- It is just the standard routine at the doctor’s office. Stand on the scale. Extend your arm for blood pressure and pulse rate to be measured. At the end of all the poking, prodding and questions, we want to hear, “You are in good health.”
If we think of the New Testament letters functioning like a doctor’s evaluation, many of the early churches were not healthy. Among the notable exceptions was the church at Thessalonica when it received its first letter from Paul.
Repeatedly Paul commended their spiritual health. “You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:7). “We ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) …” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
What can be particularly beneficial for us involves discovering what had contributed to their healthy report. After all, when it comes to physical health we know that exercise and making healthy choices at meal times promotes fitness. Yet, what nurtures spiritual health?
While hardly exhaustive, part of the path toward spiritual health includes:
- Their conversion had reoriented their lives. “You turned from idols to the living God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Living our lives in pursuit of influence, the trappings of success, being accepted by others, financial security, fame and so forth is nothing new. While we might not consider these goals as being idolatrous, Paul denounced the organization of our lives around the drive to acquire more as being idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
Conversion had reoriented their whole way of life, thinking and goals. Whereas society had told them, devote yourself to pursuing the self-centered rewards our idols provide, they had responded, “we need to serve the living God.”
- They overcame all obstacles to serve God. “We recall … your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord … despite great affliction” (1 Thessalonians 1:3,6).
When we reconstruct the early history of this church from 1 Thessalonians, it reveals a church determined to engage in service in spite of the barriers. Although they knew that following Christ could lead to hardship because of Paul’s personal history (2:2), they chose to serve God and suffer (2:14;3;3-4). Even through adversity their faith and love had remained strong (3:6).
Who wants to be sick physically or spiritually? Yet, how many times do people persistently insist upon ignoring good habits or making decisions that lead to health?
It would seem that if we wish to hear, “well done good and faithful servant” we ought to begin by ensuring we are serving the living God. Furthermore, in spite of any difficulty or barrier the enemy might construct, our devotion needs to burst beyond a quiet inner conviction to become outwardly evident as a “work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope.”