Monday, August 8, 2016

Are you giving your whole heart or just fragments? 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

"You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. 3 So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery." (1 Thessalonians 2:1-3 NLT)

Take a look at verse two one more time so that we are all on the same page here. The thing that stood out to me as I read through these verses was Paul saying, "Remember? We were arrested in Philippi! We did not get treated well while we were there and we still boldly came to you!"

I believe we discussed this a bit last week, but I want to refresh our memories on it. Paul and Silas came upon this woman in Philippi who was demon possessed. She followed them around daily screaming about who they were and what they were doing. Paul got sick of it and called the demon out. People, seriously. Everyone should have been overjoyed by this news! This poor woman was hosting a DEMON in her BODY. They had evil walking among them, teaching among them, communing with them. But did anyone care about that? No! They cared more about the lost income for her "owner" than they did about the saved soul. Total sadness.

We have not come far from this, honestly. It's been two thousand years and we still care more about our stuff than we do about the people around us. It's devastating. The same old issues circle around and around, year after year.

But if you read on to the end of verse two above, you'll see that Paul is saying the opposite. Despite the popular way of doing things, (you know, caring about stuff more than people) Paul and Silas stayed in that prison to lead the guards to Jesus. And then they went on to Thessalonica! If that had been me? I'd have said, "forget this" and went on home to watch some Harry Potter and eat cake. That would have been the end of things for me. "Use someone else Jesus, I'm D.O.N.E. done." Thank you for forgiving me over and over again for my selfish and ridiculous dramaticness, Jesus. (And yes, "dramaticness" is now a word. I declare it so!)

"God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you." (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 MSG)

I switched to The Message translation here because I think it packs a powerful punch. Look at what Paul says here:

"God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message."

He didn't go all "woe is me" about his imprisonment or the whole entire host of issues that he had along the way trying to share Jesus throughout the known world. No! He put on his Jesus glasses and saw it all for what it was- an opportunity for growth, a chance to grow closer to God, and tests to be sure he can handle it all! What an amazing attitude. I know that if it were me, that letter would be very Eeyore. I would be pointing out how terrible my life was and how much it sucked that I got arrested, beaten. I would fail that test. But not Paul! He took what happened and allowed God to use it for good, to make him stronger.

"Even though we had some standing as Christ’s apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did." (1 Thessalonians 2:6-8 MSG)

I love these verses. Honestly, this is something that I'm working on in my own life. You see, in these verses Paul says that they were always totally upfront with everyone. They didn't hide their feelings or try to take advantage of anyone. They didn't look down on the Thessalonians when they struggled to understand, and they didn't withhold their love for anyone. They wore their hearts on their sleeves and were out there. They took the risk of getting hurt because the eternity of these people was way more important to them than their own feelings. They risked it all emotionally for the Thessalonians to truly know Jesus. They loved them with all the earthly love that they could muster.

Do we do this in America? Do we ever risk everything emotionally in order to reach a fellow human? Are we loving others the way that Paul is demonstrating to us in these verses? Because Paul is following Jesus' example here! He is loving them PERIOD. They are loved right where they are just like we are loved right where we are. Paul, Silas, and Timothy swooped into Thessalonica and loved everyone wherever they were in their lives. And then they loved them enough to guide them to Jesus, to change, and to the better life.

Is there anyone in your life that you are doing this with right now? If not, why? We are surrounded by people each and everyday. There are billions of us in the world and there is no shortage of humans who are in need of love. Find someone today. Don't wait. Risk it all emotionally and put yourself out there. Tell them about Jesus because the news of Jesus can't wait. It's too big, too important, too vital to life to keep it to yourself. Paul could see that the moment he was blinded on the road to Damascus. It's amazing how clearly he saw the eternal picture when the finite one was snatched from him. If Paul could see it despite being blinded, why can't we see it with our perfectly functional eyes?

I've said it before and I'm saying it again. Jesus is calling us to more. He is calling us to EXTRAVAGANT LOVE for one another (Ephesians 5:1-2). Extravagant love is huge. It's outrageous. It's more than anything you can comprehend. It's withholding no part of your love for one another. That's what Paul is talking about here in this letter to the Thessalonians. He's reminding them of what he showed them on his short visit among them. And he's reminding us too.

I'm going to end this the same way I end it almost every time. Be blessed today and don't forget to be a blessing to someone else. And I truly mean it. I pray earnestly that this is true in each and every life that reads these words. Who can you love today for no reason at all? Who needs to know that there is someone who cares? Who can you be Jesus to today? Find them and love like Jesus loved- with every single part of you.

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