I am very non-confrontational. And over the past few years I’ve determined that is mostly fear of man. God’s Word has challenged me that I must love people more than I fear them or risk being a poor shepherd and counselor. It has taken me many years of ministry to learn how to confront, admonish, and even encourage properly from a pastoral, counselor and brother role in the church.
I am often reminded that I will, as a Pastor, someday give an account to the Chief Shepherd as to how well I have served as his under-shepherd (Hebrews 13:17). 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15 has been a great help in improving my counsel for those whom God brings into my care.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
We see at the beginning of this text Paul using one of his favorite phrases. Paul refers to the gathered believers as brothers. Paul sees this church as family, evidenced in his manner of speaking here and in 1 Thessalonians chapters 1-2. Paul expects that within this family will occur mutual care and loving support. Through the brother/sister relationships within the body we must love one another enough to deal with the categories of people listed in verse 14 God’s way. And Paul is not simply suggesting these things – he is urging the church to action.
The Idle – The undisciplined, possibly careless. Referring to people in an army that are marching out of step. These people have no direction. They have no goal in life. These undisciplined members of the church are to be confronted with truth to bring about change. They are to be admonished.
The Fainthearted –These are discouraged, and life has become too great a burden for them. They may easily become downcast. Maybe they are even quitters. In his 2016 ACBC Conference lecture, What’s Medical About Mental Illness? Dr. Charles Hodges describes these people as “normally sad.” To these brothers and sisters, we are to come near and speak gently and sympathetically with words that uphold them in times of distress. They need encouragement.
The Weak – most often defined in the New Testament as believers attempting to live by rules/standards, often leading to frustration. These people may also struggle in some way with physical disadvantage of some kind. Their sadness or downcast soul may be a result of an actual medical condition such as, sleep apnea/deprivation, Cushings disease, Lupus, Hypo/hyperthyroidism or others. They need help.
We must, as we deal not only with the undisciplined, the fainthearted, the weak, but also with everyone, do so with patience. We must wait with endurance and long-suffering until God by his grace effects change in people’s lives. Are you patient with others? Do you demand instant change, instant maturity, instant affirmation? Are you willing to wait for God to use his means of grace to transform people? Even the idle counselee who is difficult week in and week out?
Sounds like a matter of prayer for most of us.