In every chapter in 1 Thessalonians Paul talks about the second coming of Jesus. Why? When there is no hope for the future there is no power for the present. We have hope in a world of hopelessness. It is called the blessed hope. The coming of the Lord changes how we live today. As Paul continues in chapter 5, he gives several end times instructions:
“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…” (v. 12). The context here is not governmental leaders, but church leaders. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd who has given responsibility to under-shepherds. Three words are used in Scripture to refer to the same office: pastors, bishops, elders. Pastor speaks of his communication, Bishop speaks of his administration, and Elder speaks of his reputation. Paul says to recognize those who labor. Labor is hard work. It’s demanding. There is weariness in the strain. We need to pray for pastors as they lead churches through 2020. Paul continues, “…esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (v. 13). Esteem means to appreciate. Not because they are perfect, but because of the “work’s sake.” We do not always respect leaders based on personality, but we should based on their work/position. There are two extremes to avoid: idolizing them and demonizing them. We should not do either, but instead should respect. Why? This is the only way to enjoy and experience peace. This is the message to every church.
Verse 14 says, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly….” The term unruly here can mean insubordinate or unruly. It is the same message Paul wrote in Titus 3:10. The word can also be translated idle or truant. After six months of being unable to gather and meet at church, people need to be checked on. Paul goes on to say, “…comfort the fainthearted” (v. 14). This word means timid or scared. We all need to listen more and talk less. We need to look for those who need encouragement. So many people are scared of the future, of persecution, of being alone or left out. This is not a time for fear but for courage! Paul also urges us to “uphold the weak” (v. 14). There are some people around us who need us to wrap our arms around them and support them through a difficult time. Everything is not fine in the world. We can focus on self or focus on others. We were made for this moment in time!
Paul closes our text for today urging us to be patient with all (v. 14). Then he says, “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all” (v. 15). Patience/longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a divine attribute. God is compassionate, slow to anger, and longsuffering. How patient are you? I have to admit that I can be impatient, but patience is essential to peace. We need to be kind to one another. The church should be a kind place, a community of comfort and encouragement. Notice that Paul says that we are to pursue what is good for ourselves and others. We have to learn to forgive people and move on. It takes action. Think about it: Is an offense in your yesterdays worth losing all of your tomorrows? Life is too short to stay mad! Forgiveness is costly, but not forgiving will cost you more. Don’t let the hurts of yesterday rob all of your tomorrows.
The church should be a force in the community for good and for God. If we want to make a difference in our communities as the end approaches, we must honor leadership, help membership, and heal relationships, so that the light of Jesus shines through. We must work together in our communities, taking the gospel to those who have not heard. We must share our hope with those who are hopeless.