The Church that Stands and Sticks Together
Topic: Expository Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
The Church that Stands and Sticks Together
Good morning! Turn in your Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15. Somehow, I ended up with eighteen pages of notes on these verses, so this will have to be a two-part lesson. J
We spent the past six lessons studying what in some ways is a complex passage of Scripture about the Rapture and the Day of the Lord. And we did so slowly in part because we don’t often talk about eschatology, and I wanted you to see the implications of that passage as it relates to the timing of the Rapture.
I hope that you enjoyed that study. I hope that theology is never boring to you. If you get bored thinking about the God’s immanent judgment of this world, you’ve got some very serious problems. You need to go back and reread 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8. You need to pray that God would give you faith to believe that what He said would occur will occur and could happen at any time!
If you get bored thinking about God’s plan to rapture and glorify us, that is cause for serious concern. These truths are meant to fill us with hope!
However, you and I understand that the Bible is not just a theology textbook; it also gives practical instructions about how we should live. And so in the second half of 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul transitions from the more theological to the very, very practical. To the rookie observer, this might appear to be a massive leap in focus. But you and I understand (or at least, I hope you do) that there is an inseparable connection between theology and practice. If the power of God to save truly is what it claims to be, then there must be a practical outworking of that in my life on street level when it comes to the situations I face every day. Or, to say it another way, if I we truly believe what we say we believe, then our lives will be changed and changing.
So that brings us to 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15. Let’s read that, and then we’ll discuss it (5:12-15).
My title is “The Church that Stands and Sticks Together.” Remember that Paul is writing this letter to a group of relatively immature Christians. Not that they were particularly sinful (in fact, the opposite seems to have been true) but they didn’t have years of experience under their belt. In fact, it had probably been less than a year since the Thessalonian church had been planted. So Paul writes to encourage these young Christians.
But he’s not just concerned about the well-being of individuals.
We have to take a step back and remember that when Paul entered a new city, he didn’t just do evangelism; he planted churches. In the same way, when Paul wrote a letter, he wasn’t just after the spiritual well-being of individual Christians; he was actually after something bigger. He was after healthy churches!
And so Paul wanted the Thessalonian Christians to stand together and to stick together in the face of various challenges.
That’s what every missionary church planter wants! But what made this church planting situation particularly challenging? Who was out of the picture at this point? Paul! The church planter! That’s a challenge, isn’t it?
Let’s relate it to parenting: as a parent, you are preparing your child to be out on his own one day. But what if you were to be taken out of the picture prematurely and your child was thrown into the deep end, so to speak, and forced to sink or swim? We would all call that an awful situation!
And in fact, we know that Paul was very worried about whether or not this church would survive. We saw that at the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. But then Paul received news from Timothy that against all odds, the church was not only surviving, but thriving! Wow! What a testimony to God’s preserving power! So Paul writes them this letter that is just bubbling with joy and encouragement!
But he also gives them some instructions that will help them continue to thrive as a local church apart from his direct oversight. So what are these instructions? What are the marks of a church that “makes it,” so to speak–a church that stands and sticks together?
First, I want you to see how the pastors behave themselves (vv. 12-13a).
- How the Pastors Behave Themselves
These verses refer to a specific group of leaders within the church, do they not? So who are these guys? Paul gives us a couple of clues. First, he says in v. 12 that these individuals are “over” the rest of the members “in the Lord.” In other words, they oversee the church. Second, Paul says that these individuals “admonish” the rest of the members, which would seem to imply some kind of official teaching role. So, who are these guys?
Well, the New Testaments describes two offices in the church. What are they? (pastor and deacon) So which of those two offices is given responsibility for spiritual oversight and teaching? (The office of pastor!) So, the group of leaders referred to in vv. 12-13 are the pastors of the Thessalonian church.
Now that makes you curious, doesn’t it? Where did these guys come from? How were they appointed? Paul doesn’t answer any of those questions in this text. My best guess is that one of Timothy’s objectives during his visit was to help the church select its pastors. That would be in keeping with what took place at Ephesus and at Crete with Timothy and Titus.
Regardless, we know that this young church had pastors. That’s remarkable, isn’t it? It speaks to the importance of leadership. I’m sure that these guys had their flaws. Now, we would have to assume that they met the qualifications that Paul later set out in Titus and 1 Timothy, but they definitely weren’t seminary trained! In fact, they were new Christians! But Paul knew that rather than waiting for the perfect pastors, it was more important for this church that they had pastors–men from among them who had given their lives to Christ and were committed to working hard at teaching and leading the congregation.
