Action Steps for Living Out Your Faith
1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
1. Recognize the Context:
Previous context: 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11
Because the Thessalonians were “children of the light and day,” they were to conduct themselves accordingly. Those who “belonged to the night and darkness” lived as though they were asleep. Paul’s encouraged the Thessalonians to be awake and sober, meaning alert and self-controlled. The watchful expectancy of the Lord’s return should lead to living in a godly way.
In verse 7, Paul continued the sleep and nighttime imagery to describe the opposing lifestyle of the "other" (verse 6). He contrasted this with day imagery to describe the Thessalonians in verse 8.
In verses 8-9, Paul echoed chapter 1 and brought various themes full circle. He returned to the triad of faith, hope, and love (1:3), as essential to the life of a child of light. He also mentioned salvation in Christ (2:16) and being rescued from the coming wrath (1:10).
Verses 10-11 provide a summary and connect 5:1-11 with 4:13-18. Paul reminded them at Christ’s return, all believers will be united with him. The Thessalonians were again urged to encourage one another with these words, as indeed they were doing.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
Paul concluded many of his letters with a series of final instructions, and 1 Thessalonians was no different.
In verse 12, Paul encouraged the Thessalonian community to acknowledge or esteem their congregational leadership.
He used three participles to describe these church leaders.
1. They worked hard in their position of leadership.
2. They demonstrated care and concern for the church in the Lord.
3. They admonished the believers, meaning they encouraged and instructed.
Because of their leadership and hard work, Paul’s instruction was to hold these shepherds in high regard with love.
Paul then encouraged the Thessalonian community to live in peace with each other. He may have been referring to a specific situation, although this is a familiar exhortation in Paul's writings (Rom. 12:18, 14:19, 2 Cor. 13:11, Eph. 4:3, Col. 3:15).
In verse 14, Paul directed their attention to congregational life with one another. He listed five imperatives.
They were to
1. warn the idle and disruptive. Those in need of admonition were more than merely inactive, but they were also disorderly and undisciplined.
2. encourage the disheartened. They were to console those who were discouraged and despondent for whatever reason.
3. help the weak. The verb used for “help” here means “to hold fast to.” So, the strong were to cling to and support those who were weaker in the faith.
4. be patient with everyone. For Paul, patience was an essential fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23, also translated as "forbearance").
5. Verse 15 stated the imperative negatively, “make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong.” Then the positive alternative is listed, “but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (Rom. 12:17-21). This teaching is grounded in Jesus' teaching (Matt. 5:38-42, Luke 6:29-31).
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, pray for the leaders in your local faith community. Pray that these characteristics might identify them. Pray for their families as well.
Today, prayerfully consider the list of imperatives above. What do you need the Holy Spirit’s help with?
To do: (with the Holy Sprit's help)
How can you specifically demonstrate your love and high regard for the leadership God has placed in your life?
In light of the list of five imperatives above, what action steps can you take today, this week, this month?
How can you encourage others in your congregation to do the same?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the passages).
Read and study the verses listed above.
Use a concordance, website like biblegateway.com or Bible app to search for other verses on patience (also translated as "forbearance").