"You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you." (1 Thessalonians 2:9)
Several weeks ago we studied the book of James, by Jesus' own brother, James. In that book, he urged the readers of his letter to do more than just have faith. They needed to show it, exercise it, put it into action and help it grow. Paul is essentially confirming that same idea in this verse. He is reminding the people of Thessalonica about their behavior while he, Silas, and Timothy visited. They didn't just swoop in and give a good sermon then hang out in the green room waiting to be served. They jumped in and did the hard work too, right alongside everyone. They lived out what they preached and made it real to the people.
Let's keep reading:
"You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we weren’t freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life." (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
In these verses Paul goes on to answer the burning question that (I hope) we all had yesterday. How do we exercise extravagant love in our lives with those around us, even when it's hard? He is telling us here! Loving others extravagantly starts with being discreet and courteous to those around you. It goes on to being sensitive with others. And it continues through to action with service for others rather than being served. More over, he is calling us to love one another the way we love our own children. That's a high calling!
Before we can move on, I have to point out that word "discreet." What does that mean? Why is it there? When I think about discreet, I think about keeping secrets or not being super obvious about things but that doesn't really apply to the Christian life. So I looked it up. And this was the definition I found:
"judicious in one's conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect."
So discreet here really means "thinking before speaking." We live in a world where we almost always say exactly what is on our minds and Paul is saying that we shouldn't just blurt out whatever we think. Carefully consider what you are saying to one another. Is it helpful? Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary to say it? It reminds me of the acronym (of unknown authorship) regarding this very thing, THINK:
T- Is it True?
H- Is it Helpful?
I- Is it Inspiring?
N- Is it Necessary?
K- Is it Kind?
"And now we look back on all this and thank God, an artesian well of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!" (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
An artesian well is one that doesn't require a pump to bring the water to the surface. If you google it, you'll see images of wells that are overflowing and bursting with water. That is what Paul is comparing his thankfulness to. And it makes me wonder? When is the last time that I was that thankful to God for anything let alone the blessing of a new believer? Is it just me or are our emotions a bit stunted here in America? I hope it isn't just me...
" Friends, do you realize that you followed in the exact footsteps of the churches of God in Judea, those who were the first to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ? You got the same bad treatment from your countrymen as they did from theirs, the Jews who killed the Master Jesus (to say nothing of the prophets) and followed it up by running us out of town. They make themselves offensive to God and everyone else by trying to keep us from telling people who’ve never heard of our God how to be saved. They’ve made a career of opposing God, and have gotten mighty good at it. But God is fed up, ready to put an end to it." (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)
Okay, so this part is my favorite. Paul takes what happened to the people in Thessalonica- you know, being attacked for their new beliefs- and turns it around. He shows them how God used the bad for the good. He didn't wait for them to figure it out for themselves. No! He spelled it out for them right there in black and white. He used it as this amazing encouragement for them to keep doing what they're doing, to keep believing and to keep following Jesus. And then he assures them that God is not okay with the treatment they received, that God will take care of it. They don't have to worry about revenge in any way. They are free to keep loving as God calls us to love.
So how can we apply all of this information to our lives today? Because there was a lot to take away from this. Let me sum it up. Paul is calling us to actively love one another through our words and our actions. Before we speak, we must THINK. We should be practicing patience and being courteous with one another. Serving each other is another way to show extravagant love for others. If we put all of this into practice, I think we will be well on our way to loving one another well.
Be blessed today and remember to also be a blessing to someone else!