So back to our original question: in the church that stands and sticks together, how do the pastors behave themselves? There is one primary answer to that question according to this passage: the pastors work hard.
Notice the word “labor” in v. 12. That word refers to the difficult, strenuous nature of the work. Did you know that pastoring done right is hard work? I’m sure we’re all familiar with the old joke, “I know you’re a pastor, but what do you do the other six days of the week?” As if all there is to being a pastor is showing up half an hour early on Sunday morning and just sort of winging it. I’ve actually gotten questions similar to that before, and if the person is a regular attender, I always scratch my head and think, “If that’s what they think it means to be pastor, how are they okay with it being a paid position?”
But the fact is that pastors must never take their positions lightly, whether or not they get paid! The preaching and teaching of the Word of God is so important that it demands diligent preparation throughout the week! Also, pastors should be leading–planning, communicating, making decisions, delegating, and organizing–in addition to their responsibilities to pray, counsel, and evangelize! Pastoring done right is hard work!
But it’s also possible for a pastor to slack off. I heard a story recently of a pastor whose sermons began to shorten in length… to the point that they were like ten minutes long! Now, you might actually appreciate it if Pastor Kit and I were to shorten our sermons, but I trust that if Pastor Kit were to preach a ten-minute sermon this morning without any explanation, many of you would be troubled, as you should be! As it turns out, the pastor who had been preaching ten-minute sermons was also having an affair. It’s no wonder his sermons were so short! He had no motivation to study the Bible!
But a pastor can slack off in other ways besides just preaching. He can slack off in planning. He can slack off in organization. He can slack off in pastoral care. Pastors don’t normally punch a time card, and they don’t always have someone looking over their shoulder. That’s why we pastors need passages like this to remind us to work hard!
Work hard at what? There are a variety of responsibilities given to pastors throughout the New Testament, but this passage highlights only two of them: leadership and preaching. Let’s look first at leadership.
The word translated “over” in v. 12 can mean either “preside over” or “care for,” and in fact, those two meanings are not always neatly distinguished. Why? Because every good leader recognizes that he is only a servant! This understanding of leadership has even worked its way into English phrases that we use. For instance, we sometimes refer to a politician as a “public servant.” A pastor is supposed to be a servant-leader.
These principles are spelled out in greater detail in 1 Peter 5:1-4 (1 Peter 5:1-4). So, in this passage, Paul is speaking to elders (or pastors–the two words refer to the same title), and he tells them that they are to oversee the flock or congregation, the people entrusted to their care. However, in doing so, they are never to lord it over the church; rather they are to lead humbly, recognizing that they are not the Chief Shepherd; they are just under shepherds, and the sheep belong to Christ. With that in mind, pastors are to be servant-leaders.
So pastors are to work hard at leadership. Second, pastors are to work hard at preaching.
The word “admonish” in v. 12 and the word “warn” in v. 14 both come from the Greek word noutheteo. (If you’ve heard of “nouthetic counseling,” that is a form of biblical counseling that is named after this Greek word.)
So what does it mean? Well here’s what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean, “teaching,” in the sense of imparting academic information. Rather, it means “correcting.” To admonish is to call out people’s sin and persuade them to change their behavior. That’s what preaching is, isn’t it? If preaching stops at the level of the intellectual, it is not good preaching! It may be good teaching, but it’s not good preaching. Why? Because preaching is intended to change people’s lives. Pastors are not just teachers of theology. They are to correct doctrinal and moral errors in people’s lives in order to protect them from the consequences of their sin and to help them along in the process of becoming more Christlike.
So, in the church that stands and works together, how do the pastors behave themselves? They work hard at leading and preaching.
Second, in the church that stands and sticks together, how do the members treat their pastors (vv. 12-13)?
- How the Members Treat their Pastors
Although, as we’ve already seen, this passage has a lot to say about how pastors ought to behave, Paul’s primary emphasis is on how church members are to treat their pastors. First, church members are to recognize their pastors (v. 12).
What does it mean to recognize your pastor? First, it means to recognize his authority.
