“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. 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… 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. 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, and to wait for his Son from heaven,.. Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Example begets example, when threaded by the Holy Spirit through willing hearts and hands. The Thessalonians betrayed no cursory mimic of Paul, but deep-rooted application of truth fleshed out in the most trying of circumstances. Paul’s shining example, including his very act of writing letters to build up the churches, rang true and abroad for every child of God as they imitated him and further spread God’s message of salvation.
Being an example has little to do with comparisons and watchers, and everything to do with the One you follow. Trying in self-effort to put on goodness and faith proves superficial. Words spoken merely to flatter or impress ring hollow. If we give or receive shallow example, all is in vain and nothing makes a lasting impression. Immersing ourselves in Christ with full surrender is the only way to be transformed, influential, and effectual. A life lived wholeheartedly for Him is one that attracts others to Him, and makes every sincere believer want to be like Jesus when we grow up. (1 Peter 1:16)
Note the noteworthy in Paul: He prays with substance and affection for his brothers loved by God, and commends them for their steadfastness and faith. His own application of God’s promises and sufficiency had been imitated by them and was bearing fruit. His bold ministry held no flattery or self-promotion, but was fueled by love and compassion for Christ’s church. They, in turn, were bold in imitation of his genuine faith and affection, theirs proving sincere and strong. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
With shared focus on Jesus over self, we can all learn to press on and pass on with persistence and sincerity. What we see, we emulate; what we learn, we teach by both word and example. In the Body, we are all enriched by the examples of others, or serving as one ourselves; by observation, instruction, and implementation; by lessons learned through success and failure.
Who has influenced me in a life-giving way, and how can I imitate their example? What in me needs to be honed to reflect Christ with vibrancy and winsomeness? Am I honest about struggles, and quick to credit God for His mercies, way-making, and help? (Psalm 73:1-3,16-17,21-26,28)
Lord, make me grateful for every Christ-like example, and gracious to be one too.