“You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 [NASB]
I’m not sure where exactly #servelikesarah originated after the accident. One of Sarah’s sisters looked on social media the day after the accident and showed us that it had not only been created but was already rapidly spreading. It blessed each of our hearts to see our sweet Sarah being honored and remembered in such a way.
The flurry of #servelikesarah posts continued through the first few months after Sarah’s death. As one would expect, those posts then became less and less frequent, and eventually only occasional. In the week preceding the one year anniversary of Sarah’s death there was once again a spike in people remembering her and sharing #servelikesarah.
The week after the anniversary of Sarah’s death I saw criticism voiced publicly that it should be #servelikejesus, not #servelikesarah. Reading that criticsm was like a twisting of the dagger already lodged in my heart. I was already wrestling with the painful realization that my precious child would soon be forgotten by the world around me. A rebuke in that moment for my child being remembered and honored on that particular day was doubly painful.
What pained my heart even more, though, was that I was not confident that the criticism was unfounded. My heart sank at the thought that perhaps it was wrong of us to support drawing attention to and publicly celebrating Sarah’s life and testimony in a variety of ways, including #servelikesarah. But, the hashtag quickly faded from sight after the week of the anniversary, and with it my focus to resolve whether or not we were actually wrong to use it.
I just started studying 1 Thessalonians this week. This morning as I read verses 6-7, I was instantly reminded of that painful criticism, and in the same instant filled with joy that it absolutely was not wrong to remember and celebrate Sarah’s beautiful testimony in any way, including #servelikesarah.
“You [all the believers in Thessalonica] also became imitators of us [Paul, Silvanus and Timothy] and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you [all the believers in Thessalonica] became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 [NASB]
Paul commended the believers at Thessalonica for becoming imitators of the faithful example of his companions and him, and of the Lord. He then commended them for becoming a faithful example in the same way for the believers in Macedonia and Achaia to follow. Similarly, the author of Hebrews references at least eighteen individuals as examples of faith, challenging us to consider their examples and do likewise (Heb. 11). The message is clear, imitate and serve like the faithful who have gone and go before you.
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Philippians 3:17 [ESV]
Sarah was spurred on in her walk with the Lord by the testimonies of many faithful believers. Three who immediately come to mind are Corrie Ten Boom, Jim Elliot and Anita Dittman. Their witness encouraged her to trust in God’s faithfulness to strengthen, sustain, and use ordinary, sinful yet repentant men and women.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Act 4:13 [ESV]
Sarah’s testimony is inspiring because it is a beautiful demonstration of the power of God in using a shy, ordinary seventeen year old girl fully surrendered to Him. Sarah’s testimony is comprised of both her humble surrender and obedience to God, and God’s faithfulness to her. We continue to be in awe of how God used her and honored her as He hurled her testimony around the globe, glorifying Himself through her, just as He did through all the believers at Thessalonica.
“For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8 [NASB]
Faithful believers, those who long to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, are worthy of imitation (Phl 3:10). As I pondered the impact and importance of faithful servants of Christ who serve as examples, Colossians 1:24 (below) came to mind.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Colossians 1:24 [NASB]
Our supreme example is Christ, but God in His grace has also granted through His church to provide earthly examples of His sustaining power and faithfulness. Throughout history He has been strengthening believers to stand firm in faith for the gospel of Jesus Christ, spurring one another on in obedience and faithfulness to Him. And until the church is removed God will continue to raise up such believers, believers worthy of imitation.
Praise God for the many believers in our lives worthy of imitation. We can and should joyfully celebrate their testimonies of faith as they inspire us to walk in like manner. He is daily beckoning each of us to be one of these faithful believers. May we each respond through humble surrender and obedience so that we, too, may glorify Him and be such an example worthy of imitation.
LIVE REDEEMED – #servelikesarah
After I had written most of this post and was wrestling with whether or not share it, Scott received this precious encouragement from a fellow bereaved parent. God’s tender mercy yet again encouraging and affirming the truth He was speaking to my heart.
“Sarah’s testimony touched many people across the United States. I live in California and I remember the accident and hearing about it and then hearing about Sarah had written. When my own son was given just a day to live I wanted to be that testimony that Sarah was. I wanted my friends who weren’t saved to know that even though things here on Earth were not going to turn out like we had hoped, that we had a promise of a future again with Christopher. So I thank you, for your daughter and for the life she lived. Her example became what I wanted my example to be to others.” – Nancy Lewis