Paul praises the Tessalonians for two things: for no longer worshiping idols but only the Creator God; and for waiting for Jesus to rescue them from God’s impending judgement. I wonder if the example of the Thessalonians could be helpful for us in working out how we should live.
We don’t talk about idols much today, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. An idol is anything that is more important to us than God. Idols are those places in our lives where our heart and our imagination are distracted from following Jesus.
Given this definition there are countless idols in our modern world. For example, many in our community use the acquisition of more possessions to help them feel good. Others are drawn to self-worship through materialism, career, and success. Still others seek entertainment to mask sorrow and boredom.
And Christians are not immune. We live in the midst of a community full of idols, so it is no surprise we too are drawn to them. Yet, what would it look like if we, like the Thessalonians, in our confession that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, distanced ourselves more strongly from these idols? Would it help us to know how to live in these challenging times?
Paul also praises the Thessalonians in their response to God’s impending judgement.
Not only do we not talk much about idols, neither do we speak much about judgement. The Bible consistently warns of a terrible day when God will bring judgment on all that is idolatrous, unjust and immoral in our world. Although we are part of the world and should be judged accordingly, we escape judgement because of Jesus and all that he has and will do on our behalf. Not only has Jesus saved us from our sin, he will also save us from the coming judgement.
In the midst of a world in the grips of globalisation, the sexual revolution, consumerism, the rise of environmentalism, and rampant individualism, it is good to be reminded of God’s master plan. Despite what many may think is the future of planet earth, God has already given us insight into the final outcome. One day the world with all its idolatry, self-centredness and injustice will be judged and peace will reign supreme.
We worship and serve the living and true God. What would it mean for us, in the midst of all the challenges we face as a church, if we were praised like the Thessalonians? Such praise would have nothing to do with success or with numbers, but would indicate that we have turned away from our idols and await Jesus’ return as judge.
May God encourage us as we walk and work together at being the church God calls us to be in our day.
Stephen L Baxter