Summary: how each of us should operate in the body of Christ, how to contribute to our community, some guidelines set forth by Paul in achieving great things for God in the local church
Intro: since we have been preaching community for weeks, I had this thought during the city fireworks for the fourth of July celebration, this took a community effort for this night to happen. From the Mayor to councilmen, to chamber of commerce, to the law enforcement, to the community clubs, social services, etc. It takes everyone functioning for our community to work. The same is true of the Community of God, the Church of Jesus Christ, we must all function properly for the community to be a blessing. You find a church that isn’t functioning well, it goes from being a blessing to a curse, or a no factor in reaching the lost. For a few weeks, we will minister on the theme: Functioning in the Community of Faith
I Thessalonians 5:11-28 will be our verses for our messages.
Background: Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica two times to help them with their mis-understanding of the rapture of the church. Evidently many thought they didn’t have to do anything but stare up in the sky and wait for the rapture to take place, or many thought it had already happened and didn’t know what to do next. Paul corrects these misunderstandings. To finish things off, he concludes with a list of encouragements on functioning properly in the body of Christ. Let’s examine these encouragements one by one.
v.11a- encourage one another–the church is always short in the area of encouragers. There are plenty of critics, there are always some complainers, but never an over abundance of encouragers. Paul gives this admonition, encourage each other. I read a sermon by Elmer Towns that states to bless someone is to place value on them. When you encourage someone, you value them, you bless their life, and in the process you bless your own.
v.11b- build each other up–as opposed to tearing each other up. It is amazing that what takes months or even years to build can be destroyed in seconds. When the twin towers went down it proved that it takes less ability to tear things down then to build things up. I don’t believe it is God’s will for people in the body of Christ to tear one another up. A spirit of building up must be in place over a spirit of tearing down. God placed in the Word that if people have an offense with someone else in the Body of Christ, they should make an effort to resolve it. I am so glad Bethel is functioning in unity, because very few things can be built up in a time of war.
v.12-13a–respect them who are working over you in the Lord. Honor them because they pour the Word of God into your lives to build you up in your faith. The other day I was at a Wendy’s and the rating was 96 and my food was hot and my tea was ice cold, and everything tasted great. I asked to speak to the manager, and I told him thank you for such great food and service. He was moved by the act of appreciation.
V.13b- live in peace with each other–if someone asked me what can I do to make this church a great church, my first response would be, get along with other people, live at peace in the family of God. It is not God’s will for you to cause discord. God calls the one who sows discord among the brethren and abomination in His sight. There is no spirituality in tearing someone else down.
V.14-warn those who are idle–another key to functioning in the church is personal involvement in the work. As your Pastor, I encourage you, get involved, be an active part, it will keep you spiritually in tune to be physically involved. Support the work, make the effort of building the community of faith.
V.14b- encourage the timid– or encourage the discouraged. One great ministry in the church is to find people who are discouraged, going through bad times, and be an encourager to them.
V.14c–help the weak–may a special effort to nurture the baby Christian. Everyone knows the growing process takes time in all of our lives. Paul gives this instruction that the Spiritual are to lift those who are struggling. Years ago this is one area I believe the church didn’t function well. If someone struggled in their spiritual walk they normally met a storm of judgment and criticism for their failure, instead of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
V.14d-be patient with everyone–in any church, there will be times that things don’t go as planned, just like in every area of our lives. So being patient with the leaders, having compassion in times when things don’t work out. Since we are human, some of our best attempts will still fall short. Always remember, it is easy to sit back and criticize someone else’s efforts, but they don’t make statues for critics but for those who do something