“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 NIV
In Battambang, Cambodia, there’s a couple named Semphas and Phally who have led hundreds of Cambodian Christians to become missionaries and teachers. This was not always Semphas’ plan. As a young man growing up in poverty, he dreamed of leaving his small village to make money and support his family in comfort. He went to college for Hospitality Management so he could work in hotels and greet travelers from far and wide to his beautiful country. That’s when Semphas came to know Jesus as his savior. Semphas was radically changed and felt called to move back to Battambang to become a missionary in his own city. Instead of welcoming people to the Kingdom of Cambodia, he was now called to welcome people into the kingdom of God.
Paul begins his letter to the Thessalonians by praising them for sharing the good news of Jesus in their cities and beyond. Paul said, “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God became known everywhere.” (1 Thess. 1:8). Macedonia was the region surrounding their city of Thessalonica and Achaia was a region a little further south. This opening statement sounds a lot like when Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In fact, I think that’s exactly what Paul is pointing out. His encouragement is not just stating a fact; his encouragement is commending the Thessalonians for being faithful witnesses to Jesus in their own context!
Instead of Jerusalem, they made disciples in Thessalonica. Instead of Judea and Samaria, they spread the Gospel in Macedonia and Achaia! The Gospel that the Thessalonians shared was simply their own story of how they turned from serving idols to serving a living God. Their experience with Jesus was just what their neighbors needed to hear to develop their own faith in Christ. Not only were their neighbors influenced by their story, but their example of faith ultimately became known “everywhere.”
Sometimes when we look at the world and see all the confusion, Jesus’ command to go and make disciples “to the end of the earth” can be overwhelming. It just seems like too much! But Paul reminds the Thessalonians —and us— that we are called to be faithful where Jesus has put us. God is not waiting for you to have a particular position or level of popularity. He is calling you to serve him wherever you are. Where is the best place to share your faith? Where you are! When is the best time? Right now! Share your story in your school. Spread God’s love at your local gym. You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to make a difference. God has a plan for you that he has strategically gifted and placed you to fulfill right now.
Where is your Thessalonica or Macedonia? Where is that place where God want you to begin sharing your faith right now?