words should describe the church today. A building or facility cannot do these things, but people can. God’s people can and should be performing these actions. Let’s get moving so we reflect on God well.
Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World by Rebecca Pippert
https://www.imb.org (to find out about International Missions)
https://www.namb.net (to find out about North American Missions)