Jump Start #2903
Jump Start # 2903
1 Thessalonians 5:14 ‘And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”
I certainly like this verse. I use it often, very often, when I teach about shepherding. And, every time I look at this verse, there is yet another layer of insight and instruction that I’ve never seen before. Let me share some thoughts from this passage.
First, God designed the church as a self-sufficient and closed system. Here is what I mean by that. When we do not feel well, the first thing we do is go to our medicine cabinet and take what we think we need. But a day or two later, if we are getting worse, we realize that there is nothing in our medicine cabinet that can help us, so we make an appointment with our doctor. He looks us over and often prescribes some medicines that we didn’t have at home. If we still do not get better, it’s back to the doc, more tests. Sometimes all of this involves going to the hospital for even more procedures, IVs and tests. We are limited at home at what we can do.
The same goes for our cars. There was a time when many of us changed our own spark plugs and oil. But cars are so complicated today, using advanced computer chips, that when something goes wrong with our car, we have to take it to the shop. It is beyond what we can do.
But here within the Thessalonian church, the unruly, the fainthearted and the weak could and would be cared for by the members there. All within that church was the tools necessary to help. Paul didn’t call upon them to reach out to the Philippian church for help. Paul didn’t tell them to send out the word to others and find experts who could help them. No. Everything they needed was among them. That is how God designed the church. When it is functioning well, it is capable of taking care of itself.
Second, for this to be effective and practical, disciples have to step up and get connected and be involved. You notice that our passage is not addressed to shepherds. Much like Galatian 6, the restoration of lives is being done by those who are spiritual. This means people have to take the attention and focus off of themselves. It means that they have to get involved in the lives of others. It means that they can’t hide behind the idea of “it’s not my job.” There would be no outsiders coming in to help them. There would be no team of doctors, mechanics or advisors coming to repair and fix what was broken. If the Thessalonians did not do this, no one would. God was counting upon them to step up and to do what needed to be done.
Third, to get to the level of admonishing unruly and encouraging fainthearted, there would have to be some who developed spiritually, became mature and had the heart of both a servant and a leader. If everyone was unruly, there would be no one to admonish them. If everyone was fainthearted, there would be no one to encourage.
And, while this passage identities that we are not all in the same place and we don’t all need the same things, some among us must be leaders who are not afraid to admonish nor encourage. They care for these people and they care for the church. The role of admonishing and encouraging is very different. One is to warn and the other is to build up. In doing that powerful work, others may be developed these to later serve. Not only are we not all in the same place at the same moment, but it is essential that leaders are able to distinguish and recognize the characteristics of one who is out of step and one who is fainthearted. The outward look may seem the same. Maybe neither one is attending. The rebel says, “You can’t tell me what to do.” The scared, has worries and fears. Both are not attending, but it’s for very different reasons. Who is going to recognize that difference? It would be those at Thessalonica that were spiritually strong and in step with the Lord.
Now, what happens when no one in the congregation steps up? What happens when there is no one to warn others? What happens when there is no one to encourage others? The church suffers. It begins to fall apart. Near my house is an old barn. One can see through the sides of the barn. By and by, some of the planks are falling off the sides. The roof is sagging. It’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen down the road. One day when I pass by, there won’t be a barn standing. There will be a pile of wood and nails. Internally, this is what happens to many churches today. Too many are holding out for a preacher to come in and solve all their problems. That usually never happens. They are looking for someone to do what they are supposed to do. And, in far too many cases like this, there is no one who has stepped up spiritually. There is no one who leads. There is no one who is mature enough. The church crumbles because there was no one to help.
Now, all of this points to our role. Are we going along for a ride or are we helping out and doing what we can? Who will warn the unruly? Who will encourage the fainthearted? Who will help the weak? The help isn’t coming from the outside, it must come from within. It comes from us.