This past Sunday we continued our journey through 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 — a special passage of Scripture that offers us 10 principles that characterize us as believers and help us know what it means to serve the Lord.
We’ve already looked at the principle of Christians living well under authority along with the idea of living peaceably. And this past Sunday we encountered our third principle: How to be wise people helpers. That principle is found in verse 14: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
Believe it or not, there are other very good reasons for us to come together as a church each Sunday besides singing songs, praying, and listening to a sermon. One is that simply being together enables us to stimulate each other to rise to the next level in our growth in Christ. That’s the idea expressed in Proverbs: “Like iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
In order for us to be wise people helpers — not only in church but also with our families and with those we encounter outside of church — this verse gives us three tools we should be using, along with one “secret weapon.” Let’s check them out.
In verse 14 Paul begins by telling his readers to “admonish to idle.” Being idle in this sense means not working, not doing one’s part, and taking advantage of others — in short, someone who’s out of order or out of step with the Lord. “Admonish” here means to bring the truth through changing someone’s mind. But when you consider the word “admonish,” you may have been conditioned to define it as being harsh with others or hitting them hard, but actually Paul is communicating the idea of gentleness — lovingly coming alongside our brothers and sisters and saying, “Hey, I think you need to consider this.” And again, being in the position of doing this is just one of the reasons we come together in person as a body of believers.
The second tool is “encourage the fainthearted.” And in the Greek, it’s the idea of comforting and consoling someone whose soul is diminished — someone who’s feeling overwhelmed by life. Certainly, we’ve all been there in one way or another. And when we’re hurting or down, isn’t it wonderful when a believer comes alongside us and offers encouragement? Also, remember that giving comfort isn’t necessarily about problem solving. Often it’s simply about being a listening ear. And when we can be that kind of encouragement to others, good things can happen in the body of Christ.
The third tool is “help the weak.” And by “help” Paul doesn’t mean drive-by assistance and then you’re off doing your next task on your list. It’s the idea of being a support in an ongoing basis — which implies commitment. If there are those who can’t walk by themselves easily right now, we must come along and support them for as long as they need so that they can enjoy this life.
And now for the “secret weapon.” And while it’s a very effective weapon, it’s not always easily practiced. The last part of verse 14 says “be patient with them all.” Patience. How many of us struggle with exercising patience? It’s a very common issue. But unless we can develop more patience in our lives, our relationships will suffer — because after all, patience is like a great shock absorber in our interactions with others. And it’s one of the fruits of the spirit.
So how do we come to a place where we’re consistently exercising patience? There are three things we can do: remain calm, extend time, and endure pain. All of three of these efforts will help you build up your ability to exercise patience as you come alongside others. One thing to keep in mind as we use these three tools — admonish, encourage, and help (along with deploying our secret weapon of patience) — is that we’re all made in the image of God…yet we’re all unique people. This means that when you encounter someone with a need, and one of the tools at your disposal isn’t working, you may need to change the tool you’re using! Different people may require that you use different tools at different times. And above all we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as He is the ultimate Comforter, and He literally uses all of these tools to build up each of us.