Do you have a favorite sports team? Perhaps you love The Warriors or the San Francisco Giants…..What happens when your favorite team wins a big game? You respond like this: “WE DID IT! WE WON!” You may run around the living room high-fiving, chest-bumping, and doing a little jig. Now my question is: What role did you play in this victory? Maybe you bought a jersey or a cap, but the truth is you didn’t do anything that contributed to your team’s success. Yet, you feel intense ownership because this is YOUR team.
If you and I can feel this strongly about our favorite sports team, how much more intense should our feelings be for our local church? We need to think of the church as “we,” not “they.” Although churches are made up of individuals, we are the church! In the book of 1 Thessalonians, we learn about a church that we can get excited about. Although there are no “perfect” churches, the church in Thessalonica is a model church.
What struck me was Paul’s long “thanksgiving section”. He is pumped about this church! In 1:2-3 he writes, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” It’s been said, “You can tell a man’s values by what he appreciates.” In these verses, Paul expresses his deep appreciation for the spiritual maturity of the Thessalonians. These verses are challenging. They call you and me to pray for our church, specifically. Not just a generic, “Lord, bless our church,” but specific expressions of gratitude for individuals in our church. It challenges us to pray for our life groups, for our pastors and leaders, for our Sunday school classes, or youth or college group. Cry out to God for individuals in our ministries.
Something else that stood out to me and made this a healthy church is that the church waited for Jesus’ return (1:10). Paul writes that these believers who converted to Christ responded by “wait[ing] for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” The word wait means literally, to wait up. The Thessalonians were waiting up for the Lord’s return!
Looking for the Lord to return at any moment will change our lives. It will transform our way of doing things. It will change the way we deal with temptations. It will alter our priorities. It will lead us to do something about broken relationships. It will make us invest our precious days in what truly matters. All possessions we have worked so hard for will be destroyed and only what is eternal will last. What a difference it would make if we truly believed His coming is near!!
This Thessalonian church was a baby church and we can learn so much by this letter from Paul! My prayer is that God continues to bless COTC and that we strive to follow the model of this church in Thessalonica.