by Carolyn Ehrlich
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We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God … you accepted it … as it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Yesterday, we looked at the characteristics of a good leader, which were many but had one purpose – so that we walk in a manner worthy of God (verse 12). Today, we see that we also need to be grateful followers of Jesus. If the Thessalonians had not chosen to follow Paul’s leadership, his leadership and ministry would have counted for nothing. No matter how great, humble, selfless, gentle, caring, engaging, motivating and encouraging Paul was, his leadership qualities would have been empty gestures in the air if people had not followed him. So, are you a good follower of Jesus?
A grateful follower believes God’s word, embraces it, lives it out and endures in it. The Thessalonians welcomed Paul’s preaching, not as mere words of people but as God’s word. The gospel’s work of faith, love and hope transformed the lives of believers, even amid suffering. Because they accepted his word, God transformed lives.
Walking in a manner that is worthy of God is not easy. It can – and does – occur amid conflict and suffering. But as a grateful and devoted follower, it can be joyful. There are days when I just need to put one foot in front of the other and step through what God wants me to do today. I can resist, complain, procrastinate, become stubborn or anxious, and I can protest and argue. Or I can accept, submit, trust, follow and obey. That choice is always mine. Irrespective of which choice I make, I still need to do what it is that he wants me to do. My choice only influences my experience – it doesn’t change God’s will. So, what I choose impacts whether I experience joy or misery. Unsurprisingly, whether I am joyful or miserable also impacts the experience of people around me.
The Thessalonians proved their devotion to Jesus by receiving God’s word and living it. What will we (you and I) do to live God’s word? First, we will obey God’s commands even when we don’t want to. It is easy to follow God when we believe he is asking us to do things we want to do. It is so much more challenging and much more telling about our commitment to God when we do the things that God is asking us to do, even if they are unpalatable to us. Second, we will accept the path God will have us walk by his strength even when we experience suffering, pain, opposition and other difficulties. Third, we will express appreciation, love and joy for the people we love.
Heavenly Father, your way is narrow, but your plan is perfect. Thank you that your word shows me your ways. I repent of my resistance and disobedience. Help me submit to – and obey – you in all you ask me to do today. Help me to be an accepting and grateful follower of Jesus. Remind me to daily show the people I love that I joyfully appreciate and love them. In Jesus’ precious name, I pray. Amen.
Carolyn Ehrlich lives in retirement with her husband Wayne in Ipswich, Queensland. Before retirement, Carolyn was an academic, working as a researcher in the fields of disability and rehabilitation. Carolyn had also previously worked clinically as a registered nurse. Today, Carolyn keeps busy with hobbies such as patchwork and quilting, supporting the Ipswich Lutheran Parish in various leadership roles, and supporting her family.