“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (I Thessalonians 5:14, ESV)
Have you ever walked into a classroom and noticed a poster on the wall listing the rules of conduct the teacher expects within the class? The rules may vary somewhat from teacher to teacher, but most contain basic expectations of politeness, respect, honesty, cooperation, and timeliness. It’s the “basics” for creating an atmosphere of learning and caring.
Somehow, I thought of those posters as I read I Thessalonians 5. In fact, my Bible has a heading titled “Christian Conduct” over the portion that begins at verse 12. Think of it as a checklist of the basics in being a productive and supportive member of the body of Christ. These verses tell us to:
Respect and honor our leaders.
Warn the lazy.
Encourage the timid.
Help the weak.
Show patience with everyone.
Don’t stifle the Spirit.
Don’t scoff at prophecy.
These themes are given elsewhere in the Bible, but this passage provides us with a summary of qualities we should demonstrate as a Christian. Daunting? It could be if we tried to accomplish all these things on our own. But we are never alone in the process. God’s Spirit dwelling inside gives us the strength to live an overcoming life.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23, ESV).
When a teacher enters the classroom on the first day of school, she knows every student will not immediately conform to her list of acceptable conduct. Some days will be better than others. However, as the year progresses, she will begin to note improvements in her students’ behavior. It’s a maturing process. The same is true with us. We will not achieve “perfect Christian” status as soon as we are filled with God’s Spirit and begin our walk with Him. Some days will be better than others. Some things on that checklist above will be easier than others. It doesn’t mean we give up and throw the list away. It means we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try again. It’s a learning process.
Philippians 1:6 tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV).
God has begun a good work in each of us. His Word is our guidebook and helps us mature and take on His character. As He teaches us—and corrects us as needed—we discover we are conforming more and more to His likeness. The process will continue throughout our lives until He brings it “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
We are still in the schoolroom, but we will graduate one day.
Lord, You give me strength each day as I strive to become more like You. I know I will fail You at times, but You are patient and loving. You help me stand again and move forward. I’m looking forward to that day of completion when I will be transformed completely into Your image.