Summary of Passage
Here, Paul does not just pray for the Thessalonians saying "I thank you, Lord, for the Thessalonians." He goes much deeper. He tells them that he thanks God for them, and he initially says he does this by 'mentioning' (meaning, speaking it to God) and 'remembering' (meaning, recalling it and being thankful for it) their faith, hope, and love. This alone is amazing and worthy of imitation. But he does not stop there. He gets very specific. He reviews how they first received the word. He recalls their time with them, and how they started imitating them and the Lord. And he finally rejoices in the impact their faith has had in the world. Thanking God for others for Paul, therefore, was not a vague idea here. It was grounded in how they first received Christ, how they started to act more like Christ, and how they then impacred the world for Christ. But the chapter does not end there. As he is telling them about how their faith has impacted the world beyond what they probably could have imagined, he decides to tell them in detail what is being said about them. And what is being proclaimed is not themselves, but the Jesus they worship. Yes, it is being made known that they turned from idols, but the emphasis falls on what they turned to. They turned to the living and true God; they became people who are awaiting God's Son from heaven; and they now are those who focus on the gospel, on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and delivers us from the wrath of God. This, then, is a great example of thanksgiving in prayer for others. It is centered on their trust in the gospel, their imitation of Christ due to the gospel, and their spreading of gospel for the sake of Christ--all not for their glory (although God is being thanked because of them), but for the glory of Christ.
Main point summary
We give thanks to God for your faith, hope, and love because we see your Spirit-filled belief, your imitation and joy--even in the midst of affliction, and you examplary faith which has gone forth everywhere.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, a Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the b Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
c Grace to you and peace.
d We give thanks to God
for all of you,
e mentioning you in our prayers,
remembering before f our God and Father g your
work of faith
and labor of h love
and i steadfastness of hope
in our Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, j brothers 1 loved by God,
k that he has chosen you,
because l our gospel came to you not only in word,
but also in power
and m in the Holy Spirit
and with full n conviction.
You know o what kind of men we proved to be among you
for your sake.
And p you became imitators of us
q and of the Lord,
for r you received the word
in much affliction,
s with the t joy of the Holy Spirit,
so that you became an example to all the believers
and in Achaia.
For not only has the word of the Lord u sounded forth
but your faith in God has gone forth
so that we need not say anything.
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of w reception we had among you,
and how x you turned to God y from idols
to serve the living and z true God,
and a to wait for his Son b from heaven,
c whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus d who delivers us
from e the wrath to come.
This is how they give thanks to God for them. Namely, by mentioning and remembering their faith, hope, and love in Christ. This is interesting. It means that giving thanks to God for all of them specifically entails--and even is defined as--mentioning and remembering them. So, talking to God about others--about how you're seeing them grow and about how thankful you are to have them as friends and fellow gospelers--is how one gives thanks to God for them. And this is what this whole chapter is: a thanksgiving to God for them.
In much affliction, but amazingly with joy from the Spirit.
They saw the kind of people they were. And as result, they imitated them; and therefore the Thessalonians imitated the Lord, because they imitated the Lord.
We give thanks to God for who you are in faith, hope, and love.
You believed and became an example to all believers as a result of receiving the word and imitating us.
For your faith has gone forth everywhere, because you've accepted us and turned from idols to Jesus.
For we know God has chosen you because it came to you and you believed.
We give thanks because we see your Spirit-filled belief, your imitation and joy--even in the midst of affliction, and you examplary faith which has gone forth everywhere.