I THESSALONIANS 1:6-8: “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 in Macedonia and in Achaia. 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.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: Is my life worth imitating? When I read these words I am greatly challenged. Paul would also write to the Corinthians – “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” (I Corinthians 4:16) In these verses he commends the Thessalonians for becoming imitators of his life (and the apostles). As I read these verses I must ask myself once again the opening question – “Is my life worth imitating?”
If perfection were the criteria for a life that is worthy to imitate, no one would be able to be a role model, including the Apostle Paul. Paul never claimed to be perfect, or to have attained to some higher level of knowledge as was purported by some. Paul in his own writings makes this very clear:
“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2 ESV)
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)
Within these statements, and within the verses of I Thessalonians 1:6-8 that we are looking at, we find the key to understanding the call to have a life worthy of imitating. To the Thessalonians Paul writes – “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord…” In I Corinthians 11:1 Pau writes – “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” When we put all of these things together we get a balanced and achievable understanding of the call to have a life worthy of imitating.
I cannot ask someone to imitate my perfection in Christ, for I have not attained it. I cannot ask someone to imitate my knowledge of Christ, for I learn every day how much I do not know. However, I can live a life that is worthy of imitating by honestly, openly, and transparently dealing with my sin each day and drawing upon God’s All Sufficient Grace to become more and more like Jesus.
We are all climbing up a mountain of which we cannot see the top. None of us has reached the summit, nor will we reach it in our lifetime. However, each one of us can set an example to be imitated by quickly correcting our course when we get off track (a heart of sincere repentance), and continuing to put one foot in front of the other in our climb to the top (drawing upon God’s Grace). The greatest example we can set for others to follow is a life that does not lose heart, that continues to pursue the Lord, and that puts the past behind us (through repentance and forgiveness), pressing on to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
Lord, help me be that man! In Jesus Name!