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  • Writer's pictureDavid Michael

Practical Instructions for Ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:14-17)


[And] we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. ¹⁵See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. ¹⁶Rejoice always, ¹⁷pray without ceasing —1 Thessalonians 5:14-17

This passage in the closing section of Paul’s letter gives explicit instructions to the church about how they should think and conduct themselves as they await the second coming of our Lord Jesus (4:13-5:11). It's important that we understand this is not just helpful advice for how to live a happy and fulfilling life. Paul is urging the church to behave in these ways not only because this is how we “please God” (4:1), but also it is “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5:18).


It's not always easy to discern the will of God for our lives, but certainly there is no ambiguity here. As a follower of Christ Jesus my heart wants to be the kind of person who can graciously “admonish the idle.” I want to be the “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15), to be known as someone who consistently and patiently encourages “the fainthearted” and helps “the weak.”


Memorizing portions of Scripture like this helps to sustain the desire and longing of my heart to be more like Christ and pursue God’s clearly stated will for my life. I have also discovered that memorizing passages like this helps guard my heart from the self-righteousness and spiritual pride that is “crouching at the door” (Genesis 4:7).


Perhaps Paul should have prefaced these words with “do your best to” or “try hard to.” Instead he leaves very little room for pride to get a foot in the door. With words like “all” and “no one” and “everyone” and “always” and “without ceasing” he exposes the truth that I am not yet fully sanctified.


Without the thread of gospel hope that winds its way through this letter, this seemingly impossible standard could prompt us to throw up our hands in despair and give up trying to do the will of God and live in a manner pleasing to him.


But Paul begins these final instructions to the church by writing "…we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more" (4:1). In a similar way, Paul writes in 5:11: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." He acknowledges evidence of grace in the church (“just as you are doing”) and then he challenges us to “do so more and more.” Do this, instead of throwing up our hands in despair.


These standards that seem so far from what we can attain are “the will of God”—but they are “the will of God in Christ Jesus” (5:18) and we must encourage each other to “do so more and more” while keeping before us what Paul wrote a few verses earlier in 5:9: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Apart from Him we not only fail to achieve “always” and “without ceasing,” but we also fail to “do so more and more.” However, in Christ Jesus we can do “all things” (Philippians 4:13).


Anticipating the coming of our Lord Jesus (5:2-4), Paul concludes this letter by affirming that the “God of peace” is able to sanctify us completely and keep our whole being (“spirit and soul and body”) blameless until Christ appears (5:23).


In gospel hope, let us pursue the will of God with all our hearts so that we might “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…" because “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (5:24)!

 

For Reflection

  1. Consider the other places in Paul’s letters where he says “this is the will of God” and ask Him to help you obey His will.

  2. Meditate on the assurance that God is the one who will certainly accomplish the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).

  3. Who might you encourage this week to keep on doing more and more the evidences of grace you observe them already doing?

 

David Michael is co-founder and Executive Director of Truth 78. David says that memorizing Scripture has been one of the most effective ways to apply Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

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