They lived a long time ago, but their story of faith, hope and love is a challenge to us as we live out the same faith 20 centuries later.
Acts 16 and 17 describe how Paul and Silas were on their tour of the churches, supporting these new believers, when the Holy Spirit kept pointing them westward. This culminated in the 'Macedonian call' across to start new churches in Europe - around Philippi and on down intro Greece, through Thessalonica and beyond.
Acts 17 tells us how the church was born in controversy, as their was a riot and Paul and Silas were ushered out of town at night. It seems they had only been there a few weeks. Their teaching time with them was limited. Which all meant that when Paul was sitting in Corinth some time later, he was constantly thinking about them and wondering how they had got on since they left. No email or even Royal Mail then!
He wanted to go back, but was prevented, until eventually he sent his new co-worker Timothy. Timothy came back a little while later with the great news, that not only was there still a church in Thessalonica (he must have feared it would be broken up) but it was thriving!
Reading 1 Thessalonians with this backdrop, helps us as we hear this as a real letter from a real person to a people living out their faith in real life.
So what have we seen?
In chapter 1 we have seen how their life was marked by faith, love and hope.
We've seen how their conversion was a marked by 3 things...
1. Turning from idols (alternate world views)
2. Serving the living and true God, and
3. Waiting for his Son from heaven.
In chapter 2 and 3 we've seen how Paul served among them with authenticity.
We've seen how Paul taught they would face trials, be challenged by the devil, and need support from the wider church. But they would persevere sacrificially (see a great example of this video about Steve Saint's story)
In chapter 4 we've seen how their grasp of Jesus' return affected their choices in living for God in the present.
And we've seen how Paul led them further in their understanding of Christ's return, describing how all God's people, including those who have gone in past generations, will be gathered one day as Christ appears and the new heaven and earth arrives - the barriers between our physical world and the spiritual realm being brought down. The Kingdom fully and finally arrives.
But we need to be ready - chapter 5 - the moment comes as a thief in the night. Unannounced. Those who are ready are not surprised by the thief. But others who think all is fine, and there is no need to think about it, are caught out.
To be continued...