As you spend time with your family this Thanksgiving, perhaps you will play a board game. But have you ever played a new game without reading all the instructions? I know I have, and it never turns out well for anyone. We are all left frustrated and confused, irritated and on edge. When someone does read the instructions and explains them to the group, everything is a lot more peaceful and quieter.
Paul wraps up his first letter to the Thessalonians by giving some final instructions, and it is important that we read ALL of them. Here, like in several other letters to churches, he emphasizes the group over the individual. The first component is to simply “acknowledge” those who serve (v. 12). Sadly, many church workers are easily overlooked. While everyone knows the preacher or the musicians, there are many others in the church whose work goes unrecognized. Paul wants his readers to “hold them in the highest regard” because of the work they do on behalf of the church (v. 13). They are not seeking praise, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t show them appreciation.
Paul urges the body to come to one another’s aid when people become idle or tired (v. 14). Believers shouldn’t condemn one another with a critical spirit and harsh tongue, nor should they merely give half-thought suggestions. Rather, Paul implores believers to give serious advice with a comforting tone and patient heart (v. 14). His final piece of corporate advice to the body is for them not to seek revenge. Instead, believers are to “always strive to do what is good for each other” (v. 15). Churches will find peace when people are appreciated, selfishness is abandoned, and servanthood is adopted.
>> After reading all of Paul’s final instructions to the Thessalonians, which one hits home with you? How can you put into practice Paul’s teaching and training?
It takes vigilance to see who is disheartened, who is merely idle, and who serves behind the scenes. Lord, give us this outward focus, so that we can live up to Paul’s instructions to hold others in the highest regard.