If you ever find yourself wondering what God’s will is for you life, this little passage makes it pretty clear.
“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thess. 5:14-18 NASB).
It’s helpful to take lists like this and turn the commas into numbers. Suddenly what seems like a series of vague concepts develops into a delightful list of do-able actions. We are talking about God’s will here. So let’s break down each one.
1. Admonish the unruly
“The unruly are those who are out of order, using a military word that describes the soldier who breaks ranks or marches out of step. This is the self-willed person who simply demands to hold his own opinion or preference. These must be warned.” Guzik’s Commentary
Depending on your personality, this might be difficult for you. Or enjoyable. Regardless, as Believers, if we see a fellow brother or sister demanding to hold his or her own opinion or preference and breaking the ranks of unity…call that out. Admonish means to warn, exhort or encourage. Speak up in love and help them get back in step.
2. Encourage the fainthearted
“Those of little souls; the faint-hearted; those who, on the eve of a battle, are dispirited, because of the number of the enemy, and their own feeble and unprovided state. Let them know that the battle is not theirs, but the Lord’s; and that those who trust in him shall conquer.” Clark’s Commentary
In other words, there are brothers and sisters around us who are timid, feeble-minded, scared to death. They’re facing the forces of the enemy and would rather run and hide. Nothing encourages us for battle better than knowing we aren’t alone and that the battle belongs to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:31) Encourage one another.
3. Help the weak
“Cling to the weak” is a lovely piece of advice. Instead of letting the weak brother drift away and finally vanish altogether, the Christian community should make a deliberate attempt to grapple him to the Church in such a way that he cannot escape. It should forge bonds of fellowship and persuasion to hold on to the man who is likely to stray away.” Barclay’s Commentary
Romans 15:1 reminds us that “we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” Each of us have areas of weaknesses that could use the strength of others. We have all benefited from those special times when a stronger brother or sister actively and sympathetically assisted us in our moment of need. The benefits are mutual. The bonds unbreakable. Here is where true community is lived-out.
4. Be patient with everyone
Patient means what you think it means but here are more ways of describing what patience looks likes in our lives.
“To persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles,
To be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others,
To be mild and slow in avenging,
To be long-suffering, slow to anger, slow to punish.”
Everyone means what you think it means. Every. One. Even the annoying ones. It means not being irritable, thinking before you speak the harsh words, taking a deep breath and extending the same amount of patience to them as you would want extended to you.
“True Christianity is shown by its ability to love and help difficult people. We do not look for only perfect people to minister to and to minister with.” Guzik
5. See that no one pays back evil for evil
“The moment we feel ourselves acting from a desire to “return evil for evil,” that moment we are acting wrong. It may be right to defend our lives and the lives of our friends; to seek the protection of the law for our persons, reputation, or property, against those who would wrong us; to repel the assaults of calumniators and slanderers, but in no case should the motive be to do them wrong for the evil which they have done us.” Barnes
Revenge. Vengeance. “That’s what you get.” These are strong motivators so prominent in our culture. But as Believers, we are to see that no one ‘pays back’ for the evil which was done to them. We aren’t called to ‘get even.’ We are called to forgive.
“Above every other virtue, the virtue of forgiveness characterizes the Gospel.” Stedman
6. Seek after that which is good for one another and all people
“The phrase ‘to all men,’ seems to have been added to avoid the possibility of misconstruction. Some might possibly suppose that this was a good rule to be observed toward those of their own number, but that a greater latitude in avenging injuries might be allowable toward their enemies out of the church. The apostle, therefore, says that the rule is universal. It relates to the pagan, to infidels, sceptics, and persecutors, as well as to the members of the church. To every man we are to do good as we are able – no matter what they do to us.” Barnes
Numbers 5 and 6 on the list fit together like a hand and glove. I imagine a fist balled up in anger and revenge releasing under the strain of mercy and forgiveness. Ok, so I’m not gonna punch you in the face now. That’s good. But it’s not enough. Now, put on a soft glove and extend goodness to that person. Yes, to those in the Church. Of course! But to those outside who will know us by our fruits. Goodness is on the fruit list. (See Galatians 5:22)
7. Rejoice always
“To count your blessings, to be grateful and always realize how much God has done for you, and despite adverse circumstances, to always remember what a glorious future awaits you and how fortunate you are to be a Christian–this can never be stressed enough. Erdman reminds us, ‘If a person is not rejoicing, it is because he is not appropriating to his personal needs all the available riches of grace in Christ Jesus.’” Dunagan
Rejoice. Celebrate and declare. That’s the easy part.
Always. In every circumstance. There’s the rub.
A true mark of maturity in Christ is when one learns to “rejoice in all things.” It’s certainly ok to acknowledge the sorrow, to grieve and hurt. The danger comes when we find ourselves despairing of the hope and future we have in Christ Jesus and forgetting the reservoir of grace, strength and power that comes when something has surpassed our ability to endure. Right there, in that moment, we have cause to celebrate but only if we know 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We have reason to rejoice. Always.
8. Pray without ceasing
“You are dependent on God for every good; without him you can do nothing; feel that dependence at all times, and you will always be in the spirit of prayer; and those who feel this spirit will, as frequently as possible, be found in the exercise of prayer.” Clarke
When you learn to gladly accept your dependency upon God you find yourself speaking to Him more throughout the day. Quick prayers for wisdom and direction. Supplications of needs and wants. Heartfelt prayers for healing on behalf of yourself and loved ones. Desperate prayers of protection in frightening times. Sudden declarations of praise and thanksgiving. The lines of communication are wide-open because your posture is one of receiving of Him. Praying without ceasing means two-way communication. Talking and listening.
9. In everything give thanks
“When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude.” Spurgeon
We can be thankful IN every situation and circumstance. That’s different than being thankful FOR everything. Who is really thankful for a serious illness, natural disaster or flat tire? When we are thankful IN a situation, we are acknowledging that God is sovereign and can redeem any situation. Romans 8:28 reminds us that God can cause everything to work together for the good of those who love Him.
When we’ve been in an attitude of joy and a posture of prayer our hearts are already inclined to be thankful IN the everything.
For THIS is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Simply put, God’s will is His desire or pleasure for us. It’s not His will therefore we MUST do it. It’s His will, therefore we CAN do it.