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Summary: How would we live differently if we believed someone were following our example?

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MODELING GENEROSITY

Isaac Butterworth

October 24, 2010

1 Thessalonians 1:2-1- (The Message)

2-4 Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.

5-6 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.

7-10 Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master's Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don't even have to say anything anymore—you're the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.

The most influential person in my life was a man by the name of Charles. He was the pastor of the church where I went as a teenager. You may have heard me talk about Charles before, and, if you have, you may remember that he taught me how to drive, he helped me learn a trade and gave me my first job, and he was my mentor all throughout high school. If I had a problem, I went to him. If I had spare time, I wanted to spend it with him. If I could be close to anybody, I wanted it to be him. At that time in my life, there was no one in the world that I wanted to be more like. He was my ideal. He was for me the example of what every man should want to be.

And I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be like him so much that I began to take on some of his idiosyncrasies. Unconsciously, you understand! But I took them on nonetheless. Even the less desirable ones. For example, there was this thing he did with his face. He kind of flared his nostrils and wiggled his nose. He didn’t have a mustache, but it was like he did, and it was like he was always shaking it. I don’t know whether he was aware of doing it or not, but he did it incessantly.

I wanted to be like this man so much, that, without being aware that I was doing it, I started scrunching my nose and wiggling it. And one day I caught myself doing it. Or, maybe I should say, somebody else caught me doing it. I was at the church, and I popped my head just inside the office door to speak to the secretary, and with her looking at me, I did 'the Charles thing.' I wrinkled my nose and wiggled it. We were both surprised. And I was embarrassed. And I realized in that moment that, to imitate the man I admired so much, didn’t mean I had to imitate everything he did!

But we do that, don’t we? As kids, we dress up like our heroes. If we look up to a certain athlete, we find ourselves trying to stand the same way or move the same way. We imagine ourselves as our favorite actor. We may even try to be like one of our parents! Even as adults we have our models; we can name people that we want to pattern ourselves after. Sometimes we know them personally; sometimes we don’t.

Now, here’s a thought: What if we turn out to be somebody else’s model? What if someone else is looking up to us, imitating us, doing the things we do the way we do them? What if somebody else is basing their attitudes, their values, their actions on ours? It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? And it’s scary because, if it’s true, we may have to think about what we’re doing and how we’re living.

I remember several years ago when NBA basketball star Charles Barclay made a public statement that he didn’t intend to be anybody’s role model. He didn’t want the pressure. Guess what! Too bad! There were probably thousands of kids that wanted to be just like Charles Barclay.

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