Today’s Scripture Focus: I Thessalonians 5:12-28
Final Instructions—Today’s scripture focus concludes the book of I Thessalonians. Remember that Paul had to leave Thessalonica suddenly. Who was in charge of the church there in his absence? We don’t know a lot about the leadership structure of the early church, but Paul refers to church leaders as “those who work hard among you” (v12). Christian leaders were to lead by example, not simply dictate. In other places, Paul refers to these hard workers as elders. The best understand of this term is probably “uncles”, as the greatest influencer in a man’s life in biblical times was his mother’s brothers.
It was the uncle’s job to admonish (v12) his nieces and nephews—to point out their unwise decisions to them and help them make better choices. Of course, no one enjoys being corrected. In the Thessalonian church, it appears that some were so convinced that Jesus was returning any day they had stopped working to make a living. Having become idle (14), the had plenty of time for pointless disputes. Others were so crippled with anxiety over the death of fellow Christians or persecution they had lost their courage, becoming timid and weak. Paul wants the Thessalonians to listen to their elders, who are trying to help them do better.
A holy church is not a conflict-free church. However, holy churches know how to handle conflict with grace. Paul instructs the Thessalonians to forgive when they are wronged, rather than seek justice. This is the opposite of the way the world handled conflict in the honor/shame culture of the Bible. It was shameful for a man to not seek revenge. Being sanctified means doing things differently than the world, and responding to injustice with love. One key to this is patience (v14). Most conflict would work itself out if the offended party would just wait, rather than immediately try to make things right on their own.
The key to a sanctified church is joyful, thankful, continual prayer (v16-18). Joy is simply happiness that isn’t dependent upon circumstances. The child of God can rejoice regardless of what is going on around them, knowing that Jesus is coming. Thankful prayer is God-focused rather than need-focused. Prayer should begin and end with acknowledging our blessings. To “pray without ceasing” doesn’t mean to never leave your knees, but to maintain a constant prayerful attitude—to keep the communication lines open so going to God is our first response rather than an after thought. Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray this way for him (v25), and this is how we should pray for one another.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask the discussion questions below*. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
*How have you seen God at work in your life this week?
*How have you struggled to follow God this week?
*It seems the greatest “joy stealer” in our culture today is stress. What place does stress have in the life of the Christian? How can we be joy focused rather than stress focused?
*Is there anything about today’s scripture focus or this week’s scripture readings that especially stood out to you, or that you had trouble understanding?
*How can we pray for you this week?