(1 Thessalonians 1:5 – ESV)
The word was made alive with power; it was not simply words. Although words are needed, those words need power behind them. I am not talking about a demonstration of some kind to back the words up, I am talking and Paul is talking and God is talking of power within the words themselves. A divine unction, the divine authority given to the word of God preached. The truth of the word is manifest through preaching (Titus 1:3).
The word comes with the Spirit, not apart from the word but within the word. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be any other divine manifestations when the word is preached, it means that apart from the Spirit the word will have no power when it is preached. We need genuine manifestations of the Spirit of God in our midst, but it all starts by the manifestation of the word of God in power. The word of God is where the power is, when the Holy Spirit brings it, and then people’s lives change, and that my friends is the sign of power. Falling down today is no good if you fall away tomorrow. Yes I want you to have a power encounter with God’s Spirit through the preached word today, but I also want you to have a joy encounter with God’s Spirit when the affliction comes tomorrow.
Paul and his companions proved what type of men they were, and the Thessalonians proved to others what type of people they were. People should be able to identify us as Christians, and Christians should be able to identify other Christians. They were convinced and if you are convinced your word will be convincing. The Holy Spirit convinces us of truth, and we live that truth, and then our words have the ring of truth and they are convincing. The power will be there, even if the ones we are delivering the message to are suffering affliction, and especially so.
Sometimes the preacher and the people sense that the word has been given a particular power, that peculiar unction, and they know and see that people are responding. Now I am not really speaking of isolated incidences, like during one sermon everyone started weeping, although there is that, I am rather referring to something happening over a period of time, that is what Paul is speaking of, the word was being engrafted into the peoples hearts it was getting through and it was being rooted in them. Yes short term in the moment results can be wonderful to behold, but more wonderful to behold is when they hold on to that word.
It is like with our missionary friends; those that are long term know that often short-term groups come in and sometimes they see dramatic results, sometimes not. But it is the six months later, the years later, the many years later when the village has come to know Christ, and the leaders worship God, and the people sing praises daily, this is when we know the word of Christ had been brought with power and received in joy, all by the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God.
When suffering continues but Christ reigns in their hearts, this is when a missionary has the most satisfaction in the work done. Of course they are there to be faithful no matter the outcome or temporal results, but it is a special blessing when they see joy in Jesus changing situations and making spiritual lives better. The power in their lives means they met the Power in the words.