Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
Be joyful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thessalonians 5:13-18 MSG)
I came across these verses today as I read the Bible, and as usual … they really spoke to me. It was yet another reminder that God doesn’t leave us out here once we’re born again in Christ wondering what we are supposed to be doing. Throughout Scripture he makes it clear. Whether it is through the example of those that got it right … or those that got it wrong. Or whether he spells it out in clear instructions like he does here. We can’t say that we don’t know if we’re reading the instruction manual – the Bible. And we can’t do Christian life like we’re supposed to if we’re not.
So as I start this day, I will pray that he keeps these things fresh in my heart and that as I move through each day, I will bring honor to God by walking the walk the way he wants me to.
1. “Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part.” – This doesn’t really need a breakdown. I think the hardest part to remember is “each of you doing your part”. Most of us do just fine getting along until we actually have to do something. But that’s when we need to remember to swallow our pride, give a little, be gracious and forgiving … do our part.
2. Freeloaders…stragglers…exhausted – There’s a clear distinction here. We are obviously called to help those in need. No question about that. But that doesn’t mean offering handouts to everyone that reaches out for one. There are freeloaders, which by definition are people that take advantage of others for free stuff. If they can earn their own living…they should. Then there’s the “stragglers”. Those that have wandered off course a bit maybe due to life situations beyond their control. I like how the Message translation instructs us to “gently encourage” them. I think that this involves helping them out while they get back on their feet. I also think that stragglers that don’t rise up under our help and encouragement could end up turning into freeloaders. And finally, the “exhausted”. They need our help because sometimes their circumstances are more than they can bare on their own. We are told to reach out and pull them to their feet.
3. Being patient and attentive is getting harder and harder to do in our fast-paced, self-centered world. There’s been times I’ve looked back on an opportunity I had to be attentive to someone that I blew right by because I was too busy to notice. And it pains me every time because I know Jesus was watching and hoping I would be the one to impact their life, even if it was just a small gesture that would’ve made a difference. But when I blow it, he’ll use someone else. We all need to remember to slow down and really see the people God brings into our path.
4. When you get on each other’s nerves, don’t snap at each other. I like how this verse acknowledges that we will get on each other’s nerves. It’s how we handle it that matters. Count to three … or ten. Or wait 24 hours. Whatever it takes to avoid a snappy, hurtful response that we can’t take back.
5. How often do we look for the best in one another? And when we see it, do we try to bring it out? Just think about how amazing our families could be… or our office… or our governments… if people actually did this. If everyone felt empowered to be great by those around them. If the fact that God made us great at different things actually created one great unit rather than bitter competition and envy. This attitude needs to start with us.
6. And finally, to sum it up rather nicely, – be cheerful, prayerful and thankful … always!