Bible Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15
Relationships are a part of just about every definition of truly living but sadly relationships with people in the church can sometimes be the worst! How do we resolve that and truly experience life in the church? #ThisIsLiving #1Thessalonians #DareToVenture
This Is Living
1 Thessalonians 5:11-15
Intro: If you ask people about what makes life truly worth living almost everyone will talk about relationships. The irony is we are all incredibly dysfunctional at relationships!! Some more than others, but all struggle with relationships.
The reason is sin. Sin not only makes our relationship with God dysfunctional, but it also is the cause of our inability to truly love and be loved by others. God made us to experience living by living in true unity with Him and each other, but sin wrecked all that! Therefore, the Gospel not only restores our relationship with God, but it also brings us into true community with others. The community is called the church and this side of the 2nd coming of Christ it can only be practically lived out and experienced in the context of a local church!
So, today’s passage in our study of first Thessalonians addresses the subject of how you and I can experience genuine life giving, life enjoying relationships in local church. That is how Church life can truly be described as living!
So will you stand with me as we read God’s Word …
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 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. (5:11-15)
Prop: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15 gives 4 instructions on how believers can experience true living in the context of the local church.
The 1st instruction on how believers can experience true living in the context of the local church is …
Intentionally and consistently help each other know and follow Christ. – (5:11)
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
“Just as you are doing” implies again it’s already happening just as he does with other things in the letter. Timothy observed it on his trip to Thessalonica, but Paul wants to make sure they understand this is not an optional or seasonal thing. You guys have to keep doing this. Keep doing what? Two things:
Help each other have confidence To overcome fear. To feel valuable and loved. That’s what it means to encourage.
“Build one another up” It’s a term from the construction industry. Rome built huge amazing buildings, temples, coliseums, and the list goes on. Some of these huge amazing building still stand 2,000 years later! This term reflects that process; that is we are to construct each other in a way that stands out as strong, stable, centered and accomplishing the purpose God has for us.
So How do we do that?
Do you ever get invited to meetings that are just pointless. Everything you got in that meeting could have been sent to you in an email. A talking head reading a spreadsheet of facts, figures and procedures that a drunk gorilla could have just as easily repeated! There is no reason whatsoever for you to have to be in a room with one another to hear that!
On the other hand, have you ever been in meeting where the opinions of others and experiences (positive and negative) were shared in a way that helped you as an individual understand issues and gave you knowledge you didn’t have or were struggling to apply?
Have you ever been in a meeting where the conversation brought the group together and united them in knowledge and application and vision. It achieved something in you and the group that would not have been achieved otherwise, Where everybody left excited to do it and as a result great things happened! Great things got built!
This is the picture Paul is giving here. That people in the church would make the intentional and consistent effort to be involved with other people in the church in a way that they encourage each other and build one another to live out the eternal life we have in Christ. To truly live. To accomplish the life and mission Christ has set before us with joy and energy and success! Not to just got a room and sit and leave, but to truly engage so that you encourage and build!
This leads to the 2nd instruction on how believers can experience true living in the context of the local church is …
Embrace those who are shepherding you to follow Jesus. (5:12-13)
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
Paul says to be at peace among yourselves by respecting those who lead you in the church. This means to acknowledge their position, calling, and leadership as legitimate and needed.
He then gets more specific and says to “esteem them very highly in love.” That means to sincerely and outwardly be grateful for it!
The Book of Hebrews tells us that those who shepherd us are going to be held accountable by God, so we should show some respect and love for them because they are willing to be held accountable by God on how they influence us!
But, notice this is not just about pastors, nor some other person with a random title. This is about respecting and esteeming people who are doing something very specific. He then describes three specific activities.
Labor among you–
He’s talking about the real people doing real Kingdom work among you/for you! He’s not saying don’t appreciate the guy who wrote the book that encouraged you, or the preacher you listen to online. He’s not saying to respect or not esteem them. What he is saying is distinctly recognize (respect) and appreciate/esteem the actually people who are working among you. Whether in their teaching, preaching, singing, service or one on engagement. Those who are physically laboring literally with you in mind!
Over you in the Lord–
God has clearly assigned pastors the job of being the “overseers” of the local church. Some scholars think Paul is being exclusive here of them. I don’t believe that. I think Pastors are obviously included because they are God assigned shepherds and overseers of the church. However, he’s talking about the people who have accepted the spiritual responsibility of mentoring and leading you, your kids, your students, and everyone around you. Again, the people who are going to give an account to God or how they led you, because you belong to God!
This is where is gets real! You need to respect and truly appreciate the people who teach you the truth and are willing to confront you. To step on your toes. The mentor, life group leader, bible study teacher, pastor, preacher who is willing to say and do things to comfort you, but also confront and correct you so that you can be encouraged and built up to truly live life in Christ!
The 3rd instruction on how believers can experience true living in the context of the local church is …
Be patient with each other especially those with difficult issues. (5:14)
14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Patience doesn’t mean tolerance nor coddling nor enabling. Do not confuse that! So many confuse patience with enabling! There is nothing positive about tolerating sin, coddling it or enabling it.
Patience is to persistently without giving up stay true to the task, and to do it with a positive attitude! So we experience true living in the context of the church when we don’t stop doing this with people in our lives and we don’t stop doing it in loving and a positive attitude. Don’t stop what?
