Every now and then I hear a message that is so biblical, yet so practical, that I wonder how I could have flounder for so long in such confusion. As a short introduction, I’ve recently been pondering the sovereignty of God, excited by the truth of the Bible, and yet dismayed by lack of transformation among many and ministerial carelessness that sometimes it allows. I shudder at the fatalism that such isolated knowledge can produce. Sometimes we know a lot about God, but others just don’t see His work in us.
The Bible is also clear about our personal responsibility: evangelism, family responsibility, submission to authority, etc. We cannot just cling to our “intentions” but be continually reformed by the Word of God so that we can be more Christ-like in our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Scott Ardavanis of Placerita Baptist Church spoke in Chapel today from 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, and I would add our responsibility to appropriately minister, or judiciously love others. No, I don’t mean we should be selective of who we love, but we should show it in appropriate ways. Pastors are not meant to blow away their people with their memorized Scripture or make them feel inadequate about their personal study, and the passage is in fact crystal clear about how all of us should interact with others:
“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.” (1Thessalonians 5:14-15 ESV)
1. Admonish the idle. No, don’t admonish the fainthearted. Admonish the idle. Who are the idle? Other synonyms are unruly, or disobedient. Their idleness, their wasting of their own lives is disobedience. Pastor Scott gave the example of a man who came in for counseling who, in short, refused to find a job that would cover the basic needs of his family. How many today are wasting away their time. Perhaps they don’t have families, but they don’t even keep themselves in the way of the Lord let alone lead another.
2. Encourage the fainthearted. These are the timid, scared, discouraged, worried, or literally “short of soul” people that we know. They are on the verge of giving up and need courage; they need hope. They need someone to come alongside and walk with them, to remind them that they can persevere and that God is faithful. They don’t need a rebuking for their lack of faith.
3. Help the weak. This can refer to weak in strength or in faith, as Paul had mentioned in Romans 15. These may be the frail, the new believers. These are the repentant, with whose lives they are trying to please the Lord but may seem legalistic in the pursuit, as they come to understand Scripture and how to live. We are responsible for helping them, not for leaving them on their own and especially not to speak unkindly to or about them. Rather we are to lovingly consider our own lives and be sure that there is nothing that might hinder them or provide a stumbling block, that they might grow.
And to them all, we are to demonstrate patience. If their lives demonstrate their growing in the knowledge and grace of the Lord, that they faithfully attend and submit to the preaching of the Word, then it is not our responsibility to make any of them change. We must be faithful to that which we are responsible. This is fellowship. This is one of the evidences of our difference from the world.