This past Sunday was Missions Day at our church. It is a day we pray to God to impress on our hearts what we should do for missions. We are commanded to pray for missions. Yet, that is not enough. We are to give and go.
As I thought about what I should, say, a passage of Scripture came to mind. In Acts 17, we read of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica. At first he was very successful. Then as word spread opponents began to stir up trouble. Eventually there was a riot. In Acts 17:6 the Bible uses a phrase that is interesting. It was the accusation against Paul and his team:
“These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.”
Paul’s antagonists meant it as a criticism, but it is really a compliment. What a great thing to have said about a person. I can’t think of a greater compliment for a Christian. That’s what I wish people would say our church: “These people have turned the world upside down.”
How did they do it? Acts 17 records the fact, but 1 Thessalonians 2 gives us the answer. After Paul left Thessalonica, he wrote back to the church. He reflects on the character of his ministry in Thessalonica. We discover seven principles that will help us turn the world upside down.
1 – A Bold Proclamation (v. 1-2)
“…we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.”
The first ingredient is courage and boldness. Paul and Silas had been beaten and humiliated at Philippi; yet they came to Thessalonica and preached. Most would have used this as an excuse to be quiet. But Paul was courageous – he was not a quitter. The Greek word behind “contention” is an athletic term that means a contest or struggle. You’re not going to make a difference in our world without taking some godly courage and stand up.
2 – A Trustworthy Message (v. 3-4)
“…as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak..”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, pure, honest, and trustworthy. The message is not something made-up or added to. It is the simple gospel that Jesus died, was buried and rose again according to the Scripture. It is powerful. The Gospel changes people. Whenever the gospel is preached, it changes the world.
3 – A Clear Conscience (v. 5-6)
“For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness…”
One accusation made against Paul and modern ministries, is money. While some ministers use the gospel to get rich, Paul’s defense was his lifestyle. He did not use deception or trickery to win converts. The word “guile” in v. 3 is also used for ‘baiting a hook.’ He had a clear conscience that he did not trick them into giving him something. Paul wanted to give them something.
4 – A Gentle Spirit (v. 7)
“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children”
Many evaluate Paul as a rough preacher. However, he describes himself as a gentle mother caring for little children. Paul didn’t turn his converts over to baby sitters. But considered himself a nursing mother. He was personally involved. He was strong, determined, zealous, passionate and gentle. Gentle love does more to turn the world upside down than anything else we can do.
5 – A Sacrificial Heart (v. 8-9)
“…we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us…”
A nursing mother gives her life to her child. Paul not only gave the gospel, he gave his own life. Ministry that changes the world costs you everything you have. If you want to turn the world upside down, you have to do more than preach the gospel. You must lay down your own life.
6 – A Clean Life (v. 10)
“Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe”
If one accusation against Christians is money, the second is morality. When a Christian behaves immorally, the message is tainted. To be blameless means that no one can successfully make a serious accusation against you. To find a fault they must lie to do it. In a dirty world people who live a clean life will stand out. Paul was a good example.
7 – An Urgent Appeal (v. 11-12)
“…we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God…”
The last mark of those who turn the world upside down is an urgent appeal for the gospel. As a mother, Paul was tender. Yet, as a father, he pushed to excellence. He wanted believers who would make a difference in the world. Paul not only encouraged believers in good times (exhorted) and bad times (comforted), but God continues to encourage each believer (called).
I hope you will turn your world upside down and right side up!