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If you have undertaken the previous studies in this series, it will have become obvious that Paul's great desire was that these new Christians at Thessalonica should live in a healthy spiritual community. We were never meant to be "Lone Ranger" Christians. We are made to live in community. That's why Christianity places such an emphasis on relationships. In this final study in the current series we explore some aspects of healthy relationships as well as some brief but significant reflections as Paul concludes his letter to this new Church.

[1]  RELATIONSHIPS  (vs.12-15)

Question: Bruce Larson once wrote, "The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of right relationships". What do you think he meant by that? Can you re-phrase that statement in your own words?

A. Relationships with the Leaders

As a leader, Paul knew the importance of love and respect towards leaders so they could fulfil their role.

Question: From vs.12-14, what is the responsibility of Christian Leaders that Paul mentions here.            Read 1 Peter 5/1-4. What additional responsibilities of leadership does Peter mention?

Love and respect towards leaders does not come with the office. The leader who insists on being recognised and respected and followed has failed to see that love and respect come as a result of his/her person rather than position. Such respect has to be earned. They are to lead by example. They have to prove themselves worthy of such respect.

Question: Think of a leader whose life example you found worthy of your love and respect. Can you nominate those characteristics or qualities in his/her life that won your respect and love?

B. Relationships with the Idle

'Idle' = military term meaning a soldier who breaks ranks, gets out of line - so is a Christian who adopts a rebel spirit or attitude. Apparently there were those who didn't pull their weight in the community and Paul says they are to be 'warned' or 'admonished'. This is very obvious in his next letter.  Read 2 Thessalonians 3/6-15.

Question:  Obviously, and for whatever reason, there were those in the community of faith who were lazy and became a burden on the rest of the community. These days we don't seem to know how to correct, rebuke, warn others. We either ignore such behaviour or deal with it in an abusive manner - extremes. What is the best way to address unacceptable behaviour?   Read Matthew 18/15-17  

C. Relationships with the Timid and the Weak

These are believers who are easily discouraged and become faint-hearted. Comfort, encourage, strengthen, support them. These people are to be found in every faith community.

Question: What practical ways can we develop to support them? Can you think of such a person in your community whom you could encourage? How might you go about that opportunity? Be as specific as you can in identifying ways to help them.

D. Relationships with Everyone                                                                                  

a. Be Patient - opposite of short-tempered, i.e. steady, persevering patience

b. Be Gracious - don't be vindictive - overcome evil with good (Romans 12/7)

c. Be kind - give blessing for cursing, give friendship for hostility

[2]  RESPONSES  (vs.16-22)

Now come a series of quick-fire directives that almost take away our breath. Try and imagine what an impact these directives would have in your Church is they were implemented by everyone.

a. Be joyful always - affliction and joy often go together in life - can you find another verse that says this?

b. Pray continually - "This is a 'posture of the heart' issue, not a moving of the lips". What does that mean?

c. Give thanks in all circumstances - not "for" but "in" - this celebrates sovereignty of God

d. Do not put out the Spirit's fire - tense here means "Stop doing it!" - it was a present problem

e. Do not treat prophecies with contempt - you may just be resisting the Holy Spirit

f. Test everything - don't be gullible either - test every claim by the Word of God

g. Hold on to what is good - after it's tested - hold tight to what is proven to be good and valuable

h. Avoid every kind of evil - total withdrawal from all that opposes God and His Kingdom

[3]  RESOURCES  (Vs.23-24)

How can we possibly fulfil and measure up to such expectations as disciples? Paul would give us a three-fold assurance.

a. God calls you - this is present tense; He daily calls us towards the ultimate goal- the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

b. He is Faithful - see also 1 Corinthians 1/8,9 - the emphasis is on God's willingness, not our ability

c. He will do it - this lifestyle is the result of our response to His resources - see Phil.1/6

FINALLY......

First Thessalonians - it really is a love letter from the founding Pastor to his congregation. It is filled with encouragement and exhortation. Yet it contains appropriate levels of warning. It is a lovely balance of those aspects. The truth and the warmth travel through time to our own days and what we find here is alive with relevance in our own circumstances today.

Question: What is the key point that has caught your attention as you have worked your way through this study? Is there some specific action you need to take?

What fits into the following categories if you take the session seriously?

a) Information (knowing)

b) Participation (doing)

c) Transformation (changing)

 

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