In 1 Thessalonians 1:8–10, Paul, Silas, and Timothy praise the Thessalonian believers for their faith, which had become well known through the region:
The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
Notice several things about these verses:
First, the Lord’s message is demonstrated in our faith. It is not reducible to our faith. Neither God nor his word can be reduced to the finite limitations of human experience. He always breaks out of our boxes, whether theological or experiential. Nevertheless, there is a relationship between the gospel and its effect on us. If we accept in the gospel, we will belong, behave, and believe in a different manner than we did before accepting the gospel.
Second, receiving the Lord’s message initiates a new pattern of relationship. Notice the first thing about the Corinthians that had gained renown: “what kind of reception you gave us.” Remember Acts 17:1–9! The Thessalonians believed the missionaries’ preaching and sheltered them even though doing so resulted in their persecution and suffering. It’s one thing to show hospitality to people who are popular. It’s another thing entirely—a very Christlike thing—to show hospitality to people who are unpopular. The Thessalonians did the Christlike thing.
Third, receiving the Lord’s message involves changing who or what you worship. “[Y]ou turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” An idol is not merely a physical object that you pray before, burn incense to, or leave gifts for. An idol is any person, thing, or idea that requires the best attention of your mind, the deepest devotion of your heart, and the constant activity of your hands. For many today, money—acquiring it, gaining interest from it, spending it—is an idol. For others, it’s sex, celebrity, or power. Whatever it is, to be a Christian means to turn your back on idols and make “the living and true God” the object of your head, heart, and hands’ best thoughts, feelings, and activities.
Fourth, receiving the Lord’s message involves patiently waiting for Jesus to return. The Nicene Creed states the faith of all Christians when it says that Jesus Christ “will return to judge the living and the dead.” That is his eschatological—or “end times”—role. His return is the end of this age, in which good and bad are mixed, and the beginning of the age to come, in which God triumphs, good prevails, and evil is conquered. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so to we live for the promise of eternal life.
What strangers have you welcomed? What are you turning from? What are you turning to? And what are you waiting for? How you answer these questions determines whether your faith will be remembered.