Accusing someone of being a copycat isn’t usually received as a word of encouragement, but that’s how Paul intends for the Thessalonian Christians to receive it. He may not say that exactly, but he does say that they became imitators of Paul and his fellow missionaries and also of the Lord. Paul is writing to encourage the church and to assure them that they are loved by God. He knows this because of the way the gospel came to them and the way they received it, with joy even in the midst of much affliction. The way they followed Paul’s example as he followed Jesus became an example to all the believers in Macedonia. Both the word of the Lord and their faith in God was resounding throughout the region–the Thessalonian Christians served the true and living God and were waiting for the return of their Savior, Jesus.
These days, everyone wants to be viewed as an original, but the things Paul remembered about the Thessalonians don’t sound too bad to me–work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope. The Thessalonian Christians followed Paul’s example as he followed Jesus. Who do you look to as an example in your walk with the Lord? And just as important, who is looking to you as an example in their walk with the Lord?