How should we receive good news? The believers in Thessalonica provide a model for us.
First, we are told that the good news came to them in four ways: in word, power, the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (I Thessalonians 1:4-5). It came in word as a message from Paul and his co-workers. It came in power through miracles that God did. God’s Spirit was helping the whole process, giving the messengers boldness and giving the hearers the ability to understand and believe. Lastly, those who heard were a hundred percent convinced of the truth of the message.
As we continue reading, we see three ways the Thessalonians received the good news.
1. They received it with joy despite affliction (1:6). Their friends rejected them, yet they were able to believe with joy. This is truly amazing and only possible with God’s help. There is no doubt they were suffering, but at the same time they were joyful about the message of forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Jesus.
2. They turned from idols to serve the true God (1:9-10). The amazing part of this is that they turned from idols “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1:10). The idols (or gods) of that time often represented sensual pleasures–gods of sex, wine, etc. These people were willing to stop their sins and…wait. There wasn’t an immediate reward, instead there was suffering. As someone who teaches university-age students who are full of hormones, dreams, ambitions, lusts, and desires, I realize what a miracle it is for someone to willingly give up sin. Yet these people did.
3. They accepted it as the message of God, not men (2:13). Paul and his co-workers presented the message, but the Thessalonians realized that these men were not making something up. Instead, this was God’s message. Yes, God used flesh and blood people to do the talking, but the goods news originated with God himself.
Paul had to quickly move on from Thessalonica due to persecution, and he started to worry about these new believers he had left behind. Yes, they had received the goods news with joy and conviction, but were they able to continue to believe in the face of continuing trouble? It’s a bit like a parent sending their child off to school. As a parent, you do your best to teach your child right and wrong, how to resist temptation and how to treat people. But once that child is at school (outside of your reach), all that training is put to the test. Your precious child will be confronted with bad language, drugs, cigarettes, dirty pictures on cell phones, bullies, and even more. Will your child be able to withstand the pressure?
What about the Thessalonians? Did they give up their newfound faith? No. Paul was relieved to find out “good news of your faith and love” (3:6).
So the question remains, how will you receive the good news?
Are you willing to turn from the things you worship to follow the living God? “Full conviction” means that there is no “plan B.” The Thessalonians didn’t keep their idols in the closet in case following Jesus didn’t work out. The totally left their former sin.
God’s own Son suffered at the hands of men, and those who follow him will, too. But the good news is that the benefits outweigh the difficulties. Forgiveness, love, belonging and peace from God through Jesus are worth far more than anything else. And that’s something to be joyful about.
Finally, can you hear the good news as God’s message to you? He is speaking to those who can receive it as the word of God, not the word of men.