15 May 2007

1st Thessalonians 5:12-15

Technology can be a good thing. It can help authorities track down criminals. It can help doctors do their jobs better. It can help you start your car from the comfort of your kitchen. It can help people spread information faster than ever. Sometimes that last one isn’t so good. Take e-mail for example. You can learn some amazing things if you believe everything you get in an e-mail. For example:

I must send my thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing. Also, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.

I no longer eat at KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.

Thanks to you, I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.

With this boom in technology, there are many more ways to get information. Not all of them are dependable. But you can rest assured, no matter how far technology advances, there is one book that you can open, and every time you read it, you can know that what you are reading is the truth.

Even still, it’s one thing to pick up a Bible and start reading. We need people to explain certain passages that may be difficult to understand. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul says that Jesus gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. It would be foolish of me—and dead wrong—to say that everything I know about the Bible I learned on my own. I got my very first Bible when I was 9 years old, from my first Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Chamberlain. Although she didn’t lead me to Christ, she planted a seed about knowing GOD, trusting His word. She didn’t tell us a lot about salvation, but I am forever in her debt for teaching me what she did.

In 1st Thessalonians 5:12-15, Paul tells us how we are to think about our teachers and preachers, and also how to be an example for others.

We see that first, Paul teaches us to APPRECIATE OUR TEACHERS.
Verses 12-13.
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

It would be real easy for a preacher—like me—to read way too much into these verses, and to get a bigger idea of one’s self than they should. “See there?? You need to respect meeee. (Make sure you get my good side!!)” But when you have a preacher that humbles himself before GOD, and preaches, not for other people to say what a “great man of GOD” he is, or to impress people with their great knowledge of deeply spiritual things, but so that the Word of GOD is glorified, that is the man that Paul is talking about here.

Hebrews 13:7, 17—Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith...Obey your leaders and submit {to them,} for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

When he talks about those “who labor among you and are over you in the Lord”, he’s talking about pastors who toil and labor, digging into the Word to search out what GOD would have them to speak to those whom he pastors, that, as it says in Ephesians 4:29, impart grace to the hearer.

I could give you many examples of those who preach in order to boost their bank accounts. You can turn on the TV or the radio and find any number of them at most any hour of the day. But what the writer of Hebrews, and the apostle Paul here, are saying is, to consider those who are true shepherds, who put the teaching and leading of their flock above any monetary gain, or popularity. Here’s a little test: watch one of these guys—or women—that have these huge congregations, and have all the people shouting “Amen, Amen!!” Count how many times they talk about sin and repentance. You see, “Go forth and sin no more” doesn’t get many people real happy. And preaching a message like 1st Timothy 6:9—But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare... that don’t get a lot of people excited.

One of the things I have learned from Pastor Phil is to interpret Scripture by the Scriptures. In other words, if a passage or verse is giving you trouble; find out what other parts of the Bible say about it. And when looking at this passage, about giving respect to those who “labor among you”, it’s important that those who do labor remember these verses:

Acts 20:28—“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
1st Peter 5:2-3—Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly-not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve GOD; don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example.


GOD forbid I should ever think of this pulpit as a way to boost my ego. Sometimes when I get up here, it can be scary. And I'll tell ya, sometimes when I’m done, I'll think to myself, “did I forget something? Was I right when I talked about...whatever?”

There’ve been times when I’ve gotten to a part of my notes and had to make a decision as to whether or not to include that part in what I say. And when I read this passage, verses 12-13, I thought, “how am I gonna do this without sounding like I’m bragging?” But the way I look at it, being a preacher is not something to brag on one’s self about. It’s something that should really keep one humble.

And I will say right now, that I am so glad that GOD chose people like Betty Chamberlain, and Phil Jones, to lead me in my learning about His Word. But most of all, I thank Him for His Holy Spirit, who gives me the wisdom to understand the tough stuff when I’ve exhausted every other avenue of trying to figure out with my puny human mind, just what He’s saying in His good and perfect Word.

Next, he says, ATTEND TO OTHERS’ NEEDS.
Verse 14.
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

The first thing is to WARN THOSE WHO ARE UNRULY. He’s not talking about people standing up and shouting in the middle of service. That word “unruly” also means “insubordinate”, as in one who does not submit themselves to the Word of GOD. Now, don’t get me wrong. There will always be differences on how different people interpret different passages. The only three that are in complete agreement on every word in the Bible are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Other than those three, you ain't gonna find any two people that agree on every single point of Scripture. But there are some things that are too important to let slide.

For example, look at the Episcopal Church. They decided to go against what the Bible clearly commands, and elected a homosexual to be their presiding bishop. That one action has caused a bigger church fuss than I think anybody has ever seen. Why? Because a bunch of people took it upon themselves to inject their own will into the body of Christ. This is what Paul means by “unruly”, or “insubordinate”.

