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October 28, 2014

Text: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 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.” I Thessalonians 5:11-14

OK! OK! I know that the title is bad grammar, but I did it to grab your attention. Now that I have gotten it, I simply invite you to stay tuned for a list of hints Paul probably spread to all the churches he visited. All churches have one common ingredient: people!  Along with people come problems, yes, even in the church. I have never met a perfect Christian, but I have met many Christians with problems that infected or retarded the church. (Remember that we are imperfect.)

The apostle Paul traipsed around the world starting churches and then keeping tabs on their progress. He shows that he had kept in touch with the church at Thessalonica. Evidently he saw much good in their conduct, though there were problems doctrinally. Nevertheless, the apostle was well advised about their behavior in the past and pleads they continue and augment several points of character. (I Thessalonians 4:1; 5:11-14) Knowing these Christians’ behavior in the past, Paul directs them to build upon their past good actions to strengthen the church.

Paul was a builder of lists: lists of good behaviors and bad behaviors with useful applications. Let’s look at some given in this chapter. The one at the head of the list is encourage. Encouragement appears frequently in the New Testament obviously indicating that it is imperative for the health of the church. We need it in abundance! Take and give encouragement. Make peace among the church.

Paul pushes harder;  Admonish the idle. I don’t think Paul liked lazy Christians, but you hear little preaching in today’s church on this. Whether the inertia is public or ecclesiastical it is slowing down the work. The slackers in  the church are easily discerned. They teach no classes, invite no visitors, visit no sick members, ignore the elderly. Workers are always needed for these good works. Whatever is your task, encourage participation and teach new enlistees. Be a doer and a recruiter.

Here is a red letter item to be addressed: Encourage the fainthearted. The are so many different ways to grow timid and afraid to act like a Christian. Active saints are those who are still conquering their fears. As a small boy  I was afraid to walk into my uncle’s store and pay for a candy bar. As a college man I was bold enough to stand in a pulpit and speak, but very shy around girls. Everyone has his fears to overcome. Be a friend to those who have fears and help them to grow bold for the Lord and serve.

Now we have a tender and essential building block to the church: Help the weak. This probably includes both the physically and the spiritually weak. Look no further than Jesus, who on a mountain found a multitude and Mark 6:34 says, “…and he had compassion on them.”  Seeing the physical and spiritual needs in the crowd, he provided both. The physically fatigued were weak in body, and the spiritually immature were in need of teaching. Jesus told a story about a Gentile who found a man beaten and left for dead on the road to Jericho. While others had passed by giving the victim no assistance, the  Samaritan bound his wounds, took him to an inn and paid his care and lodging. Luke 10:25-37  Jesus left our duty in burning words: “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:34 

The last exhortation is like a tent covering all the foregoing: Be patient with them all. Lack of patience is the pebble that derails good intentions. Every worthy endeavor is threatened with disaster by people lapsing or abandoning the project. Hope must  be watered and sustained.  Demonstrate patience in every situation and keep plugging. Be sure to endure setbacks and keep applying prayer.

Continue doing ALL the good works you have done in the past. Increase them and share them. The foundations of our past righteous behavior can and must be the building blocks of the future of  a growing church.





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