Remember, these pastors were not deeply entrenched in the office! They were new to the job and wet behind the ears! So I would assume that it may have tempting for some of the members not to submit to their pastors. But Paul says that these pastors were over them “in the Lord,” which means that their authority was derived from Christ! That being the case, it was vital for the Thessalonians to recognize the authority of their pastors!
But I don’t think that the word “recognize” is limited to submission. The NASB translates that word, “appreciate,” and I think that’s also appropriate. Church members ought to appreciate their pastors.
Second, church members should respect their pastors (v. 13a). The phrase, “Esteem them very highly” can literally be translated, “Be regarding quite beyond all measure.” Church members are to hold their pastors in the highest regard. They are to respect their pastors.
Many of you do an amazing job of obeying this command. And frankly, it’s quite humbling to experience. Because I am aware of many of faults, and I don’t feel like I deserve that kind of respect! But I can tell you (and I think I can speak for Pastor Kit on this one, too) that it is extremely encouraging when you treat us this way! It is humbling and encouraging all at the same time! So thank you for obeying this command.
Church members are to recognize their pastors, they are to respect their pastors, and finally, they are to love their pastors (v. 13a). I hope that you love your pastors.
And just in case this applies to anyone in here, notice that it doesn’t say, “Esteem him very highly in love,” as in, “Pick out your favorite pastor, and esteem him highly in love.” No, what does it say? It says, “Esteem them very highly in love,” as in all of your pastors. At this church, we only have two pastors. At other churches, they have more. And it’s just human nature that you are going to click better with some of your pastors than with others. That’s the way personalities work. But your love and respect for your pastor is not to be based on the chemistry between you two. It is to be based on two things: you ought to respect the office (because Paul says that your pastors are over you “in the Lord”) and, as Paul emphasizes in this passage, you respect their hard work. Your love and respect are based on your pastor’s office and his performance.
Now, the fact that Paul ties performance in as one of the reasons why you are to respect your pastors places a lot of responsibility on them to work hard! And that goes back to what we said earlier. But assuming that they are working hard to lead and preach well, you ought to respect them, regardless of whether or not the two of you “click.”
So in the church that stands and sticks together, the pastors work hard at teaching and preaching, and the members recognize, respect, and love their pastors. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of church you would like to be a part of? That’s a compelling picture!
Paul knew that in order for this church to stand on its own two feet it would need to develop leaders and the congregation would need to follow its leaders. They didn’t need the apostle Paul as their pastor. They needed faithful, godly, hard-working men.
We live in a society that devalues leadership. Let’s never lose sight of the fact that leadership is a gift, and let’s all work hard to steward that gift in our church.
But third, we need to consider, in the church that stands and sticks together, how do the members minister to each other (v. 14)?
- How the Members Minister to Each Other
If I were to stop at vv. 12-13, you might get the impression that in a healthy church, the pastors do all of the work and everyone else just cheers them on. But that would not be the case! Instead, the health of the church is dependent upon the willingness of the individual members to minister to each other.
A church in which the pastors do all of the work never grows. Why? Because there is only so much one person can do! But a church in which all of the members take responsibility for each other is an exciting place to be! It is a place where you will be pushed and stretched, because it is a place where discipleship is happening!
But if we are going to get good at ministering to each other, we have got to learn to recognize various types of needs. And that’s what v. 14 is all about.
All of you parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. should know what I am talking about. You can’t treat every kid the same, can you? I was just talking to a church member recently who said he had two daughters: the first one, he could barely raise his voice to and she would melt. The second, he practically needed a baseball bat to get her attention! Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. He had to be sterner with one than the other! And so there are personality differences that we ought to take into account when we minister to each other.
But also, within a church at any given time, there are many different types of struggles people facing. Just take the issues Paul addresses here in this letter! Sexual temptation and sorrow over the loss of a loved one are two very different struggles! You cannot use the same cookie cutter approach with those two situations and expect to accomplish any good! Rather, you need to tailor your approach to the specific needs of the individual to whom you are ministering.
Paul mentions three subcategories of people in v. 14: the unruly, the fainthearted, and the weak. Let’s talk first about the unruly.
To be unruly is to be out of step with God’s commands. It is to be rebellious–to consistently violate clear commands of Scripture. In the Thessalonians epistles, Paul uses the word “unruly” or “disorderly” to describe the people in the church who refused to get a job and instead were making trouble. Paul told these people to shape up when he was in Thessalonica. He reminded them of his instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4. And in this verse, he tells the church to admonish those individuals, as well.
