“You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”
Have you ever thought about the relationship between the message and the messenger? When someone says, “What kind of a person says that?” or “Who are you to tell me that?” they are tapping into something intuitive within us that says there ought to be a consistency between who you are and what you’re saying. This consistency was something Paul was eager to reveal to those he lead.
Think about the fit personal trainer who says eating healthy is important or the shrewd accountant who promotes wise savings? We’d listen to those people and trust them. However, it would be quite peculiar to hear a steak-loving cowboy speak at the ‘vegan forever’ conference right? The effectiveness of the message is strongly correlated to the quality of the messenger.
Paul wanted to prove to them the kind of men they were. And he does this by drawing their attention to their message that came with power and conviction . There was a consistency between the message and the messenger evidenced through Paul embodiment of the message. This is evident as he and the apostles laboured through devotion (3), communicated with power (v5), ministered through tender care (v7), and shared not only the gospel but their whole lives as well (8). These aspects of the messengers actually help reveal the message of Christ. Think about it… the triumph of the resurrection (power), the priesthood of Jesus (care), the work on the cross (labour) and the incarnation of Christ himself who held back nothing to enter and love humanity (sharing). The way the messengers lived and ministered helped to reveal the message.
There is however a particular focus that Paul zooms in on. The Thessalonians became imitators of Paul as they received the word in much affliction and yet with joy. These were marks of Paul’s ministry, who constantly and joyfully struggled with all of Christ’s energy to make the word of God known (Col 1:24, 25, 28,) . In turn the Thessalonians received this word in affliction making it known to those in Macedonia and Achaia. In fact, their influence spread so far that it was unmistakable that they were a people who had experienced the power of God.
LIVE THE GOSPEL
As leaders then, we want to strive towards becoming a living testimony of the gospel. We desire to be the tangible expression of that gospel. This will undoubtedly show itself through the way we handle the word, experience hardship and see the power of God at work. The good news is that this type of ministry sees the message spread and people formed by the gospel. Isn’t this what we desire from our leadership? Isn’t this the kind of influence we’d love to see through those we lead?
With this power of the gospel at work we can reflect on the following:
- What ways am I encouraged by the continuity between my life and my message?
- In what ways might Jesus help change the discrepancies between my life and my message?
THE TAKE HOME
The impact is clear: the message spreads.
The imperative is clear: Have continuity between message and messenger.