Welsh missionary Timothy Richard arrived in China in 1870. For 45 years, he preached the gospel; distributed Scripture and Christian literature; organized famine relief; and founded schools, orphanages, and training programs. When this faithful servant died in 1919, he was recognized as one of the most influential missionaries in church history.
For missionaries, success is measured by the transforming power of the gospel. Paul rejoiced that the gospel had been warmly received by the Thessalonians and had a transforming impact (v. 5). The evidence of their saving faith could be seen in how dramatically they’d changed: They’d turned from pagan idols and trusted Christ alone (v. 9). They’d rejected their pagan lifestyle and become imitators of Paul and his team, and thus of Christ (v. 6). They’d joyfully stood fast even when their beliefs led to “severe suffering.”
In fact, these men and women had become a model for believers throughout the region (v. 7). The clarity of their witness was like a bell—“the Lord’s message rang out from you” (v. 8). They did all this while waiting expectantly for the return of Christ. He “rescues us from the coming wrath” (v. 10), that is, the Tribulation, as we learn later.
Ultimately, the gospel was proclaimed and had power because of God (v. 4). There was no reason for the Thessalonians to feel prideful. God had chosen them for His own sovereign purposes. This contrasted with the false gods of Thessalonica, who did not love their worshipers. The relationship was rather one of appeasing and granting favors. Just as the believers’ transformed lives testified to their saving faith in Christ, then, they also testified to God’s unique love and sovereign election.
>> Have you trusted in Christ for salvation (Acts 16:31)? If not, we encourage you to take this decisive step today. If yes, rejoice with us in the love and power of our Savior! Together, we live faithfully, in expectation of His return!
New believers and veterans alike, we all rejoice in God’s power to save. Lord, transform us like you did the Thessalonians. Make your grace and power clear in our lives so that all may see!