“For you know that you ought to follow our example” (2 Thess. 3:7). Paul’s words to the Thessalonian church make one pause and think. How often would we urge others, much less an entire group of people, to look to us as examples of the way they should conduct themselves?
In this passage, as well as in other passages such as First Corinthians 4:16, Paul was confident that his life as a Christian would hold up under scrutiny. What are some of the areas in which Paul needed to be confident before he could make such a bold statement?
Paul was confident of his beliefs. Paul was a follower who believed passionately in Jesus Christ, but during the first part of his life he believed just as passionately that Jesus was not the Savior promised by the prophets in Scripture. He hung on to that belief until his life was completely transformed by his extraordinary encounter with Jesus. From the moment Paul saw the bright light and heard the voice of Jesus, he became a follower, more fervent in his belief than he had been in his disbelief (Acts 9).
Paul was confident of his knowledge of God. From his earliest days, he had been taught by some of the most knowledgeable and respected scholars of Hebrew Scripture. He was well-grounded in what the Old Testament texts said about God. And Paul knew the Jesus of our New Testament in a most intimate way, for he said his knowledge of Jesus “came by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself. No one else taught me” (Gal. 1:12). How could you get a better teacher than Jesus Christ Himself?
Paul was confident that his life was aligned with godly principles. Regardless of the circumstance, regardless of the time or the season, regardless of the place, Paul was confident others would see that his behavior, words, plans for the future, love for them, and love for God honored his Lord (Phil. 1:20).
Paul was confident that he was not perfect. As he so aptly put it, “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Paul knew that although he sometimes did the things he hated, he served as a good example of a repentant heart receiving God’s forgiveness when he confessed those sins, resolutely turned away from them, and moved forward to serve God (Rom. 6:12-13).
Paul was confident of the consistency of his life. Although Paul’s obedience to God may not have been perfect, his desire to please God was unwavering; and he was willing to commit his time, effort, and life to that end (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
Paul was confident of the source of power in his life. We know living an obedient, consistent, unselfish life takes a level of perseverance and discipline that does not come naturally to us. Paul knew it, too, and said his life could only be an example to others because “I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Phil. 4:13).
Paul was confident of his purpose in life. Paul’s life was forever changed by his encounter with Jesus Christ, and he wanted others to experience the same belief in and love for Christ. We know Paul experienced times of inconceivable suffering as well as times of incredible joy, but nothing deterred him from his purpose in life. What an example Paul has provided for each of us!
How would we rate our own confidence level regarding someone following our Christian example? It is a question worthy of our honest assessment.
© 2010 Arlina Yates