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. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do no despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
I am a big fan of specific instructions. I want to know exactly how things are supposed to be done, yet living as a Christian isn’t about a set of rules. It’s about the condition of your heart towards God. We are called to love God with all of our hearts, and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. The gospel is summed up in those two commandments. But sometimes I want more elaboration, sometimes I want more instructions. Sometimes, I want to know ways to love my fellow believers. Sometimes, I ask what it really means to love my neighbor.
That’s one of the reasons I am thankful for the closing instructions of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonians. These instructions aren’t just relevant to the body of believers in Thessalonians; these are relevant to us today. These fall under the commandment to love. These are many different ways to show love.
1. We are called to respect those who labor among us in the church. Few people in our church make big sacrifices for the many that congregate there. We should show them more respect.
2. We are called to be at peace among ourselves. There shouldn’t be strife among us. We should always be able to come to some kind of agreement in love. We might not always agree, but because of Christ, because we are His, we should always seek for peace among each other.
3. We are called to admonish the idle. If fellow believers are slacking on their responsibilities, we are called to admonish them in love.
4. We are called to encourage the fainthearted. Sometimes, one of us just needs encouragement. We should always be ready to encourage and love those who are having a moment of discouragement.
5. We are called to help the weak. Stronger Christians should always be setting examples and encouraging the weaker brother. We should always be pointing them toward Christ by the way we live our life.
6. We are called to be patient with them all. In our busy world, patience is drifting away from our characters, but a Christlike attitude should come before everything else we do. Pray for God to give you patience in your spirit. Pray that you can love others by being more patient with them.
7. When someone mistreats us, we are called to seek their good, not repay them with evil deeds. Revenge should not be on our radar. We shouldn’t seek evil toward someone; instead, we should try to seek their good through the Lord and set an example of Christ by laying aside our hurt.
8. We are called to rejoice always. Rejoice. It feels so much better to rejoice over something than it does to complain. We should always be trying to rejoice in our circumstances instead of complaining.
9. We are called to pray without ceasing. This is simple and straightforward, but too few of us do it. But we should get in the habit to pray, pray, pray, pray.
10. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances. That can be a hard one. How many of you actually give thanks in all circumstances? It’s easy to give thanks in the good times, but can many of us say that we give thanks during the trials of our life? Furthermore, Paul says that this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Many of us struggle with the will of God in our lives, and here part of it is plainly: we are called to be thankful.
11. We are called to not quench the Spirit, nor despise prophecies, but we are called to Test everything by lining it up with the Word of God. The Holy Spirit works through others. He is a comforter, and He helps us better understand the Word of the God. But everything spiritually related should align with the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority. Many false prophets have come, are here now, and will continue to come, so we as Christians should not be led astray by everything that is deemed spiritual. We must test everything with the Word of God.
12. We are called to hold fast to what is good. The Lord is good. We should cling to good things, wholesome things, holy things. Our lives should be characterized by what is good. People should see us seeking good things. What we hold onto should set us apart.
13. Finally and grandly, we are called to abstain from every form of evil. That’s a serious calling. Abstain means to restrain. While our flesh has a natural inclination toward worldly things, we are called as Christians to restrain ourselves from participating. We are called to set ourselves apart. It’s a part of our calling, and it is also a part of our struggle.
Hold fast to these good instructions and let the love of God characterize everything that you do in life.