Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 11

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 11

Study Guide, April 7, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

Oftentimes when groups come to an end of a particular study that they have been walking through together they conclude with what are called some ‘Takeaways’. Those are particular points or principles that they can ‘take away’ from the study, and they serve as special things to remember and practice. Well, in our sojourning through the first letter of Thessalonians, as we come to the ending of the fifth chapter, it’s almost like the Apostle Paul concluded with a series of ‘takeaways’ for these believers in Thessalonica, and for all believers. Let’s explore.

1 Thess 5:12-15- “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” NASU

Remember, the Apostle Paul had just finished teaching them, and us, about the great prophetic revelations of the Rapture of the Church and the coming events of the Day of the Lord in the Tribulation Period to follow. And so, they were all amped-up…pumped up…excited about these wondrous days ahead. And we certainly ought to feel that way about the things to come. But in the meantime, Paul reminds them and us about how we are to deal with the everyday things that come each day. Again, it’s the ‘balance’ issue of properly preparing for what’s coming and properly practicing doing what’s right with what comes each day.

Notice how balanced is God’s counsel about things like our ‘interpersonal relationships’. Like in the church Paul basically calls for the body of believers of a local church to ‘encourage the Equippers’. We say ‘Equippers’ because in the letter to the Ephesians Paul referred to Pastor-Teachers and leaders, as in Elders, as those who ‘equip’ the saints to do their works of service. And it doesn’t refer to the age of the Equippers, as some may have been older, and it appears in Thessalonica, there may have been some that were younger as well, as in young ‘Equipper-snappers’! I just had to throw that in there… But the counsel to appreciate and esteem in love those who worked hard at teaching and guiding and leading and equipping the members of a local church was based upon the work and will of God that these leaders had committed themselves to do.

Biblical leaders want to serve God for God’s glory and the gain of God’s people. But to do so means that they will have to be ready to do battle against their culture and against the forces of evil. And that can take a toll on leaders in God’s army. That’s why they need the encouragements and the empowerments from the body of Christ to continue on in their fighting the good fight of faith for the sake of the King and for the sake of the good of the King’s sons and daughters.

And, of course, the Chapel family has been exemplary in carrying out 1 Thess. 5:12 and 13! I’m sure the Apostle Paul would give a ‘shout out’ of ‘well done’ to the saints of Emerald Isle Chapel By The Sea on how the members have encouraged and supported the leadership team here throughout its ministry. Thank you very much Chapel family!

Now, note again how orderly God is and how orderly He calls His family to be, or we could say, His soldiers to be. And why do we say ‘Soldiers’? Look again: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” The Greek word used here of ‘unruly’ was often used as a military term that referred to a soldier that was being insubordinate and disruptive to the mission of the army. That’s really interesting because Paul frequently reminded the church of the necessity of connecting everything they did and were doing to the overall objective, or objectives of the church. In other words, every church body, every local church body of believers, was to always be aligning their plans and their practices with their overall purpose of why they were a local church body of believers in the first place!

In other…other words…the very reason that the church exists at all is to be the driving factor that directs all that the church does, after all! The reason every local church exists at all is to ‘exalt’ the King and Kings and the Lord of all! And we exalt the Lord of all by carrying out His purposes for us all…which is to seek to save the lost, to build up the saved, and to work for doing His will on Earth as it is done in Heaven. Again, remember, the mission always defines and directs the ministry. So all of these admonitions are so that the soldiers of the Cross will better focus on their mission and better serve together as fellow soldiers.

And then we have what can be called ‘The Trinity of a Triumphant Attitude’. Let’s take a look. 1 Thess 5:16-18- “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” NASU There we have it…three actions that produce a triumphant attitude in the mind and life of a disciple of Christ’s. And the first is also a fun Bible Trivia answer to the question of ‘What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” And nearly everyone answers with “Jesus wept.”, from John 11:35. And rightly so, in English. However, in the Greek there is an even shorter verse than “Jesus wept.” For in the Greek ‘Jesus wept’ contains 16 letters. But in 1 Thess. 5:16 there are two Greeks words that contain only 14 letters, and it’s “Rejoice always.”

But how in the world can we ‘rejoice always’ when there are so many things in our circumstances, things in our world, things in others, and even things in ourselves that provoke us to fussing and fuming rather than rejoicing? Some may recall that wacky song that Buck Owens and Roy Clark sang on the TV show Hee-Haw some years ago. It went: “Gloom, despair, and agony on me; deep, dark depression, excessive misery…if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all, gloom, despair, and agony on me.” Remember that? That’s funny, but strangely reasonable, if we’re only looking to rejoice in the things of this world.

But in order to ‘Rejoice always’ you have to know the secret to rejoicing. And the secret to rejoicing always is what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Phil 4:4-5 NASU The words “in Christ” are used 90 times throughout the New Testament! Why? Because Christ is the source and the solution to living out our lives in succeeding in all the ways and in all the things in which God calls for us to succeed, in both our attitudes and our actions. And the only way we can succeed in having a Christ-like attitude is to choose to rejoice not in our circumstances, not in the things of this world, not in others, and not even in ourselves…but to rejoice in the Lord…rejoice in Christ – always! Rejoice in Christ’s salvation for you…as we also remember in the Lord’s Supper here soon, rejoice in Christ’s attributes, rejoice in Christ’s creation, rejoice in Christ’s coming Kingdom, rejoice in Christ’s plans for you and His pleasure upon you…rejoice in His perfect sacrifice for you to save you from your sins, rejoice in His perfect life of sinless obedience for you to credit you with His righteousness, rejoice in His rejoicing over you in watching you practice obeying His commandments and seeking to do His will, and so on. Everything you need in order to ‘rejoice always’ is all found in Christ and therefore, rejoice always…rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice!