Admonish The Idle-
He has previously dealt with this and we don’t know if he means those who didn’t work because they thought Jesus was coming back in a day or so, or those who were expecting the wealthy people in the church to take care of them. Maybe those who lost their “white collar” job because of their faith in Christ, but saw themselves as too good to work with their hands. No idea, but what we do know is that he’s talking about people who can work but choose not to!
Being patient with somebody who acts entitled to your money is brutal! Now again, patience doesn’t mean tolerance or enablement. But it reflect our willingness to continue to admonish them with a gracious attitude that doesn’t give up on them, write them off or dismiss them as failures that are not worth trying to help anymore.
Encourage The Fainthearted-
Again, don’t know specifically who he had in mind. Could be those fearful of death. Could be those scared that their loved ones that have already died are going to miss out on Christ’s return or that they are personally going to die and miss out on it. Paul just addressed those people.
This could just be people who are just simply losing faith in Christ. That are giving up on following Jesus. That are starting to wonder if it’s worth it.
Either way, it can be exhausting trying to encourage people that want to give up on living. That is they have given up on ever being able to enjoy life and want to settle for fear, anxiety or depression. It is just exhausting! Because they are always looking for a reason to not be happy. Paul says be patient! That is be persistent, don’t enable, and don’t tolerate, but be intentional, wise and positive with them by intentionally and actively encouraging them and building them up. In similar fashion…
Help the Weak!
Some feel like this is immoral people – the weak could well be those who were characterized by a tendency toward immorality (4:1–8).
Others assume it’s those who simply can’t provide for themselves.
Elsewhere in the new testament it’s the legalist.
Again, We don’t know specifically know who Paul was addressing as weak, but either way it universally implies a lack of strength (faith, life, finance, etc.) We as a church are to fill that gap, bear their burden, help them hold up the weight they can’t. Meaning it takes effort and sacrifice because it will make me have less strength to hold my own burdens! Anything that takes sacrifice, that requires me using part of my strength not to bear my own burdens but the burdens of others. IT means it’s hard, takes effort and is burdensome. Which means I have to be intentional about being patient!
Point is, for there to be real community, real love and unity that brings an experience of living, we have to be patient with one another. Patience is hard, but the alternative is strife, division, and destruction! The alternative is giving up on each other and that ain’t family life, that ain’t church life! That ain’t living!
The 4th instruction on how believers can experience true living in the context of the local church is …
Don’t be against people, be for people! (5:15)
15 “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil” (very specifically evil for evil, justifying one immoral action done against you by doing it to them or somebody else), but always seek to do good to one another (internally in the church) and to everyone (externally /outside the church/non-believers.) This speaks to a society that despises the church and was even persecuting it!
This is not a rejection of justice. “ The commandment—“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:24, 25; cf. Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21)—relates to the public administration of criminal law (see Lev. 24:14), and was issued in order that the practice of seeking personal revenge might be discouraged. What Jesus is opposing in Matt. 5:38–42 was not the Old Testament law but its Pharisaic misinterpretation.”
So what is it then? It’s not a command on how not to respond to people, but rather a command on how to respond. To seek to do good!
That is how the forward lean of our life should be described. As one who is seeking to do good, and not as one seeking revenge. Not as one trying to find a reason to be angry and upset!
There are times to be angry and upset. Times to confront things that are wrong, Jesus did it! But, for so many the forward lean they have is a constant upset and angry. A constant looking for wrong . A constant of being offended and responding to that offense.
That’s a life looking for a place to have a heart attack. That’s a life of drama and misery!
If you want to live, if you want to experience living, then live to do good for people in your church and live to do good for people in your community! Period!
Challenge: Look at your calendar and compare your involvement with people in the church to how much time you give to everything else. Compare how many times a month you’re in a worship gathering or life group with the other things your involved in.
I’ll never forget one of the days I worked on a ranch while I was in Grad school. We had electric fence to keep the cows and horses in their respective pastures. A teammate of mine came out to the ranch that day to shoot guns or something, can’t remember. What I do remember is that he asked me if the electric fence was hot, if it had electricity going through it. I told him to touch it and find out. So he decided to “barely” touch it. As if barely touching it would only give you a mild shock if it was hot. Ya’ll understand that ain’t how electricity works! Barely touching it or all the way touching it gets you all the current! He learned a serious lesson about electricity! HA!
Now, the church does not work that way. Life in the church is not like electricity. By that I mean there is not a minimum connection. That if you barely connect you will get the full experience of all the electricity flowing to that circuit. That’s how so many treat the church. Then they can’t understand why they are not getting the energy and life of Christ from the body of Christ flowing into their life. It’s because that approach only works with electricity. If you barely touch an electric wire you’re going to get that electricity! But in the church you will only get out of it what you commit to engage with. If all you do is come to worship once a month or so then that’s all you’re going to get. If all you do is go to a life group and listen to everybody talk but never try to engage in relationships, just check a box and attend, then that’s all you’re going to get. If you volunteer on a ministry team and just come and do work but never try to build relationships with people you serve with, do things with them, communicate with them, bear burdens for them, serve them, pray for them, etc., then you’re never going to get life from them! you’re never going to experience living!
Many people say church doesn’t really impact me. But, are you just barely touching it? Now remember, we fundamentally believe you can be over involved with church. That’s why we don’t have a smorgasbord of things at the church building or activities through the church. For us to be ambassadors into a lost world and lead people to know and follow Christ we have to have time to build legitimate real relationships with people who don’t know and follow Christ! However we cannot let that or anything else be our excuse to not experience our eternal family that we access relationally in a local church! Truly living is living in unity with Christ and the physical manifestation of Christ in this world is the Church!