2 Thessalonians 3:9
“. . . not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”
I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but when I was in the eighth grade, all students were required to take a semester of Home Economics. The eighteen week course was divided between cooking and sewing. In the sewing section we learned the basics of operating a sewing machine and were required to make a pillow as a final project. Most of the students went to the local fabric stores and purchased a pillow pattern. I may have had a slight advantage in that my mom was a seamstress and actually taught textiles and design for fashion students at the university level. When I arrived home with my assignment, instead of purchasing a standard pillow pattern, she made me one in the shape of a surfboard. Needless to say, at the end of the term when I turned in a polka dot pillow, fin and all, I received the highest marks.
“. . . but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”
Paul desired that the Thessalonians would receive the highest marks, on the day when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ. In order to ensure their success, he made himself an example. Their walk with the Lord was clearly patterned for them by looking at the way Paul lived. In this chapter alone, he sets the example as a man of prayer, as he prayed earnestly for them. As a man of the Word, not simply one who read and memorized it, but as one who was determined that it be shared with others. I love the phrase he uses in verse one, as he asked them to pray that “the Word of the Lord may run swiftly.” It was his desire that all would hear the Gospel, and all would come to faith in Christ. He was also an example in faith. He speaks of wicked men who are opposing them, and yet he is confident in the faithfulness of the Lord.
Finally, this chapter is filled with exhortations to work hard. That famous statement, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” is found here, and Paul exemplified what it meant to work hard so as not to be a burden to others. My father-in-law and I were discussing basic economics when he reminded me, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for it. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that as they worked diligently as unto the Lord, they would in turn be an example to others, showing what it means to follow Christ.
There are a lot of examples out there, but not all of them are worth following. If you want to succeed in following Christ, determine to follow the example Paul set, then go one step beyond, and make yourself a pattern that others may follow.