1 Thess. 5:12-18
Every congregation of the Lord’s church is going to experience some challenges and hardships that will distract them from their God-given mission; that will test their unity; and their love for one another…and their commitment.
- The Lord’s church has always been threatened by those who oppose Christ, those who love the darkness more than the light.
- That was true of the church in Thessalonica; you can read about it in Acts 17; and it is true for us today.
The Lord’s church has always had to guard against false teachers and false doctrine.
- And often there are internal problems that arise; if you look at chapter 4:3 the church at Thessalonica had to deal with some who were involved in sexual immorality; and vs. 11 indicates that there may have been a problem of some being meddlesome and lazy.
- So there is always something that challenges and tests the Lord’s church.
When I first came here 15 years ago we had 7 elders. We now have 2 and some are already asking, “What are we going to do?”
- We have also had a changing of the guard so to speak in several areas of work; things are different and most people don’t like change and therefore, that can cause problems.
Then you throw in some of the unsettling things happening in our culture; the immorality, the corruption; the deception, and that causes some in the faith to struggle with their faith…to be discouraged.
- And then the concerns caused by the Covid virus are keeping some from coming to the fellowships; and worship; and Bible classes.
It is a hard time; a challenging time for us as a body of the Lord’s church and the question is, “What do we do? If we are going to do the things that the Lord wants us to do here in Brady; if we are going to be a light to a lost world; if we are going to fulfill our mission; if we, individually and collectively, are going to be ready when the Lord comes back, what is required of us?
Well, that is essentially what the apostle Paul addressed here in the closing verses of this letter to the church at Thessalonica. He was worried about this church. They were being severely persecuted (Acts 17) and if they were going to remain strong, and united they would need to do what Paul tells them here in this passage that was read.
- And what Paul tells them is true for us as well. Look at verse 12-13.
The first thing that Paul tells us is APPRECIATE THOSE WHO HAVE CHARGE OVER YOU. He says:
12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
In these verses Paul gives us some good information on what our leaders are supposed to do and we need to keep this in mind if we do get to a time when we need to consider some men to lead us or to be elders.
- He says: “You appreciate those who…have charge over you in the Lord.”
- In the Greek that phrase “charge over you” comes from a word that means “to stand before you. (proistemi)”
- It speaks of “one who is out front leading.”
- One who rules…an overseer.
And notice what they do. Paul says they “diligently labor among you.”
- Greek word (kopiao) that means “strenuous, hard labor…a hard task.”
- And the tense of the verb means that they “labor…and labor…and continue to labor.”
And then he says they “give you instruction”.
- Instruction: (noutheteo): means “admonish”.
- In other words, it is having a serious, straight forward talk with someone either to advise them, correct them, or warn them.
In this letter, in chapter 4, Paul spoke of some who evidently were involved in sexual immorality…and some who were busy bodies…and some who wouldn’t work.
- When Paul speaks of those who “have charge over you” that “instruct or admonish” us…those individuals may have to go to someone and say, “You are practicing immoral living.”
- Or “You need to find a job and quit being a busy body.”
- Or “You need to be in the assemblies.”
It is not something they do harshly or condemningly. To admonish or instruct is to “gently…but seriously advise, admonish or warn” another who is IN the Lord that the Lord is coming back…and they need…and must live like it.
So Paul says here that those who “have charge over us” are to “lead”, “labor diligently” and “admonish.”
Now, notice the attitude that we are to have toward those who do this; those who lead us.
- He says we are to “appreciate”
- The word “appreciate” in the Greek literally means “to know.”
- Know who they are and recognize them for the God-given responsibility they have.
- “They are to lead you…to labor with you…and instruct you.”
- Sometimes we might want to be a little testy and say, “Who is Max or Lonnie to say anything to me about the way I am living.”
- God has given them charge over us! In the Lord they have charge over you.
So Paul says, “Appreciate those who have charge over you” and in verse 13 he says: “esteem them very highly”.
- Think highly of them…in the mind have a high estimate of them…show respect to them.
And at the end of verse 13 he says: “Live in peace with one another.”
- Why does Paul say this here in reference to elders?
People do not like it when they have to be told that what they are not doing is not right.
- When they are told to mind their own business…or to get to work.
- When we are told that you we not living right, often our initial reaction is one of irritation and anger and not appreciation that they care enough about our souls that they came to talk to us.
So Paul says: “You appreciate them…and you esteem them….and you live in peace with them.”
- They are not perfect overseers…there are no perfect overseers.
- And they may not do things the way you and I think they should be done.
- They may even at times make a mistake.
Regardless of whether they are right…or if they make an occasional mistake…or if they don’t handle things the way you think they ought to be done…Paul says: “You live in peace with them.”
- Brethren, we need to all be careful about causing undo grief for our overseers.
- By the time they take care of all the problems that come up in this congregation…hear all the complaints…comfort the sick and bereaved…counsel the weak and fainthearted…not to mention their own jobs and family responsibilities…they have more to do than they have time to do it in
- Woe unto us for causing more to unnecessarily fall upon them.
- WE need to live our lives in such a way that we do not cause these men more grief.
So, in the midst of all the challenges that we face as a congregation; challenges that threaten our unity and effectiveness, if we want to do those things that God desires for us to do we are to appreciate those who diligently labor with us, who have charge over us, and who instruct us.
