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Ministry that Brings Results, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

When God sends you somewhere, love the people. Live a godly life, seek to please God and with His help your work will not be in vain.

We live in the era of social media – a fancy term for people’s opinions at your fingertips, which is becoming more and more a part of our daily life. It has its challenging aspects but some benefits as well. One of the benefits is that we see what other people like or approve of and we can use this to helps us buy a good product, subscribe for good articles from a new website, build up more trust in a new company or a business. If 5000 other people liked this online shop it must be good enough for me as well.

What if I told you that you can buy 1000 “likes” for $45 today. The payment is secure and due only once the likes appear on your website. That’s what the email from my inbox read. Yes, you can actually buy likes, product reviews and a whole lot of other so called trust ensuring numbers.

We live in an era marked by a desperate search for authenticity – another fancy term for believing in what you say, doing what you promise and actually caring when you say you care. We get burned on almost daily basis – whether online or at the local grocery store, it results in a hunger for honesty and truth.

We have been entrusted with the gospel and sent out to take it to the same people who are looking for a trustworthy relationship, a genuinely good person willing to help. How will they trust us if we do not believe in what we say? How will they become more like God if we don’t do what we have promised God to do? How will they see God’s love if we can’t display it?

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Imitators of God, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Meet God. Get to know Him. Bear a close resemblance to Him and through you the Holy Spirit will change the lives of the people next to you.

A few months ago I went to see a very nice space exhibition by NASA. I’m not a space fanatic but technology has always intrigued me so I kept running from one item to the next, often only reading the captions on the explanation screens. It was half way through the exhibition that I realized that quite a few of the items were in fact replicas. Some of them were used by NASA at some point but others served only for display purposes.

As it turns out, museums do this all the time. For preservation, restoration, logistic or security reasons they often display copies of the artifacts instead of the originals. If it weren’t for the small text on the information sign the vast majority of visitors would never be able to tell the difference anyway. The copies are that good. Not to mention that throughout the years a lot of what were once considered original artifacts have turned out to be very good copies.

And that’s the thing with us, people and replicas – if they are a good representation what we see is the original. It’s a very different story, however when you pay the premium price for a mobile phone and you get a $15 iPhane in the mail. Or when the sole of your running shoes falls off on the 2nd day you wear them to only remind you that you actually purchased a pair of Adibas. We’re swamped with cheap imitations nowadays. So much so that the concept of representation or imitation carries a mostly negative connotation.

How about our lives and our faith – are we imitators or are we thinking, breathing and acting as cheap imitations? Let’s look at Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica and see what the differences are between these two.

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Give God a chance

We’re not used to considering ourselves as the stumbling block. It seems unnatural for us to think that we may be in the way of God doing His work in or through us. After all, He has all the power. If something doesn’t come to pass then it probably has to do with Him, not with me. What if God does want to do something but we just don’t give Him a chance?

For quite some time I’ve been looking at various miracles recorded in the bible, trying to find a common thread that runs through them. Whether it is something God did in the Old Testament or a miracle from the New – I’ve noticed a very simple, yet lifestyle changing commonality:

Things happened when the people were vulnerable and had faith.

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Underqualified. Undervalued. Underestimated.

His CV didn’t look particularly well. He had only one item to list under Prior Occupation, the exact same item under Experience and to make the matters worse – it did take him a while to pick up any new training material and apply it. See, he was just a simple man – a nobody. An anybody. You couldn’t find them more ordinary than him. I bet if we sat down and compared ourselves against him, you and I would have far more to boast about. Our CVs would most definitely beat his (by far). How could a raw and potentially rude, uneducated fisherman trump us?

Apostle Peter was extremely underqualified. Many of the other disciples were too and that’s exactly the point. By any standards, today’s or during their time they were supposed to pathetically fail. But they didn’t. Peter was extremely impulsive, very quick to speak and a massive risk taker. Stuff you wouldn’t want to appear on your job application nowadays. Yet he got the job, the promotion, the bonuses and the retirement.

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Moments of faith

Have you ever seen a lightning bolt hit the ground in the darkness of the night and in the middle of a storm? Ignore the frightening effect of the sound and any fear of being hit by it. Focus just on the revealing nature of the light… It’s pitch dark outside but you’re now able to see as if it were a clear day. Only for a moment, though. And you’ve got to be paying attention otherwise it’s so easy to miss.

I have moments of faith that are very similar. My guess is that you have them too. They’re the brief times in our otherwise regular daily life when you overcome the gap of fear and are able to see far beyond the now. The moments when you realize that “I can take this step and will be O.K. after it” because you’ve just encountered God and He confirmed it. The darkness before you is no longer impenetrable.

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