Every committed Christian wants to please the Lord by having a good testimony. But how do we do it? What are the characteristics of a good testimony? How do we keep going with a consistent testimony? These are just some of the questions we might be asking.
1st Thessalonians is a story of new converts who quickly establish themselves as godly witnesses in a wicked world. Paul spends a lot of effort in this book commending them for their faithful witness and encouraging them to grow in their godly testimony.
Life was tough for these Christians, and they weren’t perfect, yet, in spite of this, they were on fire for the Lord! As we read about their testimony we must challenge our hearts and ask ourselves the question: What is our Christian testimony like?
There are at least five aspects of the Thessalonian testimony that we can look at:
1 Thess. 1. 7-8, ’So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad’.
In chapter 1 verses 7-8, we read that they were ‘ensamples’. The word means that they were a pattern or model for other Christians to follow. If you were a Christian living in that day and you wanted to know how to live before God you wouldn’t go far wrong in following their example! What a testimony they had! I wonder what Christians we would produce if others followed our example?
Chapter 1 verse 8 tells us that they preached the gospel over a vast area with no tracts, emails, internet or any other means of communication. They were limited to walking for miles with a burden for souls. But they had a very powerful tool to help them in their gospel endeavours, the ‘word of the Lord’. In boldness they ‘sounded out the word of the Lord’ and many were saved. Sometimes we have trouble getting beyond our own street with the gospel! Let us be encouraged to speak the word of the Lord amongst the unsaved and to be bold in our declaration of the gospel.
1 Thess. 2. 13, ‘For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe’.
In chapter 2 verse 13, we discover that their testimony was effective because the word of God was effectually working in them. They lived and breathed the word of God, and it resulted in an effective testimony. Unless we read the Bible, study, and labour in the word then our testimony will not be as effective as it could be. Reading and studying the Bible regularly will help us have a more effective testimony.
In chapter 3 verse 8, we read that Paul was encouraged because they were standing fast in the Lord. Notice, they were not standing still, nor were they going backwards! They were living by faith and they had a great love for those around. Loving others is a mark of true discipleship and a tremendous testimony, John. 13. 35. They were to ‘abound in love’, 3. 12, and prove that they were committed to a continuing faithful witness. This would make them attractive and give them the opportunity to attract others to Christ.
1 Thess. 4. 7, ‘For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness’.
At the beginning of chapter 4, Paul writes about pleasing God by walking a godly path. He encourages them to have a sanctified life. Holiness and sanctification are the aim and process of setting us apart to God in contrast to going after the sinful things of the world. In the day and age that we live in there are many things in the world that can spoil our relationship with God and our testimony. Chapter 4 verse 7 teaches that God has not called us to go after the unclean things around us, but He has called us to live holy lives.
1 Thess. 5. 23, ‘And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
The Thessalonians were undergoing extreme persecution at times, see 2. 14. Some were even being martyred. They needed encouragement, and it came in two ways. Firstly, Paul reminded them that the Lord would be with them in their lives of faithful testimony, 1 Thess. 5. 23. Secondly, they could always have in mind that one day they would be with the Lord Jesus in a perfect place for all eternity. With these two things in mind they had the encouragement to carry on. It is good to remind ourselves that no matter how difficult life can get, the Lord Jesus can preserve us. ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’, Heb. 13. 5. It is also good to be aware of the amazing hope that one day we will be taken out of this failing world of sin and be forever with the Lord Jesus. There is no other hope like it in the world!
1 Thess. 4. 17, ‘Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord’.
So, in conclusion, from this challenging book we have every reason and encouragement to live out a good and faithful testimony before others and before God. So what’s stopping us?