Sermon Overview & Prayer: "The Imperfect Church"

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1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 SERMON PRAYER POINTS

These written prayers are intended to fuel your meditation on this passage and your enjoyment of God in prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 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. 

Charles Spurgeon – Still, imperfect as it [the church] is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray that my every consideration of the church begins, not with personal experience, or evaluation, or comparison, but with the gospel. May your love, mercy, and grace toward them (and me!) inform my disposition, affection, acceptance, and devotion toward them as well.  

Paul has prayed in 3:12 that the Lord would make them increase in their love for one another and he exhorted them to grow in their affection for one another in 4:9-10.  Just as oil in an engine enables all the moving parts to function together effectively without excessive friction or eventual overheating, these exhortations in verses 14-15 enable the church to work together and grow together.

PRAYER: Lord, remind us that this passage is not merely about “getting along”. It is about experiencing and demonstrating the infinite love of God among us, that we might be increasingly unified and edified. Prompt us that our display of our love for one another is also a demonstration of the gospel to a desperately divided world!

[Paul] informs them that the responsibility for maintaining the relational well-being of the church...is the responsibility of all the members of the church. The entire community is to be engaged in this task. It is the role of pastors to equip the church for this work, not do all this work. And then Paul identifies three particular groups they are to care for in very specific ways. 

  • Admonish the Idle

The idle are those refusing to work in order to support themselves. Instead of working a job, they are working hard at disrupting the peace and unity of the church. So they are to be admonished, confronted, corrected

PRAYER: Father, help me – without being arrogant, judgmental, or prematurely critical – to humbly call my brothers and sisters to diligence and faithfulness.

2)   Encourage the Fainthearted

The fainthearted appear to be those anxious and disheartened...grieving without hope. And these could also include those who are...discouraged and in danger of giving up because of continued persecution. The church is to encourage them, so they don’t...lose heart, but instead persevere.

PRAYER: Lord, show me ways to personally and practically “bear one another's burdens”, to “weep with those who weep”, and to “encourage one another daily”. For whom can I pray, and with whom can I share a word of hope today? 

3)   Help the Weak

These could be those spiritually weak...this could include those who are physically weak as well. Those our culture ignores or even ridicules are to find warm care and practical help in the church. There must be no one who feels invisible in the church.

J.I. Packer – The church is a hospital in which nobody is completely well, and anyone can relapse at any time.

PRAYER: Lord, when I am among others, help me to look to the interest of others, and to consider others more important than myself. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear. and a heart to act, that others might indeed know the love of Christ.

“…be patient with them all.”  Caring for the church will require patience from the church. If you look underneath a peaceful church, you will find people who are patient with each other privately as they follow Jesus together and do life together. A patient church is a peaceful church

PRAYER: Father, I ask that the Holy Spirit expose any tendency in my heart to be impatient, critical, uncomfortable, or “annoyed” with anyone. And may any needed repentance include some gesture of kindness.

v.15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

This prohibition banning retaliation is distinctly Christian-a distinct, transforming effect of the gospel in the heart and life of the Christian.

Jeffrey Weima – The proper Christian response to harmful treatment from others, regardless of its source and nature, is not merely that of patience and nonretaliation but additionally the aggressive pursuit of what is best for the offending person and party.

PRAYER: Lord God, when I am tempted to demand judgment, vengeance, retribution, or punishment – especially in response to obvious and undeniable wickedness – lead me to the cross, and from my knees, may I pray that your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

We don’t give people who sin against us what they deserve because God hasn’t given us what we deserve.

PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, we view these several commandments, first of all with thanksging, because each one reflects your mercy, love, and care for us...displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sin; and revealed through the active and forbearing work of the Holy Spirit. THANK YOU!

May we humbly, faithfully, fervently, and lovingly continue to steward the precious gift of our local church as the dearest place on earth!

OVERVIEW OF THE SERMON:
Although commended for their faith, work, and love, the Thessalonians are, like all churches, an imperfect church. Paul affectionately provides several simple exhortations to strengthen their congregation relationally against the weight of persecution: “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with them all.“ These labels (idle, fainthearted, weak) are temporary and may apply to any believer at a given moment. Each one requires different forms of care, but all require patience, because growth in godliness is generally a very slow process. Paul then prohibits repaying “evil for evil” and instructs the Thessalonians to “seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Christians must not respond to others as they deserve, because God has not given us what we deserve. He has placed our punishment on his guiltless Son on the cross so that we might receive the undeserved gift of forgiveness and eternal life with Him!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. In his “oil for the car” analogy, CJ said that the entire church community must be involved in these tasks (admonishing, encouraging, and helping). How does this passage inform and challenge your perspective of when the church gathers?
  2. To cultivate patience, CJ encouraged us to pause and marvel often at the patience of God toward us by quoting Jonathan Edwards: “[God] is long-suffering to the sinners that he spares and to whom he offers his mercy, even while they are rebelling against him...God bears with them, yea, bears with them to the end, and is finally pleased to forgive, and never punishes them, but makes them vessels of mercy and glory…”
    Where can you rejoice in the continued patience of God in your life?
  3. “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” The word “seek” implies a proactive approach. What examples of “seek to do good to one another” have you seen in our church (your community group) that you might commend and/or seek to imitate?
  4. Paul’s exhortations came from deep affection for and personal knowledge of the brothers and sisters in the Thessalonian church. How could you grow in your church relationships so you will be positioned to speak into each other’s lives?
  5. Is the Spirit bringing to mind someone that you might seek to encourage or to help in their weakness (or to continue doing so with greater patience)?