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Is this for real?

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. Worries are still going to come, simply because we all have a tendency to want to 'hold everything together' ourselves. We just don't get used to turning things over to God quickly, bearing much more weight upon our shoulders than we really need to bear.

You 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 we all know, increased troubles can easily come as we enter into relationship with Christ. Sorry, but you may balk a little at this revelation, but the important thing to see is with our great trouble comes the revelation we are being accompanied by the one who would walk us through it unscathed! WE sometimes forget this, but GOD doesn't! He gives us gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudges to remind us we are not walking alone. He wants us to lean into him, handing him the trouble to 'manage' and the obstacles to 'remove'. Look at the progression we see in this passage - they paid careful attention to their examples in the faith. In other words, 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 each of us here - not every example is worth imitating. Just because something bears the label 'Christian' doesn't ensure it is 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 us is solid, reliable, and free of compromise! I have personally 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. Just because you invite Christ into your lives doesn't mean you won't be tempted to follow wrong paths - in fact, those paths still present themselves repeatedly. We have to choose not to take them!

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 I wasn't even aware of at first. Noticeably enough, the thing which sets both of these "real things" off as originals is their cost! The "knock-off" brand gains its popularity simply because it LOOKS LIKE the original without the COST! We need to be aware many 'knock-offs' in life look good, but there is a significant difference in the cost to us. 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.

These 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 supreme blessing of the trouble, not just the good! 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! Just sayin!

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