Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. (verses 12-22)
Paul is now coming to the end of his letter, but he’s got lots more to say! So, he puts it all in a rapid-fire set of bullet points. They’re powerful. He has three main areas of concern. Have a listen.
Church Leadership – Congregational leaders are far from super-human – they are mere mortals! No question. Yet, Paul says, they are to be given extra respect and honour. They “work hard among you … care for you in the Lord and … admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.”
How often is that not the case? How often do leaders receive exactly the opposite?
It seems likely the Thessalonians themselves needed to do better on this score, for Paul urges them to “acknowledge” those who serve among them as leaders. The word is literally “to see with the eyes” or “to know,” the idea being that such perception will result in new respect. Perhaps the Thessalonians had taken these leaders for granted. Perhaps they had unrealistic expectations. Perhaps they needed to take a fresh look.
So, too, for us. Paul concludes this admonition by saying, “Live in peace with each other.” When peace is lacking, it may be a sign that disrespect has been thriving. Take a look. There may be other issues in the mix, but make sure you honour and love leaders well.
One another – Here the bullet points come thick and fast. Warn the unruly. Cheer the disheartened. Help the weak. Be patient with all. Don’t play pay-back. Do good to each one.
Imagine a church which lived these truly. So many crises would be averted. So much health would be birthed.
Eyes heavenward – Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Always. Continually. In all circumstances. In other words, orient the whole of your life toward the Lord.Don’t leave anything out. Embrace joy (“the joy of the Lord is your strength”), place struggles or concerns or trials in his hands (“Ask … seek … knock”), and nurture gratitude all the way through (like that lone leper, freshly healed, who turned back to Jesus with overflowing thankfulness).
What’s more, be aware of the Spirit’s constant presence. Welcome him fully. Don’t squelch his activity. Be open to his guidance, however it may come. Weigh what you receive, trusting the Spirit himself to “guide you into all truth.” Embrace what’s true and dispense with what’s not.
What powerful closing words. How can we possibly manage it? We can’t, of course, in our own strength. Only the transforming work of God himself can accomplish it. Oh, how we need him! And (as we’ll see tomorrow in the portion that immediately follows) he’s ready and willing, he’s able and faithful. Absolutely.
In the meantime, with eyes on Jesus, seek to walk in these truths. For the good of the church. For the good of one another. For the good of your own soul.
Sovereign Lord, do your work in me that I might walk in your truth. Use me as an encouragement to leadership, as a vital part of community life, and as a faithful worshipper. Live your life in me, O my Lord. To your glory.
Reflect: Choose one or two of the bullets above to press into today. Commit them to the Lord. Ask for his empowering to carry them out.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash