You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,1 Thessalonians 1:6(NASB)
Everyone has to make a decision - to believe the gospel of Christ or to reject it. Those in the church at Thessalonica heard the gospel, were ready and willing to turn from their former ways, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. They responded to the good news Paul taught, by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus. The apostle brought them the gospel of grace, and they received his teaching with the joy of the Holy Spirit - despite the difficulties they faced, and in so doing became imitators of Paul.
Paul had been personally taught by the risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus, and he loved his Saviour so dearly, that he followed Christ's word and imitated His ways. Similarly, the men and women he taught in Thessalonica were ready to follow his example and to learn from Paul and his fellow-labourers in the Lord. They were ready to use Paul and his fellow-labourers in the Lord as a pattern for life, just as Paul patterned himself after the Lord Jesus.
The message of the gospel is one of hope and joy, but it does not come without great adversity and many pressures. Yet the Thessalonian Christians were ready and willing to receive and follow the teachings of Paul with joy and hope in their heart. They were ready and willing to trust in the Lord joyfully, for their salvation.
In spite of the inevitable adversity that comes to all who believe in Jesus, we read that the Thessalonians "also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation - and with the joy of the Holy Spirit." Just as Paul patterned himself on Christ, so these dear believers patterned their lives on the men who brought them the gospel, who were imitating the lovely Lord Jesus. Just as Christ suffered on our account, for the joy that was set before Him, so we are to suffer for His sake for the joy we find in Him.
The fact that these believers displayed the work of faith, labour of love, steadfast hope in the Lord, and joy in the Holy Spirit, despite the many tribulations they underwent, is something we should seek to emulate. Just as they became imitators of both Paul and Christ, so we as the Body of Christ, are to pattern our lives on the Lord Jesus. We are to be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, and persistent in prayer.
As the body of Christ, we are to be united in love, to walk in the way of the Lord Jesus, and to live the same type of life that He lived. Paul was the chosen apostle who was called by God to open up the many mysteries of this Church age, and teach us the godly principles of walking in spirit and in truth.
Throughout his epistles, Paul explains that we are not to rely on our own strength but to live and move and have our being in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. We are to die to self as we live for Christ, and so Paul gave us the admonition to live the same way that he lived and to imitate the way that he lived out his Christian life.
Christians are not to become little clones of Paul, but we are to be like him in principle. We are to live our lives in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, walking in spirit and truth, trusting in the Word of God, and depending on our heavenly Father in all things. We have to have the absolute assurance that His grace is sufficient for every eventuality of life, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Down through the centuries, history has witnessed that Christian truth has had to swim against a flood-tide of much persecution, while being attacked and ridiculed by the accusations of ungodly men. The good news of the glorious gospel of grace has been systematically undermined by many contradictory rebuttals from Satan. But Christ won the victory, which enables us to receive the gospel of Christ in much tribulation - but with joy in the Holy Spirit.
May we never forget that we have an assurance that if we die to the old self-life and live the new life of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, (as did this great apostle of God), our consolations will more than compensate for the inevitable afflictions and difficulties that accompany the lives of all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us, like the Thessalonians, be imitators of Paul and of Christ, so that we may increasingly discover the joy of the Holy Spirit within, and exercise His sufficient grace in the tribulations we face, until we can claim, with him, "it is not I that lives but Christ that lives in me."
Loving Father, I long to walk in spirit and truth in the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that I decrease in my own importance and Christ increases in my life, to become all in all. May the joy of the Lord be my strength in all the difficulties and trials of life, so that Christ is seen in me and others may be drawn to Him through my witness. This I pray in Jesus’s name, AMEN.