And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
—1 Thessalonians 5:14-24 (TNIV)
Here Paul gives us some practical advice about how Christians should live in the “end times,” the time between Christ’s first and second comings, whenever the latter may occur. Apparently there were some Thessalonians who thought Jesus’ return was imminent and so they just stopped working. Paul would have none of that, however. He reminds us that we are to do our part in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We are not to kick back and expect the Spirit to do our work for us, either in our vocation or in our spiritual lives. The Holy Spirit will indeed do his part but we are expected to do ours as well in cooperation with the Spirit.
Notice too the hope that is contained in this passage. We have this hope because this life and this world are not the end game. Paul has previously talked about the New Creation and our future destiny living with the Lord Jesus. That is the basis of our hope as Christians and that is the source of our joy, irrespective of circumstance we find ourselves dealing with in this broken and fallen world. Take heart! Take hope! Paul is reminding us again to live in the here and now, but also to realize the here and now isn’t your destiny. Living with the Lord Jesus in his New Creation is.
Last, notice the emphasis Paul gives to living life together. No rugged individualism here. Yes, we are to do our part and take responsibility for our lives. But we are to live life together. We are to encourage each other, warn each other, be patient with each other, and to look out for each other’s good. We are to be moral people and allow ourselves to be held accountable by our fellow Christians. This is Christian love in action. This is what Christian love looks like. We do all this with hopeful expectation, waiting and watching for our Lord’s return so that we will not be caught with our proverbial knickers down.
And why do we do this? Simply in response to our faithful Lord who has redeemed us by his blood and promises to return to finish the mighty work he started when he took on our flesh and became human. We can count on his promises because Paul reminds us, along with the rest of the biblical witness, that God is always faithful, even when we are not.
Do you have this kind of hope and expectation? If not, what is holding you back?