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August 23, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Urging You Today

“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14

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Eternal Life

     I often pray that the Lord Jesus would help me understand how to love different people.  Not everyone needs the same actions from me.  I know that God commands me to love everyone, but I know that God tailors His wonderful love just for me.  He provides me with things that I need, and helps me in a variety of ways.  In one sense, love from God always fits me just perfectly.  God loves you too, in just the perfect way.

      In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul issues one command that controls four other commands.  The controlling command comes from the word “urge.”  This simple command applies to the entire group at Thessalonica.  The whole assembly at Thessalonica will have the pleasure of watching God work among the believers as they minister to one another.  Now let us look at what the assembly should be doing for one another.  Each need requires a different form of love from God.  So many believers never feel the urge to help their friends, and then follow the commands and do it.

        First, you must admonish the unruly believers.  This term admonish (“νουθετεῖτε“) means also to warn and exhort.  It carries with it the idea of personal confrontation.  So often believers see behavior that conflicts with the commandments of Scripture.  We are not talking about personal preferences here, but the unruly (“ἀτάκτους“) behavior directly that conflicts with the commands of Christ for living.  For example, a believer you know is living in immorality.  You must confront that believer because Jesus told us not to live in immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).  Admonish here means that you read the Bible to the unruly person, and invite them to repent and change their behavior, starting with seeking forgiveness from God, and then living in harmony with God and His Word.

       Second, encourage the fainthearted.  I love the whole idea of encouragement.  In this case, you are to encourage the fainthearted.  The term encourage (“παραμυθεῖσθε“) means to call alongside, and then speak in a friendly manner, for the purpose of calling up and strengthening.  In this case, you speak words of hope from the Word of God to the fainthearted.  This term fainthearted (“ὀλιγοψύχους“) literally means little soul.  In my mind, some people have shrunk down in size and feel small.  They have lost the sense of strength for living in Christ.  In the spiritual realm, pressures or problems have pushed them down and they feel very small inside.  You, through God’s love, can call them up, or better yet, visit that believer and let them know that God remains stronger and more powerful than anything facing them, no matter how grim life may be from the human perspective.

       Third, help the weak.  So many people I know have weakness of one type or another.  This term for weak (“ἀσθενῶν“) refers to the physically sick (John 11:1), the spiritually helpless (Romans 5:6, and the weak in faith (Romans 14:2).  Therefore, we must be sensitive to the needs of the weak who need to be touched with the strength of Jesus Christ.  I often hold the hand of people in bed with physical sickness, or give a hug to someone weak spiritually. 

        Fourth, be patient with everyone.  While the previous commands pertained to specific groups, this last command covers everyone.  Every believer needs to show patience, and receive patience.  Because we all sin, we all need patience.  Because we all have our own preferences and patterns, we need patience from others.  All the commands in this passage require patience in their practice.

       So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.

    ●  Strong bonds of friendship form when we understand that different people have different needs for loving attention. 

    ●  Strong bonds of friendship grow when we admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. 

    ●  We harm our bonds of friendship when we let do not recognize the needs in our friends’ lives, or imagine that all our friends in Christ need the all same things all the time.  

Application for Today

        Today, I want to encourage my friends to recognize the needs of their believing friends.  Why not allow God to use you to minister to those needs: admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.   Will you look at your friends today through the loving eyes of Jesus and His Word?