Next, he commands us to COMFORT THE FAINT-HEARTED. Think back to the story of David and Goliath. Listen to what the Bible says about the armies of Israel when they saw Goliath:

2nd Samuel 17:10-11, 24—And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid… And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.

These were men who had been trained for battle. They had probably seen a war or two. But here was this man who, according to the Scriptures, was better than 9 feet tall. His bronze breastplate weighed better than 125 pounds. The bronze head of his spear weighed fifteen pounds. The man was, to say the least, BIG!! And the armies of Israel were, to say the least, faint-hearted.

The story is told so many times that it is almost a cliché. But how many times do we hear about someone who is standing before their own Goliath. And when they do, we need to be David. We need to come along, and remind that brother or sister that the battle does indeed belong to the LORD, and we need to show them how to bring down that giant in their lives. But as David told King Saul in 2nd Samuel 17:32, “Let no man’s heart fail because of [Goliath]; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” In other words, we put on the armor of GOD, and we stand with our brother or sister, and we fight against the “…principalities, and powers and rulers of the darkness of this age, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”

Warn the unruly, comfort the faint-hearted, UPHOLD THE WEAK. There’s a difference between being weak, and being faint-hearted. Some of those soldiers that wouldn’t fight Goliath weren’t necessarily weak, just afraid. However, there are, in the church, those that aren’t as strong in their faith as some others. That’s why Paul tells us in Romans 15:1-2—We…who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

“Uphold the weak”. That word “uphold”, means more than to just hold their hand, pat them on the back and say “there, there”. It means “to face someone, and hold to them firmly”. It’s the same word Paul uses in Titus 1:9, talking about how pastors ought to [hold] fast the faithful word as he has been taught… It’s a word that conveys a sense of closeness. That tells us, in this verse, that we aren’t to minister to others from a distance, but we should meet people, right where they are, right where their needs are at. There’s no such thing as a drive-by ministry.

Then, we are to BE PATIENT WITH ALL. Many verses in the Bible tell us to exercise patience. By the same token we are warned about the trouble that being hasty can cause.
James 1:19--…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…
Proverbs 14:19—A patient man has great understanding, but he that is hasty in spirit displays folly.
In warning, comforting, and supporting, sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen. So many times we think we know the answer before we hear the question. Somebody starts talking about something they’re going through, and before they can finish what they’re saying, we just jump right in feet first. But Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth [it], it [is] folly and shame unto him.” You’ve got to listen to what the person is saying. You’ve got to hear the whole situation before we open our mouths. We’re going to run into people who try our patience. And there will be many times when that patience wears thin. But we need to remember how patient GOD was with us, that He allowed us as much time as He did, so that we didn’t die before we came to know Christ as our Savior.

I could go on and on with verses that talk about the value of patience.
James 1:3--...knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
Romans 2:5-7 says that GOD …will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life…

And if you recall, in 1st Thessalonians chapter 1, Paul said We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ… I think it’s interesting that Paul ends verse 13 by saying “Be at peace among yourselves”, and he ends this verse by saying be patient with all.

Finally, after Paul teaches us to appreciate our teachers, and to attend to others’ needs, he tells us to AVOID FAMILY SQUABBLES.
Verse 15.
See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

You’ll be talking with somebody, and they’ll be telling you about what so-and-so did to them last week. “They wronged me. But that’s OK, I'll take care of them.” If you hear someone talking like that, get them started down a different road. If someone commits a sin that hurts someone else, they didn’t sin against THAT PERSON, they sinned against GOD. And it’s not up to us to carry out GOD’s justice on that sin. It’s up to GOD. I like what Pastor Phil says, “You’re not letting them off the hook, you're putting them on GOD’s hook.”
Leviticus 19:18--You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Proverbs 24:29—Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
Matthew 5:38-39
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

What happens when we start playing the “get even game”? Pretty soon it spreads to other people, and then those people take sides, and they start arguing with each other. Next thing you know there’s a full-blown feud. That big huge feud that started from a little spark grew because of pride. Because someone decided to pay evil for evil. We should instead follow that which is good, saying, “You know what, Christ suffered worse than this. I’m just gonna let it slide.”

If someone comes into a church from off the street, and they see a bunch of bitter, arguing people, are they gonna want to stick around? But if they walk in and see people who can put differences behind them, and go forward with the work which GOD has for them to do, and that person feels welcomed into that body, that’s when Christ is glorified. Because, you see, Christ does all these things for those who believe. He will reward those who teach His word. He will tell us to “go and sin no more.” He will comfort the faint-hearted, and uphold the weak, and believe you me, He is patient with all. I'll leave you with these lyrics from Third Day:

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on
They lost all of their faith in love
They've done all they can to make it right again
Still it's not enough

For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains
You try to give up but you come back again
Just remember that you're not alone in your shame
And your suffering

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

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