Many Christians go through seasons where everything seems to be going as planned. You are immersed in God’s Word, you are engaged with God’s people, and you are fighting sin well. Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ for doing this work in you!
Now, this can bring its own set of temptations. It is possible that a fruitful Christian can feel tempted to scale back, considering how well things have been going: I’ve been in God’s Word every day for a year—it’s probably okay if I take a break from it for a while!
Instructions from 1 Thessalonians
Paul’s words of encouragement to the Thessalonians are helpful here. Paul wrote to them, saying how much joy it brought him that they had continued in the faith after he had to leave them. The church had not forgotten “how [they] ought to walk and please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
But Paul didn’t say, So just relax for a while until Christ comes—you’re doing fine! He says, “we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus… that you do so more and more” (4:1). In other words, keep going, keep growing in your sanctification. Don’t scale back!
And Paul gave them some specific instructions that are applicable to us today:
Respect Spiritual Leaders
“respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…” (5:12)
This is a necessary word for many of us, right? When our pastor stands in front of us at church and offers theological, biblical warning, it is wise to listen.
I often want to criticize, critique, and compare but the Bible calls me to first to respect.
“…esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” (5:12)
Respecting our spiritual leaders is only one part of the equation though. It’s one thing to give my pastor my ear when he is speaking from the pulpit, but do I appreciate the time and effort that went into the sermon?
Am I valuing the work of those whose full-time, or part-time, job is to be concerned about me?
I should esteem those people very highly, because God calls them to something very difficult: to care about my soul even when I don’t.
“Be at peace among yourselves.” (5:13)
The leaders among us are never perfect. We should start with respect and high esteem, and we should strive to be at peace. As I see it, this can apply to the temptation to form factions over particular leaders, whether you follow Paul or Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:4).
It can also apply to the temptation to overlook conflict. If problems exist in the church, we need to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). And that does not mean ignoring problems that exist; it means getting in the middle of them to restore situations to peace.
“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.” (5:20-21)
We should abound in a love for learning God’s Word! And so. we should embrace, not despise, when someone has been put in our lives to teach us about God’s Word. Yet, Paul also encourages believers to “test everything.”
We don’t just hear, take down notes, and blindly accept everything that is taught to us by anyone who happens to be speaking. The final authority is the Bible itself, which God has given to us for all of us, even the fruitful Christian, to read and test what we hear.
Build One Another Up
“Admonish the idle…” (5:14)
Is someone letting all the tough work go to others? Has someone you know grown apathetic in their spiritual walk? The Bible tells us we have a responsibility to one another to admonish idleness and to help another person be a fruitful Christian.
“…encourage the fainthearted…” (5:14)
This task seems a little easier than the first, but it actually requires a deeper relationship with a person. I’ve found that most people are able to put on a good face in church, so as to not burden one another with their problems.
Those who don’t feel comfortable letting just anyone know about their struggle will share with those who are close to them. This is why regular and engaged church attendance is so important—not just for you but for others. You may have exactly what someone else needs to be encouraged.
“…help the weak.” (5:14)
We often don’t help the weak because we don’t want to offend. Sounds silly, but it’s true. Someone might have weak faith, and you have strong faith, but you don’t want to appear haughty or all-put-together, so you keep the wisdom you’ve been given to yourself. Don’t hold back! I know from experience how helpful a strong person can be to a weak person:
One time back when I was in high school, I was running late for class. I was a freshman, and I didn’t know a single person at the school. To make it worse, I was terribly self-conscious. Due to a childhood cancer, I never grew past 4’8”, and I stood at least a foot shorter than everyone else in my whole school.
I was headed to a science class, and I needed the textbook. The book, unfortunately, was on the top shelf of my locker, and it had somehow slid way back. I couldn’t reach it. I stood on the edge of my locker, feeling embarrassed, and I still could not reach it.
A senior, 6’2”, walked by—I held my breath. At my previous school, I would’ve been shoved into my locker without a second thought. But this senior stopped, grabbed my textbook, gave it to me, and said, “Here you go. Have a nice day!”
I was glad for his help. I remember it, even to this day!
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” (5:15)
I like this one, because my thought was to read it like, “See that you never repay anyone evil for evil…” (which is certainly a good warning), but it says, “See that no one repays evil for evil.” That means we have to get involved in other people’s business.
We are a caring, loving community if we keep one another from adding fuel to fire of controversies and rivalries. Let’s commit to keeping each other focused on good, rather than evil.
“Be patient with them all.” (5:14)
As you invest in others, the overriding principle is gospel patience and love. Don’t treat people as hostile if they cannot change immediately, but rest in the knowledge that Christ will perfectly sanctify each one of His sheep.
Go from Good Habits to An Unceasing Lifestyle
“Rejoice always…” (5:16)
Don’t just rejoice when something great happens to you, fruitful Christian. Instead, grow in your sanctification and faith so that you are rejoicing all the time!
“…pray without ceasing…” (5:17)
Don’t just pray once or twice in a day. Instead, adopt a lifestyle of prayerfulness reminding yourself without ceasing that you are reliant on God.
“…give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (5:18)
Ever wonder what the will of God is for your life? Well, here is one answer—that we should give thanks in all circumstances. Why is this? Why should we thank God even when the worst things happen to us? The answer is that God never changes. Christ’s grace given to us never fades. Our anchor never loses its hold on us.
That’s why we thank Him all the time!
“Do not quench the Spirit… Abstain from every form of evil.” (5:22)
Fruitful Christian, do not scale back on your spiritual life just because the Lord has given you a good season of life, but press forward! Don’t grow idle, don’t start taking up habits that will distract you from the relationship you have in Jesus Christ.
Keep receiving God’s word through attending Church and reading your Bible! And press on in your faith all the way until the end.