Now, in the face of the challenges that we face as the Lord’s church notice what Paul says in vs. 14.
14 And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.
Paul says that we are to “admonish the unruly.”
- And notice, this isn’t something that only the elders are to do.
- Paul gives these instructions to the “brethren”.
- This is something that we all as Christians are to do.
He says that we are to “admonish the unruly.”
- “Unruly” here speaks of one who “is out of step…or out of line.”
- The brother in Christ who is not walking as a Christian should.
Paul says that we are to “admonish” him.
- We are to “warn” them.
- This word has a note of seriousness behind it.
- This doesn’t refer to making a suggestion.
- It is not referring to a brief parting comment.
- This is a sobering…four eyed conference.
- Sitting down with them and saying, “The Lord is coming again…and you are not living in such a way as to be ready.”
He says: “encourage the fainthearted”.
- Faint hearted here speaks of one who is timid…ready to give up.
- The tired…the weary.
- Paul says, “encourage them”…stand by His side….come along beside and take them with you.
Then he says: “Help the weak.”
- The weak here speaks of those who are “not very strong.”
- Didn’t grow up in a Christian home.
- Not used to coming to Bible study.
- Meeting lots of resistance…not really sold completely on Christ.
- Not mature in knowledge.
- We are to help them…or support them.
Paul says: “Be patient with all men.”
- Let me tell you, some people will try your patience.
- You will think that it is time for them to straighten up and do what is right.
- Or you will think that they ought to be stronger by now…able to stand on their own feet.
- And over and over again you have to encourage them to come to church.
- “Missing you in worship…you need to be here.”
- “Come be a part of our Bible study.”
Paul says, “Some will try your patience.”
- But you keep on admonishing, and encouraging, and helping for as long as you can.
- Because as long as they are still alive…there is hope.
Brethren, we are to admonish, encourage, help, and be patient with those among us who are struggling.
Why do this?
- First of all, we are commanded to…right here.
- Second, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our love for one another is reason.
- Third, the Lord is coming again…and if they are not ready…if they do not remain faithful…they will be lost.
Look at what Paul says in vs. 15: See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.
These brethren were undergoing some pretty severe persecution.
- In fact, if you remember, Paul and Silas had to leave town because of it.
Persecution and fiery trials has a way of wearing on our patience.
- And when our patience is worn thin…we have a tendency to strike back…to retaliate.
Paul says, “Don’t retaliate.”
- Don’t strike back even if a brother wrongs you.
- Instead, you seek after that which is good for all men.
Kindness is a powerful way to respond to people who have wronged you.
- The story is told about a man who was one of Abraham Lincoln’s worst critics. He criticized Lincoln’s politics…his demeanor…his appearance.
- And Abraham Lincoln was always as nice to the man as he could be…giving him special recognition, complimenting him.
- And one day someone asked Lincoln why he was nice to that guy….after all he was President and had the authority and power to politically destroy someone like that.
- And Abraham Lincoln said, “If I make my enemies my friends, have I not destroyed my enemies.”
You are going to be wronged by people in the world….and there will be times when you are wronged by people who are Christians.
- Paul says, “You be patient toward all men….and always seek that which is good for one another.”
And finally, look at what Paul says in vs. 16: Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul says: Rejoice always; pray without ceasing.
- How can you rejoice in the midst of suffering? These brethren were being persecuted. How can you rejoice in the midst of suffer and pain?
- By recognizing that one day, when the Lord comes back, there will be no more pain.
How can you rejoice in the midst of sorrow?
- By recognizing the hope of the resurrection.
How can you rejoice in the midst of sin?
- By recognizing the hope of forgiveness.
Brethren, there should be no reason for us as Christians …even in the worst of times… to not find joy because of the hope that is ours in Christ.
- And that joy then finds its expression in talking to God.
And now, I want you to notice verse 18. …in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul says: “in everything give thanks.”
- We can find something to be thankful for in every circumstance.
Matthew Henry, the man who wrote the commentaries, was robbed one time. And in that horrible situation this is what he said.
First, I am thankful that I was never robbed before. Second, although they took my wallet, I am thankful they did not take my life. Third, although they took my all, it was not that much. And fourth, I am thankful I was robbed…and not I who did the robbing.”
In every circumstance we can find something to be thankful for…every circumstance can help us to grow and be more like Christ…and to let His light shine through us.
And finally Paul says: “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- It is God’s will that you rejoice always, that you pray without ceasing, and that in everything you give thanks.”
- In short, it is God’s will that you have a right attitude.
In chapter 4: 3 Paul says that it is God’s will that you abstain from sexual immorality.
- If you are a person who is critical, and grumpy, and sour all the time…
- If you have a sour attitude…you are as much out of the will of God as someone who practices sexual immorality.
God intends for us as His people to have a proper attitude toward all…and in all.
As a congregation of the Lord’s church, over the last 2 years we have been through a lot. Tomorrow there will be another new set of challenges. Satan has and will continue to discourage us and try to stop us from being the light that God wants us to be here in Brady, just like he did with this church in Thessalonica.
- For us to be united; to be strong; to be effective in our mission we must “appreciate those who labor with us; who have charge over us; who instruct us; we must be at peace with all men; we must admonish the unruly; encourage the fainthearted; help the weak; be patient with all men; never retaliate; seek that which is good for all men; rejoice always; pray without ceasing; and in everything give thanks.
Let’s do that now.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023