Final Instructions by Rick Burdette
1 Thessalonians 5:12-5:28
FOLLOW THE LEADER – Final Instructions
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 (pg. 826) September 20, 2015
I will never ever forget Christmas of 2003…a few weeks earlier I’d sat with mom and dad in the doctor’s office as he gave us the news that dad’s cancer had spread…and there wasn’t much more they could do. Dad weighed 125 pounds soaking wet before this disease…and the chemo and lack of appetite took its toll through the battle…so without a doubt my father and all of us knew this would be his last Christmas with us here on earth.
In fact it would just be a little over 2 months before he was gone. He died on March 2, 2004. I preached his funeral on March 4.
But I’ll never forget that Christmas of 2003…It wasn’t the presents I remember (although he’d ordered me a Scottie Cameron putter from Ebay and the one who taught me how to play golf…gave it to me). I don’t play much anymore…but I’ll die with that putter in my bag.
But that’s not what I remember the most…I remember Dad purposefully sitting alone with each of his grandchildren on the sofa and talking with them…In his own courageous, stubborn, loving kind of way he challenged them to be everything they could be…He was saying “goodbye” and these were some final instructions…
I think Dad knew they were his legacy…after he was gone it would be his children and grandchildren that would carry the torch…and he wanted them to know some of the priorities he’d discovered in life. He’d lived them…even shared them before…but now time was short…He knew what he was doing…and so did they! He was giving some final instructions.
The Apostle Paul comes to the end of this first letter to the Thessalonians…A letter that’s been filled with love and encouragement to follow the leader…these are words of final instructions to his spiritual children and grandchildren…His legacy…
Listen to our text this morning:
1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-28 (p. 826)
Respect your leaders…Live at peace with people…Don’t seek revenge…stay in the will of God…nourish your spiritual gifts…and others…Remember the One who called you…and P.S. STAY IN HIS WORD AND HIS GRACE!
You see Godly leaders know that we are always one generation away from extinction…unless there are Christian children and grandchildren, there is no future legacy.
It’s why he poured his heart out to Timothy, his son on the faith in 2 Tim. 4:6 with these words: “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure!”
There is no success in God’s kingdom of disciple making if we leave no successors.
John Maxwell put it this way “A leader who develops people adds…but a leader who develops leaders multiplies.”
Gardenside Christian Church is no different than any other church in God’s kingdom when it comes to this essential priority…And it’s important to understand.
I. LEADERSHIP IS HARD WORK
There’s a very weird thing that has happened in American Christian Churches…when it comes to leadership…we’ve given people authority when there’s been no evidence of disciple making in their lives…We sometimes give titles…to individuals who have no real ministries.
Scripturally this is something that the Apostles including Paul just simply wouldn’t understand.
Paul says “Brothers and sister acknowledge those who work hard among you. (That “among you” thing again! It’s what koinania fellowship is built on), those who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.
That hard work Paul’s referring to has nothing to do with the facility…(and yes I’m thankful for those who take care of our facility) but the hard work of leadership always involves caring for people…admonishing people.
Why? The next verse tells us…because every church has idle people, disruptive people, disheartened people, weak people, and vengeful people.
Getting idle people off their “blessed assurance” to do ministry is hard…for many reasons…schedules, selfishness, laziness…who knows…but there are 168 hours in every week…if every adult at Gardenside served 1 hour a week in a real ministry each week…we’d have to develop new ministries…leaders are always part of the non-idle…seeking to grow disciples in their ministries…not guarding turf…my goal is to work myself out of a job…and then God can reveal a new job. Leaders are men and women who say, “Come with me…help me…serve alongside me…we urge and warn “apathetic” believers that “serving” includes sacrifice, but it’s where joy is found in the Lord. By the way Paul links idleness with disruptiveness. Makes sense doesn’t it? You’re idle because you don’t want to serve others…Life is about your needs. So becoming disruptive usually comes from a heart that is self focused instead of “others” focused.
Have you ever noticed that Satan uses idleness as one of the greatest tools to disrupt our peace and the peace of the Kingdom.
King David was on the roof of the palace when all the others were out on the battlefield. Adam and Eve weren’t working the garden when the Serpent tempted them to go outside God’s will. Noah got drunk…Sampson lost his strength… “Idle hands truly are the Devil’s workshop.” Not many of the Old Testament kings or prophets finished very well when they stopped serving God.
