So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
When Paul came to Macedonia after a vision from the Lord during his second missionary journey with Silas and Timothy, he strategically went to Thessalonica, the capital city of Macedonia, where he stayed for 3 weeks. During his time there, he planted the Thessalonian church, but was suddenly forced to flee because of Roman persecution. While in Corinth, he writes to them after Timothy reports that, despite the suffering and persecution, they were flourishing! Paul starts his letter of encouragement to them by reminding them of the amazing way they received Paul’s preaching and followed him, and informing them of the impact they were having on all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia (Northern and Southern Greece)!
When I read that, the Lord spoke to me so directly, it was almost scary. Recently, He’s led me to read 1 & 2 Thessalonians and placed the book on my heart, and today confirmed that. How? During my time in the Word this morning, I could sense a theme of imitating God, but I couldn’t make out what the Holy Spirit was teaching me until I read the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. Once all the puzzle pieces came together, I was blown away at how great the Holy Spirit is at leading and illuminating me as I meditate on His Word.
Paul went to the capital city of Macedonia because he hoped that, if the gospel flourished there, it would move outward into the surrounding areas, and he was right! Because they faithfully imitated the Christ-like example of Paul and Silas so well, they became exemplary leaders that served as models for the other churches throughout Greece! And that’s exactly what the Lord Jesus was showing me: He’s calling me to be a disciple-maker and example for other believers, and the best ones are those who themselves follow the example of Jesus Christ, both in His Word and in others! In other words, the best leaders in the Kingdom of God tend to be faithful followers first.
- We’ve all been called to go and make disciples of all nations; our mission in this world as the Church is to not only witness to the gospel, but to help others grow to maturity. The best way to make true disciples of Jesus Christ is to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ yourself! If you want others to imitate your faith and lifestyle, lead a life worth copying. This is the essence of discipleship!
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)