Within the human soul is the desire to be remembered.
For many of us, we want deeply to make a difference in the world, to have the people who knew us look back upon our lives and exclaim, “What a mark they left.” This is the power of living by example, and I would be lying if I said I did not want my life to matter in this way!
I consider my growing-up years, and my precious mother instantly comes to mind. As a little girl, I wanted so badly to be just like Mom when I grew up because her manner of life spoke loudly a message of love, compassion, truth and sacrifice. She greatly influenced me, and to this day, I can still say with all my heart, “What a mark she left (and continues to leave) upon my life.”
Many godly lives, many holy examples, have gone before us. We read about men of women of faith in the Bible and learn what set their lives apart from a world operating without a hope. We learn what motivated their day-to-day actions. We learn of Christians who were serious about living out their faith in Jesus Christ, as a result of the powerful Spirit at work within their hearts.
We meet one such community of faithful Christians in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. In the opening of the letter, Paul praises the faith of the believers there. Amazingly, their bold witness to Christ had spurred on belief in other cities – so dynamically that Paul had heard about their faith, though he wrote to them from an entirely different location.
Talk about being remembered! I think we can learn some valuable lessons from these people about what it looks like to live faithfully as Christians. So what did their example and influence look like? And what can we learn from them about living godly lives today?
Believers trust Christ and bear fruit.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 1).
Paul begins with a message of thanksgiving for the Thessalonians. In effect, he says, “We are so grateful for your faithfulness! And here’s why.” He rejoices in the godliness pouring forth from their lives, recognizing that all good fruit is a result of the powerful gospel at work. Paul remembers their faith, their love, and their hope in Jesus Christ – all very significant manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit. But Paul does not forget the power source behind such godly living. The Holy Spirit, working in the hearts of these people, caused them to believe in Jesus Christ! This belief by faith is where a godly life is birthed.
Believers submit to and learn from godly examples.
You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord… (vv. 5-6).
Simply put, Paul says, “You learned by our example.” Praise God that many men and women of godly influence have gone before us, faithfully demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit: obedience, love, diligence, endurance and hope in Jesus Christ. What an encouragement to know we can look to the saints for wisdom and help, submitting to their correction and learning from their encouragement. The Thessalonians knew that, instead of reinventing the wheel, they had people of holy faithfulness purposefully set before them for their observation and imitation.
Believers value Christ above their lives.
…for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia (vv. 6-7).
The NIV translation reads, “In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with joy…” Paul commends the Thessalonians for considering the gospel of far greater worth than their very own lives. These men and women did not run from hardship or opposition; rather they received Jesus Christ with great joy and endured hardship with deep trust in their Savior.
Notice that it was their patient, joyful endurance in the midst of trials that caused their faithful influence to spread to “all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ demonstrates a radically different value system to a watching world, particularly in how a person responds to suffering. How different the life, how influential the faith, of the person who stands up under suffering with joy because they trust in the faithful goodness and protective covering of their Lord and Savior.
Believers live repentant lives of obedience.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (vv. 8-10).
Finally, Paul tells the Thessalonians exactly what he has heard through the grapevine: their faith in God is known everywhere! How can this be? Their entire lives have changed. They no longer live for themselves, but for Christ, who died on the cross for their sins and rose to new life for their sake. What was once appealing in the world is now unappealing; what the flesh once desired, the new life now resists. The Thessalonians have new hearts and new spirits and, therefore, they repent of sin and pursue holy lives. They anticipate Christ’s coming, and so they serve the living and true God, rather than the temporary treasures of the world.
Whether you realize it or not, people are watching your life. What will they see? Is the power of Christ at work within you evident? Are you bearing much fruit and so proving to be a disciple of Jesus? If you have not yet trusted Christ as Savior, believe that only he can change your heart today.
Gospel-influence depends on Christ. Believer, will you let your life speak of Christ?