So when we come to 2 Thessalonians 3 and still nothing has changed, Paul says to kick those people out of the church if they will not comply. Because the testimony of the church is at stake.
You should not comfort a disorderly person. That is not what he needs! What does a disorderly person need? He needs to be warned! He needs to be told directly that what he is doing is wrong and that he is headed for trouble if he does not repent. And the intensity of the warnings ought to increase the more he ignores warnings.
I was talking to an individual once who thought that her pastor was mean. I told her, “It’s not your pastor is mean; it’s that you refuse to listen! So he has to get sterner and sterner in order to get your attention!”
It takes a certain amount of courage to warn the unruly. For some of us, it’s a difficult thing to do. But if we love our brothers and sisters, then we will do it anyways, and we will pray for grace to be just as stern and direct as the situation demands!
If God is bringing to your mind someone you need to warn, I pray that you would do it! I urge you to do so, no matter how hard it is! And I would encourage you with this: God could use you to bring about that brother or sister’s repentance. Think how sweet that would be! Think about that brother coming back to you later after his heart has been melted and thanking you profusely for loving him enough to say the hard thing. Think about the trickle-down effect that sister’s repentance could have. Think of her children, her grandchildren! Let’s be courageous and loyal and warn the unruly!
The second group of people Paul addresses in this verse is the fainthearted.
The fainthearted are those who are discouraged. Perhaps they lack assurance of their salvation, or maybe they are going through a difficult trial. Paul comforts the fainthearted in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. He assures these discouraged Christians that their deceased loved ones will be raptured and glorified at the same time that they are and that they themselves will not face Day of the Lord wrath. Then he tells the Thessalonians on two separate occasions to comfort one another with these words. This verse is an extension of those commands.
What happens if you warn a discouraged person? He becomes even more discouraged! In other words, your efforts are counter-productive! Discouraged people don’t need to be warned; they need to be consoled.
For some of us, consoling comes naturally. For most mothers, it’s second-nature. But for others, consoling is hard work! Some people would rather go work out at the gym for an hour than try to be compassionate. For them, empathy is not natural! Do any of you know someone like this?
So who is more spiritual–the person who struggles with courage or the one who lacks empathy? Neither! Both! It doesn’t matter! Both of them face challenges unique to their own personalities! That doesn’t make one of them better than the other; they’re just different! What’s important is that I don’t allow the challenges that stem from my personality to become excuses for not ministering to others! “Oh, I couldn’t talk to that person about his sin! I wouldn’t be any good at that!”
It would be really nice if we could divvy up the work and say, for instance, “Pastor Kris does all the consoling and Pastor Kit does all the rebuking. I would really enjoy that arrangement!” But that’s not the way it works, is it? All of us are called both to warn and to console! If I have a relationship with someone who needs to be consoled, I ought to console him. If you have a relationship with someone who needs to be warned, you ought to warn him! And if he gets warned multiple times, all the better!
You see, I cannot pick and choose which type of ministry I do based on what I feel good at! Rather, we must all flex to meet the needs of the people God has given us to serve.
The third group of people Paul addresses in this verse is the weak (v. 14).
Who are the weak? There have been a variety of suggestions because this word can have a variety of meanings. It can refer to physical sickness, a weak conscience, or just to weakness in general. To me, this passage seems to suggest a more general meaning.
I think that the word “weak” in this verse could refer either a) to those who are susceptible to sin (like new believers) or b) to those who are weak in terms of their socio-economic status (like slaves).
Remember, Thessalonica was a big city. And economically, what do you often find in big cities? You find rich people, and you find poor people. So we would assume that the Thessalonian church had a little of both. Elsewhere, Paul refers to the generosity of the Macedonian churches. But he also refers to their “deep poverty.” I would assume that the Thessalonian church included a number of “down and out” kinds of people–slaves, the homeless, people just struggling to survive.
Also, we know that many in the church were new believers. And many of those new believers were Gentiles just coming out of paganism!
Have you noticed the struggles that people who get saved later in life out of particularly worldly lifestyles face? There are all kinds of addictions and habits they must break! The same must have been true–and perhaps even more so–for these Gentiles coming out of paganism!
What are we tempted to do with people who are weak, either morally or socio-economically? It’s very sinful, but can’t we be tempted to let them go? After all, they are so much hard work! You don’t have to actually reject them; just let them slip through the cracks. Smile really big at church and say that you will pray for them. Then let them fade away. It’s not very hard.