Great leaders are encouragers…Life is hard at times…disheartening…Godly men and women are heart lifters…encouraging those who have hit the wall in the marathon of life to keep running…to finish the race…What would happen with the hearts of the disheartened if you took an hour each week to encourage….a call, a visit, a text…A life of joy is found when you act upon the generous impulse to “breathe God” into someone whose being smothered.
Helping the weak can be a physical or a spiritual ministry…weak doesn’t mean “less valuable.” It means “without the strength.”
[I wouldn’t ask Peanut to pick up the cinder block that was in his way when he wanted to ride his bike…I’d pick it up for him, because I love him.
What if your friend just doesn’t have the strength to pick up the cinder block of the marriage, or their grief, or their sin? Great men and women of God help those who are struggling to carry the burden…with that burden. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Do you know what the law of Christ is? “Love one another even as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) This is the new command He gave His disciples.]
Being patient with everyone might be the hardest earmark of Godly leaders listed here. Patience extended to the weak and disheartened is much easier than to the disruptive and vengeful. But Paul’s goal is peace and unity…not war and division…Patience doesn’t mean not dealing with difficulty…it means dealing with difficulty with the hope of reconciliation…Truth is spoken with love…Both grace and truth are present in the conversation…You don’t pay back evil for evil. You don’t try to get even…because the big picture is more important than your right to seek revenge. “Strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”
Leaders aren’t conduits for the critical and unhappy….leaders are protectors of the whole body of Christ…as they care for and admonish in the Lord…It’s a hard job…that deserves the highest regard in love.
I think one of the most perfect stories of leadership involved two people named Harriet and George:
Harriet, the church gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business.
Several residents were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked all afternoon in front of the town’s only bar. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know that he was an alcoholic. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and then just walked away. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Harriet’s house and left it there all night…(Pulpit Helps, April 2003)
I’m not sure the Harriet’s of the world will ever change, but I love George’s gentle way of dealing with her sin.
Being a godly man or woman who understands leadership is hard work, but absolutely essential if God’s church is to be healthy and grow…is seeking one priority in their lives…
II. THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS
How can we reach a place in our Christian lives where we understand and live in the will of God…That’s an important question for each of us who would follow our leader, Jesus Christ. Paul ends with two things that make this possible and then an assurance, if we do them…
1. HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (v. 16)
Joy is the inner sense of God’s presence despite your circumstances or your possessions. It’s the 2nd fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5…proceeded only by love. It’s produced by the Holy Spirit. It’s a knowledge that God is there…Jesus is living in you and will not leave you.
And even though you and I might not understand all that happens in our daily lives…God is at work…for your good and for His glory.
It’s a relationship that is continually strengthened by conversation…after all, isn’t that what prayer is? The word continually is used for prayer, because the child of God who is seeking the Father’s will…shares adoration, love and requests with God as a part of their living…It becomes the normal to praise Him, even in the storm. It’s almost automatic to lift up those you see hurting…There are times you go into your closet and have prayer times, but children who know and love their dad…run to him with almost everything…exciting things…scary things…loving things…If we live continually in this kind of conversation with God…seeing Him one day will be a joy…not a fearful surprise.
It allows us to become ‘grateful people,” because we see His power and promises at work in and around us…We trust Him to be a God who “works all things together for the good of those who love Him, for those whom He’s called.” (Romans 8:28)
You see God’s will is to shape His children to have the attitude of His perfect Son Jesus…and when we want that more than anything else…everything changes…even when life is hard…It all starts with the attitude of our hearts.
And the 2nd thing that lets us understand and live out God’s will is
2. PUT YOUR FAITH INTO ACTION.
Faith that doesn’t translate into action is a “dead faith” according to James 2:17…“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
If belief never becomes active it’s in the same category as the demons. That’s why Paul says, “Don’t quench the Spirit…Don’t treat prophecies with contempt…test them all… Hold onto what is good…reject what is evil.”
Living out God’s Word requires an absolute reliance up on His Spirit…Godly teaching and discernment…Good isn’t something we become…Good is something we do when prompted by God…evil isn’t something we are…it’s something we do when prompted by “the evil one.” We are called by both these voices…one calls us to sin…one calls us from our sin…one is faithful…one is faithless.
[Paul ends with an assurance for the called Child of God…”May God Himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through (make you His completely in spirit, soul and body until Jesus returns!)
“The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it!”
Is He calling you? Has He called you? My mom used to always come out and call me home for supper when I was little…Dad was home…it’s time to eat…time for the family to be together… “Ricky…Come home for dinner.” I was ornery sometimes…and she’d have to call more than once…even though when I got home I was never disappointed with the meal…God’s a lot like my mom!]