Hi everyone, it’s Mick here and welcome to Tuesday’s Podcast. Apologies for those of you who missed your early morning listening slot yesterday – we had a technical difficulty so Monday’s reflection appeared later in the morning. Here we are ready to go with another ‘thought for the day’ from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. If yesterday’s big idea was ‘to encourage one another’ to live a life worthy of our Christian calling; today’s focus is three fold but summed up in this phrase from v15. strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
…or as the Message Bible puts it…
Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out’
Yesterday, we were reminded by Paul of our calling as disciples to ‘make a difference’ in this world and that we are to ‘live differently’ to those around us every hour of every day. Big calling! but Paul again gives practical instructions on how to do this. Three key characteristics of this new 24/7 lifestyle:
1 Honour – we are to be people who honour or appreciate our leaders. Listen verses 12 and 13 again from the Message Bible.
‘We ask you to honour those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!’ (vv.12–13a, MSG).
I have been an ordained church leader for many years – in fact 30 years on 1st July and before that Tricia and I were in lay leadership in the church. Has it been my experience that people honour their church leaders? No, that hasn’t been my experience, in fact quite the opposite. Many church leaders I have had the privilege of meeting, coaching, encouraging over the years have been dishonoured by their people and sometimes by their teams.
In whatever area you work, leadership is a lonely place; making difficult decisions about direction, strategy, finance and people’s futures is tough? Paul is primarily talking here about leadership in the church but this teaching is so relevant to any leadership position. Good leaders lead, but not everyone in the church wants to be led and there are times when they make that perfectly clear to their leaders!
Of course leaders don’t always get things right but whether leaders are right or wrong in their decisions is not the point here. There will be times when you disagree with leaders and it is certainly appropriate to let them know but, Paul says, do it in a civil and honourable way. Even if we disagree, we are still to ‘Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!’ (13a).
What a different church, a different world we would have if this was the way we treated our leaders. There have been times over the years I have disagreed with the leadership decisions our our national and local CofE leaders especially with regards changing our ways to reach more young people with the good news. I have made that known in no uncertain terms but, I have always been civil and courteous in my discussions and honoured them as leaders. It’s Biblical and it’s right.
2 Respect – we are to honour our leaders and treat people with respect. Listen to these words ‘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’ (vv.14–15, MSG). Wow! If we want to see the best in people, it is part of our calling to first see the best in them. For Tricia and I, this has always been part of our calling as leaders, to look for the best in others and ask the Holy Spirit to bring it out!
3 Kindness – v15 says this Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Look to do good; this simply is kindness and yes, it’s that word again! it’s everywhere in the New Testament because it was such a powerful characteristic of the early church. Small acts of kindness are so powerful – they can soften the hardest hearts, they can change people and can change the world.
Three powerful and practical characteristics we can put into practice every day: honour, respect and kindness. Paul makes it clear we are to live this kind of life because we belong to a new existence, a new world, the Kingdom of God. He summarises this new life in three famous phrases in v16-18, truths which we have sought to live out at STC over these years ‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances’. As we live lives of honour, respect and kindness we WILL become joyful people who pray always and are just so thankful no matter what the day brings. Not a bad way to live is it!
Heavenly Father, help us to honour our leaders, show Godly respect to all people and live lives overflowing with kindness. I pray your Holy Spirit will empower me to live this way, every day. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.