Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sage Exhortation for a Church

This is from my (albeit brief) morning reading. There is much in here for any church, but I specifically thought of the church I am involved with, naturally (since that is "my" church -the context, generally, in which I experience and see "church"). Let us listen to the apostle's exhortation -or, more properly, God's commands to us through the apostle Paul.

1Th 5:9-22
(9) For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
(10) who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
(11) Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
(12) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
(13) and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
(14) And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
(15) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
(16) Rejoice always,
(17) pray without ceasing,
(18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(19) Do not quench the Spirit.
(20) Do not despise prophecies,
(21) but test everything; hold fast what is good.
(22) Abstain from every form of evil.

Some observations:
1. The basis for these commands is God's grace toward us, that He has saved us, and that we are "children of the day," awaiting the return of the Lord.
2. These commands are addressed to everybody, not just the leadership. In fact, verse 12 indicates that, at least for that command, he is addressing those under the leadership.

Let's list some of the commands outright:
1. Encourage one another.
2. Respect your leadership, which admonishes you. Don't be stubborn or grumbling. Esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Submit to them, respect them, listen to them, and stop grumbling and not trusting God.
3. Admonish the idle. Tell them to wake up.
4. Encourage the fainthearted. The word comes from two Greek words that, together, mean "little spirited." Encourage those who want to throw in the towel. Comfort them.
5. Help the weak. Do not overlook them, do not forget about them, and do not drop the ball after giving them one little nudge. It isn't enough.
6. Be patient with them all. This is one of the hardest. It is easy to start pointing blame when things start going wrong. Be patient with others. This requires humility, and it requires trust in God.
7. Do good to one another always, rather than getting even with each other for sins and faults.
8. Rejoice always! Why? See observation #1. Rejoice because of Christ, the gospel. This is something to rejoice in... always... even when we are wasting away otherwise. (tough one)
9. Pray without ceasing. Do not stop praying. We are to be a praying people, a praying church, corporately and individually.
10. Give thanks in all circumstances. Within the context of church, this can be difficult sometimes. If we are not experiencing trials and persecution, then we may be experiencing trouble in the church itself. Give thanks in all circumstances. Why? See observation #1. With this, we know God is in control and works it for our good.

There is much for me to think about, here. Things in many ways seem up in the air with the church I am involved in. We have new leadership coming in, and things have not been exactly exploding up until now, as it is. However, with new leadership, combined with older issues, it is easy for us to worry and for the picture to look uncertain or different from our expectations. We take any form of discouragement we already have and project it into fears and concerns about the future, or extrapolations based on assumptions and personal feelings. Who knows, they may be accurate, but let us follow at least these ten commands (there are more in there).

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