I have a set of dishes that I brought back from Germany with me that I only use on very special occasions. The dishes were pretty expensive and, I think, beautiful, but I use them maybe three times a year. Most of the time they sit in a cabinet and collect dust. When I do bring them out, I worry about breaking a piece. Now, the dishes my family uses everyday aren’t nearly as pretty or expensive, but they can take the everyday knocking around of being used and washed and such. Which set of dishes are the most useful? Are they any less useful if they get chipped or dinged? No, not really, they just keep doing what they were made to do, dings and chips and all.
God’s not looking for fancy, fragile dishes that He can only use once in a while,
“He’s looking for rough-and-tumble clay pots—the kind that can be used everyday. He’s looking for the kind of pots that don’t need to be tucked away in a china closet, but can be sent out into a crash-bang world, carrying within them the life of Christ. The church was never meant to be a china cabinet, where precious pieces could be safely stowed out of harm’s way. The church was meant to be a working kitchen, where well-worn pots are filled again and again to dispense their life-giving contents to a thirsty world.”1
Being a Christian isn’t a spectator sport; there aren’t even any bench-warmers. We may not realize it, but even within our own church families, we all have things to do.
“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. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a mom or dad giving their kids of list of things to remember to do while they are away, doesn’t it? This is Paul’s list of reminders to his little church in Thessalonica—the one with which he only got to spend three weeks. He’s not talking to them about spreading the gospel; he’s reminding them how they should treat each other inside the church.
I think sometimes we forget that we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in the church and, because of that, our ultimate mission of telling the world the truth about Jesus suffers.
So, the first thing that Paul reminds us to do is to appreciate our leadership. (Ah, no eye-rolling!) Paul didn’t say we were exempt from “esteem[ing] them very highly in love” only if we thought they were doing a good job, if we agree with them, or if we liked them as individuals. He said “for their work’s sake”—just because they are our leaders.
What do you think that means? Well, I think it certainly means that we pray for our leaders, but I also think it means that we don’t complain about them to each other. That can be hard sometimes, can’t it?
Paul’s not done yet. He reminds us to “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”
So, is this the time to sit with our friends and “discuss” those folks who seem to be struggling? “Did you see those kids running up and down the hallways during potluck? Disgraceful!” Is this the time to tell those folks just how they should be doing things?
I think we’ve all had the experience of having someone come up to us in the middle of our difficult moment and tell us just how we should be doing things. It wasn’t very helpful, was it? And, it didn’t bring us any closer to the person who was giving the instructions, did it? In fact, we probably still have a little hard place in our hearts for that person and his or her lack of empathy.
Our job isn’t to get mad at, gossip about, or give a piece of our minds to struggling Christians. Paul tells us to gently educate the folks who seem to be out of line and to help the people who are “weak” or “fainthearted” to be stronger so they can eventually stand on their own.
Some might call that being a mentor or a coach, but it might be just being brothers and sisters in Jesus – just treating each other like Jesus treated people when He was here.
Now, even if we’re not actively involved in leading or mentoring or coaching at the moment, we can still have instructions from Paul to follow: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.”
I love those verses! Have you ever noticed how just doing those three things can turn your whole day around? I remember when I flew home from Germany for the last time. I had a sixteen-month=old and I was eight months pregnant. We were moving back to Texas, but I had to fly home a couple of months ahead of time, so I was by myself. The morning in June when I flew out of Germany, there was frost on the ground. When I got off the plane in Dallas, it was 102 degrees. It had been a 12-hour flight. My mom and my aunt met me in Dallas and then drove me home to San Antonio (Yes, I could have flown, but I refused to get on another plane—I was eight months pregnant. Give me a break!).
We piled everything in my aunt’s van and headed for home…another six hours away. I was exhausted; my son was way past exhausted and tired of being contained in a car-seat. I thought we’d never make it. And then something amazing happened. My mom and aunt began to sing hymns—every hymn they knew. Pretty soon I was singing along, and we were home before we knew it. The trip wasn’t a burden any more. It was a wonderful time of praise to our Savior. Rejoicing, praying and giving thanks are a powerful mix.
“[As a child] Jesus carried into His labor cheerfulness and tact. … Often He expressed the gladness of His heart by singing psalms and heavenly songs. Often the dwellers in Nazareth heard His voice raised in praise and thanksgiving to God. He held communion with heaven in song; and as His companions complained of weariness from labor, they were cheered by the sweet melody from His lips. His praise seemed to banish the evil angels, and, like incense, fill the place with fragrance. The minds of His hearers were carried away from their earthly exile, to the heavenly home.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 73.)
I want to be like Jesus and be a blessing to others, don’t you?
- Bryan Wilkerson, “Unbreakable?” PreachingToday.com ↩