Jump Start # 3326
1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”
I stopped by our local vet the other day to pick up some medicine for our cat, more accurately, my wife’s cat. While I was waiting, there came in a dog to be groomed. Another dog was wearing the cone of shame around it’s neck. Another dog was limping. It looked like the walking wounded in that place. I just needed the medicine and I’d be out of there. But everyone had different needs for their pets. And, as our verse states, so it is among us. There is not just one prescription that fits all.
It is important to distinguish between unruly, fainthearted and weak. There are specific actions directed towards each one and if one mixes them up, just like getting the wrong medicine, disaster happens. The unruly, is rebellious. The word means out of step. They need to be admonished. If you encourage the unruly, off they go. But the fainthearted needs encouragement, not a warning. Mix that up and you’ll crush the fainthearted.
Just because someone doesn’t attend well, doesn’t tell us the reason. Is he weak? Is he sacred? Is he a rebel and defiant? Which is it? Guess wrong and you’ll make a mess. How does one know? Conversations, that’s where it must begin.
Let’s focus upon helping the weak. Weak is not a good place to be. A weak back. Weak tea. Weak knees. A weak heart. None of those are favorable. None of those are what a person wants. The reason a person is weak is obvious, they are not strong. A weak faith, is vulnerable to temptation, error and giving up. A weak faith won’t help much through the trials of life. A weak faith won’t drive out worry and fear. It’s much more than attendance, it’s a heart that is focusing upon the Lord. It’s walking with Jesus every day. It’s faith building. It’s connecting. It’s growing.
The concern that every dedicated disciple has is how do you get weak Christians stronger? Some thoughts:
First, many weak Christians would never see themselves as being weak. If a person took a sip of water and then took a sip of three-day old tea, he’d tell the difference. The tea is different than the water, but it’s very weak. And, as long as the weak maintain more connections with the world, they will seem a little different. Not much, just a little. And, that’s all it takes for them to believe that they are ok.
The words to the Ephesians were, “be strong,” and, “stand firm.” That’s not the weak. Getting them to see that there is so much more that they could be enjoying and experiencing is important. It’s like trying to ride a bike without the training wheels. Most of us had a parent guiding us as we wobbly pedaled down the street. They ran along side of us and eventually let go as we tried to maintain our balance. We crashed a time or two, but they were there to help us. We went through that routine over and over until we could safely ride without crashing. Someone was there to help us. That’s that the weak need. It’s not a spiritual spanking on Sunday. Guilting them doesn’t work. They need you to show them. They need you to guide them. They are not the ones who will read blogs, listen to podcasts, or come to special studies. You see the value. So, invite someone to join you in that. Help them. That’s the encouraging part.
Second, most weak Christians understand the need for Jesus, it’s just that other things tend to get in the way. School projects. Work. Family. This and that. It’s not that they don’t love Jesus, it’s that He’s simply not at the top of the list. They won’t drop all, stop all, give up all, for Jesus. If it’s convenient, they’ll be there. If nothing else much is going on, they will engage in spiritual activities. But where there are other things, spiritual matters get bumped lower on the list of priorities.
There are differing degrees of weakness. Some barely have their big toe in the water and they are already complaining. Others have a bit more spiritual life in them. Some are progressing. Some are going the other way. Weak is a term that can describe many levels of spiritual apathy, inactivity and lack of enthusiasm. One must be careful not to use too broad of a brush when generalizing about weak.
Helping the weak get their order in order is the key here. Mary and Martha. Martha was doing good. Mary was doing the best. Martha was serving. Mary was sitting. Martha was taking care of the belly. Mary was taking care of the soul. Often, most times, it’s not a matter of right and wrong, but of what is good and what is the best. Getting folks to see what is the best, is simply the best.
Third, weakness is not a permanent condition. One doesn’t have to be weak. Most of us started off new and fairly weak. That’s the way babies come into the world. But we grew. We got stronger. Painting a picture of what could be is something some never see. One day, you could teach a class. One day, you could be a greeter. One day you could be a deacon. One day, you could. So many struggles in the heart and in the home are resolved when one is strong in the Lord. There never is a debate in our house about should we go to worship or not? That’s already been decided. That’s an absolute. There are some things that are just off the table and do not need to even be discussed. Cuss in my house and I’ll kindly correct you. Do it again and I’ll show you the door. Don’t even try to bring booze into my house. Won’t happen. Those are things that have been decided when I decided to put Jesus first in my life. I was walking out a store the other day. I saw an older couple putting money into a lottery machine. They were buying tickets. Did I stop and stand in line behind them? Nope. What a waste. That issue has already been decided. Not for me.
The weak struggle with such things. They bounce in and out of the world and in and out of Christ. They haven’t made their minds up on some things. They could go either way. They need lessons. They need to learn. They need encouragement. They need to be strong. They need examples.
Help the weak. Don’t complain about them. Don’t give up on them. Don’t drive them away. Help them.