Thessalonians 5:14-15 (NKJV)
"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."
Intro: It seems that sheep were a big topic in the 5th chapter of 1 Thessalonians. The concept of sheep and a shepherd and their relationship was an easy application for the Jew or the Christian to relate too. This illustration of the sheep and their need for a shepherd is still very easy to apply today.
Could a church really love, can it be genuine, I mean don’t pretend, hate what is wrong and hold tightly to what is good. Could this really happen – Paul thoughts so! “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9
The closest any church has come to being what the Lord desires is the apostolic church in the book of Acts. Concerning the church’s condition in the days and weeks following the dramatic events of Pentecost, Luke made these observations: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
An issue that has not changed through the pages of history and God’s desire for His sheep to truly experience “Spiritually” is growth. In our text today Paul identifies five types of struggling sheep that the healthy sheep needed to deal with: the wayward, who needed to get back in line; the worried, who needed to have more courage, faith, boldness, and confidence; the weak, who needed to be more disciplined in holiness; the wearisome, who needed to keep pace in obedience; and the wicked, who needed to behave righteously. The church’s lack of spiritual progress is usually due to the sinful behavior of people in those problem categories, and Paul earnestly desired that the Thessalonians know how to adequately deal with those in each category, as necessary.
1. Dealing with Wayward Sheep: Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly.
We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Urge means “to come alongside” and carries the idea of providing help to someone. The spiritually healthy believers need to get involved in helping the needy. Yes this is also the shepherd’s responsibility for troublesome sheep within the church. The unruly or wayward are those who are passive and shirk their duties. A word that we can all relate to is lazy. This can also mean, having an actively rebellious attitude. It is someone in the church who was out of step with the direction everyone else was headed. It is the one who doesn’t serve the church with their spiritual gifts or except there part of the body of Christ. Such people, if not dealt with, tend to become bitter. They can become criticizing bench-warmers and eventually rebels who undermine church leadership to justify their disobedience. Obviously this is divisive. The Shepherd or healthy believer warns this sheep, alerts them of their conduct. It does not mean being judgmental or critical in a superior manner. Rather, it is the caring kind of warning.
2. Dealing with Worried Sheep: “Comfort the fainthearted.”
The second group of spiritually needy sheep Paul identified was the fainthearted, literally the “small souled” huddled in the middle and afraid to get near the edge. There are those in the church who are bold and courageous, unafraid of persecution or difficulty, and willing to put their lives on the line for a noble cause or principle of truth. In contrast, the fainthearted lack the boldness to accept a challenging new ministry, fear change and the unknown, and want a risk-free ministry that is traditional, safe, and absolutely secure. That is the average church today, small souled. I do not want to be a pastor or shepherd of a small souled church! My soul reaches out to you today asking for your help, your support and your willingness to break the chains of complacency and faintheartedness and let’s be wild sheep! for Christ sake. Some of the Thessalonians were fainthearted because they did not deal well with persecution; apparently they had not understood or were unwilling to heed Paul’s call for bold evangelism, fearing it might lead to suffering.
“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)
I will make it simple: The confident sheep should encourage the worried sheep. Be a discipler, be a teacher. Just a thought, rejoice in the Lord and share that joy and that confidence with the joyless, timid one. We can win the worried through the word!
3. Dealing with Weak Sheep: “Uphold the weak.”
The weak could be those who are fragile in faith, plagued by doubts. Their faith may not be strong enough to enjoy their freedom in Jesus Christ. Let me be very transparent, there are many here today that have allowed the slavery of sin to keep them from really being free in Christ! The Bible reminds us: “You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world?” “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:14-15
The morally and spiritually weak one is to call the spiritually strong elders to come and intercede for him, and whatever sin has caused the weakness, they encourage him to repent of that sin. The weak are always obstacles and stumbling blocks to growth and power in the church. Paul urged those Thessalonians who were strong to help the weak. Let us who are strong, come alongside the weak, pray for the weak, develop a relationship. Love all sheep.
4. Dealing with Wearisome Sheep: “Be patient with all.”
It is easy for healthy sheep to become frustrated, angry, or discouraged with some of the chronic problem sheep (We might even have in our mind these are the w-h-i-n-n-e-r-s!) It is always disappointing in a discipling relationship when a mature believer has taught, trained, strengthened, and encouraged a less mature believer, only to have that person manifest little commitment to Christ or evidence of spiritual growth. Some in Thessalonica had heard the truth from Paul and other teachers and had numerous opportunities to apply it, but their spiritual progress was minor. As a result, Paul encouraged the congregation to be patient with everyone.
Illustration: Plant attention. Some demand constant attention and others don’t.
Understanding the challenge that Jesus Himself had with twelve men, don’t you think there will be challenges the church will have also? Be patient! Maybe I am telling you this, but I need to hear it too. Can you hear the words from the Lord Himself when He says: "Men of little faith."
The Thessalonians were to have endless patience with the wearisome sheep, even as God has great patience with all His sheep. Do you remember a conversation Jesus had with a particular disciple? “Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
Believers ought to extend patience and forgiveness unendingly to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
5. Dealing with Wicked Sheep: “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”
For Christians, the severest, most painful disappointments come not from the wickedness of the unbelieving world but from other sheep within the church. Sheep are definitely capable of harming other sheep, sinning against them in a variety of ways, such as attacking them with wicked words: “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” That includes gossip and slander.
The apostle Paul instructed the Thessalonians on how to respond to such wickedness from others in the church: see that no one repays another with evil for evil. At some point, disobedient sheep had done evil to the obedient ones. No one should repay with evil. There is absolutely no place among Christians for retaliation or personal vengeance. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
We must always seek what is good: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Respond to hostility with genuine acts of love.
So a healthy flock is characterized by growth in faith, love, and purity, and progress toward the likeness of Christ. But spiritually needy and problem sheep within the flock can and do hinder its growth. That means the healthy sheep must lovingly, patiently, but truthfully deal with the difficult sheep to remove sinful obstacles and ensure real growth. The key is not finding some clever strategy to bypass the troubles, but addressing the issues directly, as shepherds and sheep alike admonish the wayward, encourage the worried, uphold the weak, bear with the wearisome, and render goodness to the wicked.
In : Sermon
Tags: "don't be confused series"
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