Whoever said we could walk through this life without worries, difficulties, or unresolved issues was probably not a well person! Choosing to serve Christ does not elevate an individual above the ebbs and flows of life. In fact, it almost guarantees a few more hurdles! If we really are living for Christ, we will face challenging people, circumstances, and moments of potential compromise which we may not have encountered otherwise.
5-6You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble. (I Thessalonians 1:5-6)
As Paul commends the Thessalonian church, he points out the fact of their increased troubles since entering into relationship with Christ. The reader may balk a little at this revelation, but the important thing to see is their great trouble was accompanied by the one who would walk them through it unscathed!
Look at the progression - they paid careful attention to their examples in the faith. They kept their eye on the actions and attitudes of those who had been walking with Christ longer than they had. In so doing, they became imitators of what they saw. Let me caution us here - not every example is worth imitating. Just because something bears the label doesn't ensure it as the true product!
Whenever we are imitating what we see, we are "molding" to a "model" we have before us. This makes it doubly important for us to have accurate "models" so what is "molded" within is solid! I have followed some pretty bad "models" in my years on this earth - both before and after choosing to follow Christ. The things produced were definitely different depending on the "model" being followed. If you have ever followed "bad directions", you know what I am referring to here.
There are all kinds of "knock-off" jeans, but only one Levis brand! There all kinds of Coach purse knock-offs, but a genuine Coach purse bears the evidence of genuineness in many ways. Noticeably enough, the thing which sets both of these "real things" off as originals is their cost! The "knock-off" brands gains its popularity simply because it LOOKS LIKE the original without the COST!
Indeed, the reason we have "knock-offs" is simply because somebody sees something worth imitating! Yet, the knock-off will never measure up to the quality of the original! This is why it is so important we have good examples! We don't want to imitate a "knock-off" - we want to imitate the original! This is why it is important to evaluate the ones we hold up an examples, or models, in our lives once in a while - comparing them to the Word of God and the telling truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Paul says the believers learned to take the troubles with joy, and the joys with the trouble. How? Simply by having an example to keep their eyes on through the troubles - the Holy Spirit guiding them step-by-step. They became imitators of Christ - allowing the Holy Spirit to create within them the "staying power" and the appreciation of the blessing of even the trouble! They learned each ebb had a purpose to expose something otherwise hidden from their view - each flow had a driving force to propel them forward. In each, they found joy - not because of the circumstance, but IN it.
My hope is for us to become imitators of the original - solidly molding our lives to the pattern laid out for us in Christ Jesus. My goal is for us to never become cheap "knock-offs" - wanting the original, but not being willing to pay the price!