Ahhh, reports, reports, reports. Writing reports is by far the worst part of my role at Bright Hope World. But, despite my grumbling, I must acknowledge that they are important.
Recently I was working on a report written up based on communications with one of our partners in Egypt. The report said: “Today the team is going to work with 1,500 kids, most of them Muslim, Syrian and Sudanese refugees. Please pray for Sawsan and her team as tomorrow they will travel to two very poor villages in the south to help 500 kids with school materials and share the love of God with them.”
We love to hear this kind of report. It inspires and challenges us and is a huge encouragement. Our donors, obviously, also love to know their investments are bearing fruit.
In 1 Thessalonians 1, the apostle Paul was hearing reports about the church at Thessalonika and wrote about the news he received. A couple of phrases from verse 8 attracted my attention. This verse reads: “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere.” It’s obvious that this local church had both a regional and a much wider impact.
Paul uses two different and obviously related phrases to describe the nature of their impact: “The Lord’s message” and “your faith in God”.
The message that rang out was about the Lord. The Lord, Jesus, is the message and was central to their message. This is not something that should be taken for granted. Many Christians have a superficial understanding of the Good News and largely because of that, there is little “ringing out.”
The message was not just about the Lord, it was given to them by the Lord. It wasn’t initiated by them; it was given to them. They were custodians and responsible to pass it on. It has a supernatural source and a timeless, transforming power.
Their faith in God - their testimony - was being talked about all over the world and had been so radical that it blared out. Just keep reading the next few verses. A testimony of God’s transforming work is such a powerful component of telling people the Good News. People need to know it makes a real, tangible difference, as indeed it does.
The challenge for each of us is to be so compellingly distinctive that those around us are confronted by our lives and obliged to ask: “what makes them so different?”
Paul makes a list in Chapter 1 of reasons that made the Thessalonians so obviously called by God (1:4). They had welcomed the message and allowed it to penetrate deep and powerfully into their lives. The Holy Spirit continued his work and deep conviction ensued. The Good News was more than mere words to them (1:5).
This was obviously not the normal way people responded to the message, or he would not have commented about it. They imitated Paul and his team as they lived among them and discipled them. They became apprentices to Paul and to the Lord (1:5-6). They did this with joy in the face of severe suffering and a movement was kindled from there (1:6b). They became a model in their own region and far beyond because their lives were so radically changed (1:7-8). They turned to God and rejected the idols of their culture, dead, lying idols (1:9-10).
I wonder what Paul would write if he peered into my life? What would he write is he looked into our churches?
Would he be astonished at the way I accepted the message and allowed it to penetrate to the depth of my being? Would he comment on the transformation and observable power of God in my life and the others in the fellowship? Would he comment that the Holy Spirit was being allowed to carry on His work? Would he reference that deep conviction was evident in our midst?
What would he hear on ‘the grapevine’ about the reputation of our church? Would it be that we had become a model church, that the Lord’s message was being heard all around and our faith in God was ringing out like a church bell to the far reaches of the earth?
This small, fledging church in Thessalonika had a global impact based largely on the deep ongoing transformation of its people. May it be so for all of us.
KEVIN HONORE | DAY 25, GC3 DAILY PRAYER GUIDE
Kevin and Helen have two adult children and three grandchildren. They are originally from Levin but now live on the Whangaparaoa Peninsular. They are part of the leadership team at Orewa Community Church and have been involved in missions since the early 80s. They spent almost nine years in Zambia and now serve with Bright Hope World. Their passion is to see the lost come into a transforming relationship with God and for the poor to have their world views reshaped by the Good News. They spend many months each year finding and developing partnerships in the majority world.