There are so many things in life I so wish I had an instruction manual for. Marriage, being a friend, college. Then I think about all the instruction manuals I have thrown away in my lifetime–ones I wish I had at some point again.
Praise God that He has given us so many commands about how to live as a Christian post Jesus’s cross. Yet how often do I really use scripture for that reason? The section we are going through today is located in the final chapter of 1 Thessalonians. It is one of those sections where it seems Paul is in need of wrapping up His letter quickly so he gives the Thessalonians a section of encouragement that might help them function among one another better. Today I want to break down these instructions, recognizing that my commentary is not the word of God, but rather, a conglomeration of commentary from my Bible, other study books, and what the Spirit has put on my heart.
I hope that in everything I say, you test it against scripture. I hope that The Lord uses these words to admonish me in my life and you in yours. I hope that He also reminds us that we are incapable of following instructions completely without His help. Yet He is faithful, my friends. Over and over, He is faithful.
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We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, 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, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
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Respect those who labor and admonish you. It is so easy to go through life without really seeing the beautiful work the church is doing before me. I get a tunnel vision for my blog or my marriage or my individual relationships. Then when someone looks at me and says, “hey I think you could be doing this better,” my first thought is, well what do you know. You’re not in my life. You don’t know the inwards of my heart.
Oh how foolish I am. My God–my God who is faithful to provide all–has placed people in my life who are laboring hard for the kingdom. Yet I neglect to look to them. I am so oblivious to the fact that the Lord is giving them the taste of what He might one day give me and using them to steer me in the right direction. Friends who are young, and friends who are experienced, let us love the ones who have labored long and hard before us and who choose to obediently admonish us when we seem to fall. God has been faithful to put them in our lives. Let us be faithful to use that gift well.
Be at peace among yourselves. Okay let’s be real real quick. When a bunch of people are working together on something or spending ample time around one another, those relationships get messy. Paul sees that among the Thessalonians and nixes it, quickly and quietly. He doesn’t call out one person for being more wrong. He doesn’t give one person a pass because he or she is more right. Find a way to be at peace. Period.
Admonish the idle. I love the Oxford dictionary’s definition of idle: without purpose. I believe that this is the perfect definition for cultural, luke-warm Christianity. It has a name without an aim, a command without ambition. I lived so much of my life as an idle Christian. I proudly touted that I was a Christian, but seemed to forget that my life was purposed to share His name. Praise my God that so many called me out. Let us do the same. Let us remind one another of the purpose He has placed upon us.
Encourage the fainthearted. And praise God that there are so many who are not idle! They are laboring for Jesus and experiencing some of the lash back we are promised. Whether it is an international missionary, a local who simply lives for Jesus alone, let us make a point to daily encourage one another.
Help the weak. Then there are those who are rattled by persecution, devastated by a recent loss, or confused by God’s word in some way due to immaturity. We are to walk along side these, friends. Even if we feel weak ourselves. He has given us a voice, hands, and feet to serve those around us.
Rejoice always. In all of this–the admonishing, the encouraging, the helping–our reason is our rejoicing. It is that there is a God who we call our own. This God crossed time, space, and His own reality to do the same for us. We do these things not just because the Bible says so, but because our ever being is to glorify and reflect the perfect love shown by our Father.
Pray without ceasing. Therefore, let us pray. Let us give glory to Him through every day things we might not even consider Him in: a broken washing machine, a final paper, a fight with a spouse. Through the things we go though on an every day basis, He is refining us. He is teaching us to be more like Him. We literally always have something to thank Him for. We always have a way we can be better. Let us ask Him for those things, praise Him for those things, and therefore, communicate with Him continuously.
Give thanks. Christians are to be marked by thanksgiving. It is to be something the world sees in us–something we continually doing out loud and publicly.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the prophesies, but test everything. Okay so I have been reading up on this section a lot because I think there can be a huge misconception if we allow. 1 Corinthians 14:22 explains that prophesy is a sign for believers. I am basically going to share with you what my ESV Bible commentary shares with me since ya girl has not had a chance to go to seminary quite yet.
In this sense, prophesy is defined as encouragement and exhortation from the spirit through Believers. Here is the problem. It can be hard to determine what is prophesy and what is not based on someone’s word. I could tell you that I prophesied that you would eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch if I wanted to. That God told me you would. But how do you know if I am speaking truth or not? You test it against the scripture. Always. Friends, just because a pastor says it, does not make it true. Just because I write it, does not make it true. Test everything against the Word He has given us. It is why we hold it in our hands. Let us not neglect to listen to the words other believers encourage us with. Let us rather affirm them with scripture and share them with others. Then we are giving the Spirit His full range of motion, not quenching Him by our own indifference or by the human words of others.
Hold fast to what is good. Anything scripture encourages.
Abstain from evil. Anything scripture admonishes.
He is faithful. All of this is done not by our own power, but by His alone. If you have not entrusted your whole life to Him, following these things will not be possible. He alone is the one who has power over sin and death.