Exhortations & Blessings
Open Your Bible
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, Proverbs 3:13-26, Hebrews 13:7
BY Jen Yokel
Paul’s final benediction to the Thessalonians is a list of instructions for developing Christian character: highly regard your co-laborers with love, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone, pursue the good of all, give thanks in everything, test all things, hold on to what is good, and stay away from evil, among other words of advice (1Thessalonians 5:12–22). But these aren’t just rules for the sake of being good. Paul is giving these faithful, early Christ followers a collection of transformative practices to help them deepen their maturity and grow in their faith, practices that have guided generations of believers toward a life that looks like Jesus.
It’s notable that this portrait of a believer in hard times isn’t frantic or fearful. They aren’t to be people who strive to solve everything in their own power. They aren’t to be fretting about persecution or disrespect. Instead, this is what it looks like to trust the God who first called them. This is what it looks like to seek the good of each other and the flourishing of community.
You may be thinking, How? How can I possibly do all this—comforting the discouraged and pursuing the greater good and giving thanks in everything—when it feels like my world is falling apart? Is this call to be blameless even possible? But here is the good news: you were never meant to do this alone. “He who calls you is faithful. He will do it” (1Thessalonians 5:24).
In his book Surrender to Love, David G. Benner compares this sort of reliance on God to learning how to swim. Before you can move through the water, first you have to recognize that you can float. “The English word surrender,” he writes, “carries the implication of putting one’s full weight on someone or something. It involves letting go… And it involves trust.” Floating naturally happens when we stop trying so hard to keep our head above water.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with effort. All of these instructions are active practices we should incorporate into our lives as believers. But when we trust God’s faithfulness, we can strive less, knowing the work isn’t wholly dependent on us. Paul’s encouragement is to keep seeking wholeness so that “the God of peace himself” may “sanctify [us] completely” (1Thessalonians 5:23). With the Lord as our confidence, we don’t have to be afraid (Proverbs 3:24–26).
There may be times when we wonder if we have the endurance to keep going. We can honor our limits and acknowledge our struggles. But just like learning to swim, we can remind ourselves to float as we learn new strokes, until every movement becomes muscle memory. The work is ours, but it’s also God’s. He called us to it, and He is faithful to finish it.