The Word of God, Working In You

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13; NIV84)

Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote the first letter to the Thessalonians while they were in the city of Corinth, somewhere around 49 or 50 AD. While there, Acts 17 records that “some of the Jews … a large number of God-fearing Greeks, and not a few prominent women” accepted the message and grace of Jesus.

However, their story in Acts is suspenseful. While in the city, they stayed with a believer named Jason, but were driven from the city because of the accusation that they were convincing people, in the city, to worship a king other than Caesar. The telling remark, to me, though, comes in Acts 17:6, when the Thessalonian agitators said, referencing Paul and Silas, “These men have caused trouble all over the whole world, and now they have come here.”

That’s pretty stout. And it gives us an idea of Paul’s tenacity.

Shortly after they left, though, there were a few stops they made before settling in Corinth, and that’s when they composed this letter.

Our reading schedule varies through these few days, and I have taken the liberty of changing it a bit, only because I am writing every day, so today’s reading will be 1 Thessalonians 1, 2. If you are following the schedule, today’s reading will be a bit different. Thanks for your flexibility.

Today, though, one passage struck me. I’ve read these chapters, and read some subsequent historical information surrounding this letter, but one verse, just one verse, has lodged itself in my thoughts. It’s the passage, quoted at the top. I’ll put it here, again:

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13; NIV84)

While the first two chapters, essentially, are one long introduction by the letter writers, it was this verse that caught my attention. It spoke to me.

The word of God, the message of redemption, was at work in them.

It was their chief time-filler. It was their hobby. It was their pastime. It consumed their thoughts.

You may think that those previous statements are stretching the meaning a bit. But I don’t. If the word of God is at work in someone, it has been given time and space to work. It moves, and shakes thoughts and motivations.

Our chief offense, at a statement like this, is how many other “words” we let work in us.

Quick — what’s your favorite movie quote?

See?

See how many “words” we let fill our time? It becomes difficult to let the word of God work in our own lives, when we keep making it compete with other things.

A little bit of Jesus is not enough. The Word must be given space in our lives. It must be given free rein. It must be offered a blank check, to change what needs to be changed.

But how?

The most interesting part of this statement is that Paul is not referencing Scripture — because they didn’t have Scripture. The Jewish believers were familiar with Scripture, from their days in the synagogue, but their acceptance of Jesus would have excluded them from synagogue fellowship, thus excluding them from public readings.

And no one owned a personal copy of the Hebrew Scriptures. Also, there were no gospels. There were no epistles. Their entire believing community was based around the message, or word, in their lives, not on a page.

The transforming power of the Word of God was all they needed. It consumed their thoughts.

How strange, then, that we own multiple copies of the written Word, yet rarely make time for it.

Yet we crave hobbies and pursuits and pastimes and Facebook, and constantly fill our lives with the “words” of others.

I’ll stop there. I’ve written about this before. I am not holy, though. Please don’t use these words in a misguided belief that I have somehow achieved something good.

But I do know, from personal experience, that my life changed, two years ago, when I began a daily adventure in the Word of God, separate from what I taught as a minister. My family changed. My relationships changed. My calling in ministry changed.

It was an intentional change, though. I had to stop filling my mind with other “words.”

I only encourage you to do the same. And watch the word of God start working in you.

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