Practical Steps in Doing God’s Will (1 Thessalonians 5:14-17)
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing —1 Thessalonians 5:14-17
I love how practical the Bible can be in our daily lives, especially among the community of believers. These verses, Paul’s final instructions in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, do not only apply to the church, but are useful today in parenting, classrooms, work settings, and a myriad of other places. We are to relate to others according to their need or journey with Christ, just as He does with us. And undergirding all these instructions are the commands to be joyful, prayerful, and grateful (as we will see in next week’s Fighter Verse passage).
Paul started his final instructions with the command to respect church leaders who have the hard task of teaching and leading the church. There is to be peace in the church. Then Paul got specific:
Admonish the idle (unruly, undisciplined)—We are to care enough about others that we are willing to prayerfully confront those who don’t work as they should. Believers have a responsibility to work to care for creation and their families. Those who shirk this responsibility are undisciplined and not honoring to Christ. They become busybodies disrupting the peace of others while neglecting Christ’s calling on their own lives. Therefore, they must be taught/shown their blind spot and encouraged to walk in submission to the Lord’s call on their life. Paul addresses the sin of idleness more in his second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).
Encourage the fainthearted—Life has many difficulties and unexpected things that happen which can discourage anyone: health issues, the death of loved ones, relational issues, financial problems, persecutions, etc. We all need an encouraging word from time to time. Allow the Lord to open your eyes to the possibilities of how you can encourage others. Write an encouraging note pointing them to God and His sufficiency (include Bible verses that have encouraged you), make a phone call, text someone to say you’re praying for them—follow the promptings of the Spirit as you pray for the Lord to direct your path in this.
Help the weak—We can help those who cannot help themselves: the unborn, the elderly, those who cannot defend themselves, and are oppressed. We can help those who are weak in faith to grow deeper in the Word and prayer. We can encourage those who are weak toward temptation and personally offer our help or get them the help and wise counsel they need.
Be patient with them all—This is crucial for all the categories of people that we’ve already discussed. We must remember that we are all on a journey with the Lord and each is at a different point in the journey. We all need people to help and encourage us as we should help and encourage others. We must bear one another’s burdens as others (and Christ) have borne ours (Galatians 6:1-2).
See to it that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone—This is a tall order. We are responsible within the church to be involved in one another’s lives so we can prevent people from carrying out vengeance on others. God has told us that vengeance is His to do, that it isn’t our role because we are not the ultimate judge, He is. We need to remind each other of our role to love others and leave the rest to God. Forgiving others and seeking to do good to others is a crucial way that we live our lives like Jesus did. And this cannot be done on our own. We need the Holy Spirit within us to empower that kind of response, as well as other believers speaking into our lives and praying for us when faced with this type of temptation.
John the Baptist, who pointed others to Jesus, said in Luke 3:11-14 that life following God has actions that demonstrate loving our neighbor. Repentance leads to cleansing by the Holy Spirit and should evidence itself in gratitude and freedom to love others and obey Christ’s call on our lives.
Obeying these commands from the heart is only possible as we “pray without ceasing.” More than just our times of prayer, this is an attitude of dependence and a mindset on God, an ongoing conversation with God as we navigate our life and relationships. Obedience motivated by love for God allows us to see Him at work in us, through us, and in others, which helps us “rejoice always,” (in thankfulness, verse 18). This is how we do His will in our lives.
May the Lord guide you as you fulfill His purposes in you and in relation to others.
Has God brought to mind someone you might be able to help by lovingly and prayerfully pointing out a blind spot of idleness in their lives? Be careful to examine yourself first, in case it is evident in your own self, too (Matthew 7:1-5).
Is there a discouraged person in your life whom you can encourage by way of a phone call, visit, or note? Take the time to reach out today.
Have you been impatient with others? (Perhaps you expect them to catch on quicker to what you say, do things the way you want them to be done, or be different than they are.) Confess this to the Lord and ask Him to grow you in this area. Patience and kindness are always appropriate, especially in the body of Christ.