That is exactly what Paul tells the Thessalonians not to do in this passage! Instead, he tells them, “Uphold the weak.”
The Greek word for “uphold” means “to have a strong attachment to someone or something, cling to, hold fast to, be devoted to” or “help.”
We love to sing the hymn, “He Will Hold Me Fast.” We know how weak and sinful we are, so that if Jesus were to let go of us, we would be doomed! But will we who are in such need of a Savior to hold fast to us, hold fast to the weak in our church?
What about people who are weak in terms of their socio-economic status? Poor people? Single moms? The homeless? Widows? Minorities? Will we hold fast to them?
Oh, but it takes so much work, doesn’t it? Sometimes, strong Christians like to pat themselves on the back because they don’t take advantage of the weak. But have we honestly gone out of our way to help them? Do they know that we are in their corner, devoted to them, no matter what?
We must be determined not to be a church where weak people fall through the cracks.
Finally, Paul instructs the Thessalonians to “be patient with all.” What a fitting conclusion to this immensely helpful verse! One commentator described patience as “the opposite of the irritability that characterizes so many human relationships.” You know what he’s talking about, right? You’ve seen relationships that are characterized by irritability? The husband is always irritable towards the wife or vice versa? The parent is always irritable towards his children? The boss is irritable towards his employees? This is the normal stuff of human relationships!
But Paul says, “Not so among you!” “You may not be irritable towards one another! Rather, you must be patient.
The word for patient here is the Greek word translated elsewhere “longsuffering.” It is the patience with people that compels us to suffer indefinitely alongside of them or even because of them. Are there people in your life who cause you suffering? Do not be angry at them. Instead, recognize that God is giving you the opportunity to be patient.
Patiently warn the unruly. Patiently comfort the fainthearted. Patiently uphold the weak. You are not allowed to say to the disorderly, “Just knock it off!” Nor may you say to the discouraged, “Snap out of it!” You can never say to the weak, “Quit bothering me with all of your problems!” Instead, you must be longsuffering.
Where does this kind of patience come from? Is it in you? I know for a fact it’s not in me! When you and I need this kind of patience, when we feel irritability welling up inside, we must immediately turn to prayer! Say, “God, the fruit of the Spirit is patience. Please! Give me patience!” God will answer that request. And when He does, you’ll know He did it, and you can give Him the glory.
In the church that stands and sticks together, the members minister to each other.
Finally, in the church that stands and sticks together, how do the members deal with conflict (vv. 13b, 15)?
- How the Members Deal with Conflict
I don’t intend to belabor this point, because we recently went through an entire study on peacemaking, but there are several aspects of conflict resolution that I need to point out from this passage. How do the members deal with conflict? First, they pursue peace (v. 13b).
So at the end of this verse about respecting your pastors, Paul throws in this general command about living at peace together. That seems kind of odd, doesn’t it? What’s the connection between those commands?
Are you ready for it? Loyalty. Loyalty to your pastors is what motivates your love and respect for them. And loyalty to your brothers and sisters in Christ is what motivates you to live at peace with them.
Loyalty has become a lost virtue, hasn’t it? Most Americans aren’t loyal to anything–not their country, not their spouses! In many cases, there’s even very little sense of brand loyalty. It all boils down to self-interest. People will do what’s best for them.
We must not let that disease into this church! Brothers and sisters, we are in Christ–united in this body! God placed us together in this church! We have every reason to be loyal! Plus, if we are to have any hope of standing and sticking together, we must be loyal to each other!
Does this command to live at peace mean that we should not address sin? After all, if you rebuke a brother or sister, that’s disturbing the peace, isn’t it? (No!) How do you know that’s not what Paul meant? Because the very next verse says, “Warn the unruly!” So yes, we deal with sin, but deal with it in the context of brotherly love! Also, not all sin needs to be addressed! If someone is short with you on Sunday morning, you can probably forgive and move on. That shouldn’t become a big deal. If someone fails to return your book, or your movie, or your Tupperware, get over it! Forgive and move on! On the other hand, if someone is dabbling with adultery, that is not something you can overlook! You must address sin that for the sake of the individual. Does that make sense? Any questions or comments?
Sometimes pursuing peace means that you will go and have an uncomfortable conversation with someone who has wronged you in order to restore the relationship and make it better. That’s not disturbing the peace; it’s actually prioritizing the peace of the body over your own personal comfort.