The second practice of the Trinity of a Triumphant Attitude is: ‘Pray without ceasing.’ One little guy thought it was ‘pray without sneezing’…but that seemed kind of odd to be a commandment from God…like God was saying… ‘Okay, wait till you’re all done sneezing, and then try your prayer again.’ No, to pray without ceasing means that we are to develop the kind of attitude where prayer is simply a consistent part of our attitude. In other words, we get to a place in our walk with Christ where we include Christ in every part of our walk. Leave everything else out of every part of your life before you leave Christ out of any part in your life. Remember, in order to live like Christ, you have got to walk with Christ. And in order to walk with Christ, you have got to talk with Christ…which is to include Christ in your plans, in your hopes, in your dreams, and so on.

Remember, one of the reasons Christ saved you was to share His life with you. That means in return, we are to share our life with Christ. Share your cares, share your concerns, share your joys, share your sorrows, share your thoughts…which is basically sharing your prayers…which is essentially praying without ceasing!’

And as you do so, be sure and do so with the third part of having a triumphant attitude: “In everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now, this one kind of throws some Christians for a loop here, until they realize what God is NOT saying. God is NOT saying ‘For everything, give thanks…’ Of course God isn’t saying give thanks for pains and for sufferings and for sorrows and struggles and problems and problem people, and so on. That’s neither a right nor a righteous attitude towards the tribulations of this world. Instead, God IS saying that it is both right and righteous to give thanks IN everything…or IN the MIDST of everything.

And how can we give thanks in the midst of everything? Because in the midst of everything is a provision for everything that enables us to deal with anything with a triumphant attitude and certainty of victory. Paul discovered it in the midst of his severe trials that he was going through, for God revealed to him… 2 Cor 12:6- “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” NASU In the midst of anything you are going through or will ever go through will be a power supplied to you that is called ‘sufficient grace’. And it means that there will not be anything that comes to you that God and you cannot handle through the ‘sufficient grace’ that God is supplying for you. And that’s enough right there for us to be able to ‘give thanks’ for God’s sufficient grace in everything.

So there we have it, this ‘Trinity of a Triumphant Attitude’. Plus, this triumphant attitude takes on even more urgency when we realize just how important it is to practice these virtues of ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks’…because what? Because, as Paul reveals… ‘Because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus!’ Whoa! Now this attitude has just moved from ‘optional’ to ‘essential’! How about that? God not only has a plan for our actions…He also has a plan for our attitude. And when we begin our obedience with our attitude, we will discover that we will be much more inclined and inspired and enabled to carry out our obedience in our actions! Does God know us or what?! Of course, He created us, and therefore He knows what is best for both our actions and our attitude. So do a daily attitude adjustment with the Lord even before you head out to do your duty for the Lord.

And for a wrap-up, check out these final takeaways from 1 Thess 5:19-28- “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” NASU

It could take several studies just to unpack this part, but let’s just take away a few. Another way to think of how not to ‘quench the Spirit’ is to not interfere with what God the Holy Spirit is trying to do in and through our lives. Remember Paul said we are to daily be ‘being filled’ with the Spirit. For it is through this filling of the Spirit that the Spirit produces spiritual fruit which then enables us to spiritually grow and carry out the work of the Spirit through us. Remember, it’s as Spurgeon reminded us: “We are all leaky vessels. The only way to stay filled is to stay under the tap of the Holy Spirit.” Makes good sense!

As for despising prophetic utterances, the ERV states it: “Don’t treat prophecy like something that is not important.” The prophecy here relates not only to the things the prophets foretold to people to know, but also is related to the things the prophets told for the people to do. It’s similar to Jame’s declaration in James 1:22- “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” NASU Certainly it’s important to hear, but it’s even more important to ‘do’…to act upon what God has enabled us to hear. Remember, people may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do. The world may doubt what you say you believe, but they will believe what you do about what you say you believe. And when others see you doing what God says in His Word, the Spirit of God uses what you do to make a powerful impact upon a watching world around you. Plus, the hearing of God’s Word changes our minds, but it’s the doing of God’s Word that transforms our character. And many who do not ‘do’ God’s Word, but merely hear God’s Word, remain deluded instead of discipled. Their minds become changed, but they remain stuck in their old character. Remember, it is in the ‘doing of God’s Word’ that God then does His work in transforming you more and more into the character and likeness of Christ, along with all the fruit that is then grown through you. So yeah…just do it…just do the Word after you hear the Word and learn the Word!

Well, one thing about the Scriptures, like gold in the ground, there’s always more to dig up and enjoy. So we’ll wrap up our sojourning through 1 Thessalonians with Paul’s benediction of: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”