The Expository Files


 “Be Patient With Them All”

 1 Thessalonians  5:14

Typical of Paul’s letters, near the end, he writes a practical section with simple, direct instructions for followers of Christ to remember and put into daily practice.

By the way, don’t let anyone tell you “there are no rules.” Don’t be deceived by anyone who says – “As long as you name Christ as your Savior and praise Him, that’s all – no other concerns – no rules – no do’s or don’ts.”

That’s popular and it is driven by the desire for an easy sort of religion that gets you into heaven, but doesn’t demand much. It is not so! Don’t buy into it.

True allegiance to Jesus Christ will manifest itself in careful attention to all the instructions given by His apostles, written for us in the New Testament. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. So, Paul – an apostle of Christ – speaks for Christ to tell His followers how they should live.

And this is part of that; 1 Thess. 5:14 is for us to attend to, as followers of Jesus Christ.

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage
the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

Those are words for me to obey, and for you to obey as followers of Christ. And these specific directions have to do with how we help each other, to continue to be followers of Christ. All of this is taught/written in the framework of love and care for spiritual family members.

I want us to look at each one of these, based on our interests in continued obedience to Jesus Christ – with everything that obedience involves.

“Admonish The Idle”

This was a particular problem Paul had to address in writing to the Christians in
Thessalonica. There were some, among those Christians, who had stopped working and were depending on their brethren to support them. How do we know this? We know this from context.

Earlier in First Thessalonians, Paul had written these words: “…live quietly … mind your own affairs … work with your hands … do not be dependent on anyone…” (1 Thess. 4:11,12).

Apparently the problem continued and when Paul wrote the Second Thessalonian letter, his approach has more urgency and finality. The people who are idle have now been warned, and Paul said: “withdraw from them,” to save them (2 Thess. 3:6-12).

So, there was this problem among the Christians in Thessalonica of some who were not taking personal responsibility. They were “not busy at work,” and Paul said – this isn’t the way it should be. To paraphrase: “Get up, go to work, take care of your responsibilities and don’t be dependent on anyone.”

Now here, he calls upon all the Christians to be a part of the solution to this problem: Admonish the idle. If there is a problem among your spiritual relatives in the local church, be a part of the solution; speak admonition to those people. This is not a snide remark. This is not a long and loud, obnoxious and embarrassing attack.

To admonish means to impart earnest counsel, in the framework of care – to lead people back to faithfulness. This we do because we love the Lord and we love His people. It is no more complicated than that.

Not just preachers and elders. This is directed to all of us and the scope of this would include any evidence of disobedience or error – Admonish them. Idleness in whatever form, spiritual or material, needs urgent attention. There are always people who need our earnest counsel (see also Rom. 15:14).

“Encourage The Faint hearted”

I strongly suggest each one of us have been in this category, at some point in life – perhaps at many points . . . could be, right now.

Faint hearted is translated in the NIV, “timid,” and that is disputed. But by whatever term – we are sometimes simply down. Even people who are generally up, zealous, optimistic. There are times when things just pile up in your heart.

Maybe concerns over family, disappointment with people, financial pressure, illness or crisis --- and it all seems to come at us at once. I strongly suspect most of us know about this. I certainly confess it.

You may not always know it, but if you know of a brother or sister who is down, prayerfully consider what you might say or do – to lift that person up. There may be very small things we do, that, combined with others, can have big results for people who are down.

If we care, we will seek to find ways to encourage the fainthearted. It may be - Christians we know who are down – who are fainthearted – simply need to hear God speak through us! I do not mean that in some mysterious way. I mean – fainthearted people may be greatly helped by hearing us speak to them From Scripture! There is an example of that – just very near the context where our study is – look back at 1 Thess. 4:13-18.

13 Now we do not wish you to be in ignorance, brothers, concerning those who fall asleep, in order that you do not grieve as do the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also those who fell asleep through Jesus God will bring with him. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord that we, those who remain alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall have no advantage at all over those who fell asleep. 16 For with a shouted command, with a voice of an archangel and with a trumpet of God the Lord himself will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 18 And so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Here we have Christians who are grieving. And other Christians, who are to take the duty in hand to comfort them. And, to comfort them with truth! Verse 18 says, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

We need to explore what we are capable of doing to lift each other up and it may be, praying with someone, or for someone and reminding them of the promises of God. Encourage the fainthearted.

“Help The Weak.”

In every local church and in every audience/readership, there are people who are weak spiritually. They have obeyed the gospel. They may attend some of the assemblies, though perhaps inconsistent. They have not walked away from the Lord – though we fear they may be on the way.

What do we do, in addition to the obvious, praying for them? Beyond that, what do we do toward those who are weak spiritually. Let me say – there is no guarantee we can make them stronger. They may be on the way away from the Lord.

But we can think through and act in their best interests, attempting to find out what we can do, that is wrapped up in this simple word: HELP! “Help the weak.”

Elders are to admonish and help the weak – that’s written in the two previous verses. Preachers – according to 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus – need to use the Word and their example to help the weak.
But this is directed to every Christian: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted” and “help the weak.”

As you read the Bible and as you become acquainted with your brothers and sisters, seriously explore good ways you can help those who are weak – without being harsh, vindictive or arrogant.

I gave that last little provisionary phrase because – the next thing Paul says is

“Be Patient With Them All.”

This is the hard part: patience with people. Most of us know that parents face the temptation to be absolutely exasperated. The temptation is so common, Paul, in Ephesians 6, warned fathers: do not provoke your children to wrath! That illustrates what also may occur in our attitude toward our brethren.

We believe weaker brethren have been taught from the Word of God. There are opportunities we extend regularly for people to be taught. We believe unfaithful people have good role models. Yet, we see the same patterns of an absence of growth and diligence. The temptation is like that of parents – throwing our hands up in exasperation and just marking them off – or treating them with contempt.

Paul urges us to hold back from the expression of our exasperation, to forbear and be patient. What can help us practice this patience is to simply remember, God is patient with us (Rom. 2:1-4; 2 Pet. 3:9). We need to consider deeply, that we need to take our cue from our Father. We are to imitate His patience. We receive grace and patience from Him. We – His people – ought to be inclined to dispense grace and patience to each other.


The text takes us well into both understanding and motivation, about how we need to treat one another – to help one another get to heaven. Is this what you are doing?
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.5; May 2013