There are hundreds of applications of v. 13b, but the principle is simple: live at peace.
Second, resist retaliation (v. 15a).
I think we all understand the damage that is done when a person responds to evil in kind. One person yells, so the other one yells louder. One person curses, so the other one takes a cheap shot. One person throws some garbage, so the other one throws a glass. And on and on it goes.
The fleshly person confronts a problem and makes it worse. Tensions escalate. The situation becomes volatile or even toxic.
Once again, Paul says, “Not in the church.” I think this is fascinating. Not only does he say, “Don’t render evil for evil.” He says, “See that no one renders evil for evil.” In other words, he seems to be saying that we are to police one another to make sure this never happens in the church! If you see someone returning evil for evil in the church, you ought to step up and deal with it.
But not only should we not retaliate towards those in the church, we shouldn’t retaliate towards those outside the church, either. Remember, the Thessalonians were being persecuted! How tempting must it have been at times to retaliate? But Paul says, “Make sure that nobody does that.” Instead, what were they to do (v. 15)?
Instead of returning evil for evil, we must do good to our enemies. What does it mean to pursue what is good? Here’s how I put it in my notes: it refers to calculated acts of kindness. You’ve heard of random acts of kindness. These are calculated acts of kindness. Strategic acts of kindness. What’s the strategy behind this goodness? Turn with me to Romans 12:17-21 (Rom 12:17-21).
In this passage, Paul fleshes out in greater detail the same thing he was telling the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5. He tells us to resist revenge and instead to kill our enemies with kindness. If we do, we will heap coals of fire on their heads, which stands for the shame produced in our enemies so that they are forced to face their own ugly sin and hopefully, repent! Finally, Paul sums up his strategy in v. 21. He says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That might seem like a weak strategy, but it worked for Jesus when He defeated Satan by dying on the cross. It also worked for the early church, when Christianity became the official religion of Rome, despite centuries of persecution! The fact is that God’s way is always best, and He tells us not to fight fire with fire, but to overcome evil with good.
In the church that stands and that sticks together, the members deal with conflict by pursuing peace, resisting retaliation, and doing good to their enemies.
I listened to a news report last week about “snowplow parenting.” Have you heard the term, “snowplow parent”? You all know what a helicopter parent is, right? A parent who hovers over his or her child so that the parent is ready to swoop down at a moment’s notice and fix all the child’s problems? Snowplow parenting is the next level of that. Snowplow parents go ahead of their children and clear away all the obstacles so that the child never has to suffer in life.
You can see why that would be tempting, right? Any good parent or grandparent who truly loves his children doesn’t want them to suffer! But what is the problem with snowplow parenting? If you clear away all of the obstacles, then the child will never learn how to face adversity, which means he’ll never learn to stand on his own two feet! But that is the goal of parenting! We want to teach our children to live holy lives without us! Now, granted, that is a long process that takes two or three decades, but we must always keep the end goal of independence in mind. That’s true of physical parenting, it’s true of spiritual parenting, and it’s true of church planting.
There are certain characteristics a young adult must possess in order to be truly independent. The same is true of churches. Paul knew that if the Thessalonian church was going to stand and stick together, they would need godly, hardworking leaders. But he also knew that the individual members of the church would need to recognize, appreciate, and respect those leaders. Also, Paul knew that the church would need to become good at ministering to itself. How? By each individual member learning to recognize various different kinds of needs and to take the initiative to meet those needs without just waiting for the pastors or someone else to do it. Finally, Paul knew that this young church would inevitably face conflict. Conflict would press in upon them from the outside in the form of persecution, and interpersonal conflict would arise from within the church. In order to stand and to stick together in the face of this conflict, Paul knew that the church members would need to be committed to pursuing peace and premeditated acts of kindness and resisting retaliation.
So, what about us? Are we that kind of a church? If not, there’s something you can do about it! If you are a member of this church, don’t point fingers or criticize or wait for someone else to get the ball rolling. Pick up the phone. Pick up a notecard. Express appreciation for your pastors. Find someone who is discouraged and console him or her. Recognize those who may be becoming disorderly, and warn them! Take note of the weak among us, and hold on tight to them! Be patient with everyone, pursue peace, be kind, and resist retaliation. Let’s be a church that stands and sticks together.
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