in receiving the Word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.
You know how it is. Someone tells you something. Then you get that sort of instantaneous feeling and thought – What am I supposed to do with that? You can create some great giphy memes with “Now what am I supposed to do…”
Hand Johnny Bravo a surfboard and you’ll get: “What am I supposed to do with this?”
Typically, someone shows up – a friend, relative, or even someone you just casually know, and they are dropping all their drama on you. The queen or king of drama has arrived. We are left saying… what do I do with this?
So, the age-old question, What do I do with this?
Here we are, the best and the brightest of our Holy Church, the committed, gathered for a week of training, a week of study, a week of fellowship and fun, for a purpose. What this is all about is giving you the answer to: “What am I supposed to do with this?”
One man who figured out the answer was St. Paul.
The people of Thessalonica came to believe in Jesus and bound themselves together in His Church because of St. Paul’s preaching and teaching; because of Paul’s work. Yet, as it is, people bearing strong witness sometimes attract enemies. Paul got enemies. Those enemies tried to discredit Paul while he was away, especially because of his hurried departure from Thessalonica. Paul’s enemies said he left town quickly because he was a self-serving coward. Paul certainly must have had a moment of “What am I supposed to do with this?” Here’s how he solved it.
The scripture we read today, from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, was Paul proving himself by pointing back to his own behavior – how he lived and worked, how he bore witness to Jesus. The people knew him, saw him, worked at his side, learned from him. He is reminding them of the fact they are witnesses of his integrity of his character, they are witnesses to the image of Jesus in Paul. The enemies are lying, and you know it.
What Paul did was so impressive. Paul freely appealed to his own life as an example. Paul didn’t have to say, “Please don’t look at my life. Look to Jesus.” Paul did not hide or fade away when enemies rose up. Paul always wanted people to look to Jesus, but he could also tell them to look at his life, because the power of Jesus was real in his life. It was obvious. He lived it. He was the image of Jesus. He carried the likeness of Jesus wherever he went – he wore the face of Jesus.
Now here’s the harder part. When we face the “What am I supposed to do with this?” moment we are given a choice of who we are to be. Do I just stay me, stay wondering, hide, fade away, be a poser, or maybe just laugh or do I grow in my likeness to Jesus? Can we say: Look at my life with the confidence of Paul? Look at my life and see Jesus and His help clearly. See how I overcame who I was and what I worried about because I am confident that Jesus has me. He has me now and forever.
Factually, that is what God constantly charges us with doing. It is our homework, our assignment, career, and lifelong goal – become more like Jesus, bear His likeness, His face before the world, and be confident in Him. We are to solve the problems we and others face, not with philosophies or politics or reaction, but with the very face of Jesus alive in us. The more and more like Jesus we are the less perplexed we will be with the “What am I supposed to do with this?” moment. The parts of us that wanted to avoid: “What am I supposed to do with this?” no longer desire avoidance, but rather to bear the image of Jesus into the problem. When we face anything, do a self-check. Am I the image of Jesus right now?
Confronted by the drama king or queen, we are to be the face of Jesus to them. Help them to see in us, in our lives, the solution to the drama. Confronted by anything in life, let us be as impressive as Paul as we appeal to our own lives as an example. We should never have to say, “Please don’t look at my life. Look to Jesus.” Of course, we want people to look to Jesus, but we must also be able to confidently tell them to look at our lives because we have made the power of Jesus real in us.
Paul leaves us with a clear statement on how we are to become that image of Jesus. We are to be like the Thessalonians who received the word of God, who welcomed God’s word not as just some advice from some guy, but as the very word of God in all its glory and truth. They not only received and welcomed the word they let it effectively work in them. It changed them.
Paul’s confidence in the word of God wasn’t a matter of wishful thinking or blind faith. He could see that it effectively works in those who believe. God’s Word works, it doesn’t only bring information or produce feelings. There is power in the word of God to change lives; to change us into the very image and likeness of Jesus. So let it change us into the image of the One Who gave us the Word.