Chapter 5: 12-22
“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.”
Last week we looked at the idea of taking care of those that labor among us as churches. I saw a post on FB from one of my dear friends who is also a pastor, and he pointed out that the only person in a church that does not have a pastor is the pastor. All too often, the pastor is required to carry the burdens of the people he ministers to, his family, and himself; he has no one to turn to.
I speak from experience, and it can get a bit lonely at times. I recall the very first day that I was in seminary. We had an assembly; there were 52 men in that assembly, and the president of the school had us stand and look to the left and the right. He made the comment that the person standing there would not be here at graduation. He was right; of the 52, there is just a handful of us that are still in the ministry and pastoring. Some of the men did not even last until the end of the first semester.
The burnout rate among pastors is very high, and I do not know about other church groups, but there are fewer and fewer young men willing to surrender to the ministry in our little association. I speak to a lot of young women who make it clear that they are not going to marry preachers. If you have a good pastor, praise him, thank him, thank God for him, support him and his family, and cherish them.
We also talked about the importance of peace among the Lord’s people and in the Lord’s churches. This does not mean that we do not face tough decisions and situations. Rather, we face these in the right mode, the right spirit, and seek to lift up the Lord and His people at all times. Peace requires strength. Peace requires tenacity, and it takes work. Chaos can take over at any time. Peace takes spiritual discipline; it takes humility, and it requires sacrifice on each of our parts. Today we will focus more on verse 14 and dissect it so we can put it into practice.
- Warn the Unruly
The word ‘unruly’ refers to those that are out of order. In military terms, according to the Guzik commentary, it refers to a soldier who has broken ranks and is marching out of step with the rest. This is a self-willed person; he or she demands that their preferences be done. They want to interject their opinions even when it is in opposition to the word of God. We, the leaders especially, are called to warn these folks that they are making bad choices. Often these folks leave or threaten to leave, and we panic. This is especially true in smaller churches; we are afraid to lose even one. But if they are out of step with the clearly spoken Word of God, we are required to warn them that they are wrong and that God will not tolerate their divisive behavior.
Sadly, these types of folks run from church to church causing havoc, and no one stops them. I have seen this time and time again. If people turn up to your church and want to be members, find out where they were before and make a phone call. It may confirm that they have just moved and are looking for a good church, or it may save you a world of trouble. They are out of fellowship with their last church, and rather than be humble, they repent and get right; they have just run to your church to repeat the dangerous pattern. Do not take them; warn them and send them back to get right with the last group.
- Comfort the Fainthearted
The word here is ‘small souled.’ They tend to be timid, lack courage, and need constant comfort. Now, the idea is not to comfort them in their faintheartedness but to comfort them into being stronger and braver in the Kingdom of God – stepping out of their comfort zone, maybe as a greeter or someone to make sure that all the bulletins are handed out if you still do that. Maybe they can take up the offering; the idea is to get them into situations where they can expand their souls and God can grow them. Many have come through and come from painful situations; they are acquainted with failure, hurt, and being put down. They become timid and would rather not even try. We are to help, comfort, and lead them to service. They are children of God as well, and God can use them if we help them to be useful.
- Uphold the Weak
These tend to lapse into sinful temptations. We all sin. 1 John 1:8-9 reminds us of this fact. We sin. But some will fall into temptations that can take them away and cause them to fail. Don’t write people off; uphold them. In 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8, we are called to learn how to possess our ‘vessel,’ our bodies. This is the idea of spiritual discipline. We are not to be given over to lust or to deal fraudulently with a brother. We are called to live clean in these verses. When we see a brother or sister who has failed, lift them up, hold them, help them; one day, you will need them to help you. Call out the sin, uphold the sinner; do both lovingly with the intent to gain and restore, not to destroy and cast aside.
- Be patient with All
Man, this is hard. Let us be honest; patience is not our thing. At least for most of us. I am not a patient person in many cases, okay to be honest in most cases. However, we expect God and all of mankind to be patient with us. We are to be patient with the unruly, the fainthearted, and the weak. We are to lovingly and carefully encourage them and nurture them in Jesus and for Jesus. We are to be gentle and kind, merciful and gracious as we would have God be with us. There are no perfect people to minister to. None!
Right up to the very night before the crucifixion, the apostles and many others there with them were timid and unruly; weak and all, not just Peter, forsook Jesus. Thomas doubted, and as for Peter, he went back to fishing in John 21. He gave up, and many of the apostles followed him. BUT… Jesus; He came and gently encouraged Peter to come back (John 21). He made him breakfast (verse 12), performed a miracle with a huge load of fish (verse 6), and took him as he was able to begin again (verses 15-19). Jesus was patient with these men, and they went on to change the world. Without these men, most likely, you and I would not have heard the Gospel.
Take a look at the commands; warn, comfort, uphold and be; these are action words. God is telling us that they are things that we have to do in the Kingdom. There are things and, more specifically, people that we are responsible for in our local churches. We need to be involved and invested in the people that God sends our way. We need to be hands-on in our churches, helping and serving. The pastor cannot do all of this on his own. This also means we have to form relationships and let people in. We have to become disciple-makers and be wholly invested in our brothers and sisters. These kinds of efforts stop or diminish the back-biting and division that plagues all too many churches.
When we understand that the highest calling in the Kingdom of Heaven is to be servants, then we can make progress and truly lift, hold, and carry each other when needed. Let us be determined to do church better. This is how we hold on to what is good. This is how we make good churches and good families that lift up Jesus and make Him the focus of this life.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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