August 5, 2020
Thank you for praying with us today for our prodigals and for revival. Praying for others shows God’s love working in you. It is a demonstration that you really care.
As Paul closes his letter in 1 Thessalonians 5, he gives a fourfold cluster of pleas that go like this, “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone” (1 Thes. 5: 14).
The first plea is for them to warn the lazy ones. The word warn, in the original text, means to caution, to gently reprove, or to put in mind. Lazy people or as the KJV describes them, unruly people, are not concerned about the needs of the whole congregation but march to the drumbeat of their own desires. (It is a word used to describe those in a military drill who step out of line.) Behind this word is the idea of self-will and carelessness, which will lead one further and further away unless it’s corrected.
There are two dangers with laziness that I would like to highlight. One is that it requires others to do what the lazy person is not doing. This puts an extra load or burden on those who are already engaged, which in turn causes fatigue and weariness to the busy person. Secondly, it gives time for meddling and snooping into areas that aren’t one’s concern, and redirects focus from what is crucial and important—our relationship with God and others as we seek to share the good news about Jesus. People like this need to be carefully cautioned without being driven away.
His second plea is that they might encourage the timid ones. To encourage means to console or comfort. These timid ones are described in the ESV as feebleminded. It doesn’t mean they lack brain capacity, but that they tend to give up easily. They don’t need a warning, they need words of encouragement. They need a pick-me-up, someone to draw alongside, and say, “You are valued and what you are doing is really important. Thank you. Keep at it.” Maybe all of us come into this category once in a while, but mainly these are people who lack confidence in faith or in themselves. Paul did this with Timothy when he said, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6-7).
His third plea is that they might tenderly care for the weak. This is the idea of holding someone firmly. Don’t let the weak ones fall through the cracks. These people won’t always be in this condition of spiritual weakness, but when they are, they need true tenderness. As they struggle, they need help, they need to know they are not alone and that they will make it through. And there may come a time when the tragedies of life sap our own strength and we need others to hold us.
As I write about these different types of believers, I realize that there is a great need for discernment and wisdom. These are basic categories, but there are shades of these characteristics. We need to be aware of personalities, tendencies, and life circumstances. This can be a challenge in the present dilemma of COVID-19 isolation, but we need to try.
Sometimes we discover that we are the ones in need of reproof, encouragement, or strengthening by other believers. We all need to keep in mind the truth that we are a family. We are not isolated entities. We live in community and are dependent on one another for survival, growth, and spiritual prosperity.
His last plea in this verse is that they might have patience with everyone. This means to persevere, to endure, or to be long-spirited. Whether the person is one of the three mentioned; idle, timid, weak, or whether they are characterized in another way like bold, outgoing, strong, we need to have patience with each other, and in doing so, believers will have greater opportunity to thrive for the glory of God.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel