Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Be Patient With Them All

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”—1 Thessalonians 5:14

I have heard this verse many times, but it was not until I began memorizing it for my biblical counseling class this semester that the words, “be patient with them all” struck me. Why would Paul tell the Thessalonians (and us) to be patient with people in these circumstances?

Notice his commands: admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak. If you have spent any amount of time ministering to people in these situations you will know that there are times where patience is greatly needed. Perhaps you are dealing with a discouraged person who every time you talk to them always seems to dwell on the pain and turmoil. Patience will help draw them to the Father who can (and will) heal the pain. Perhaps you are discipling a weaker sister who consistently battles sin. Patience will help you be a grace bearer to her. Or maybe you have had enough of the roommate who never seems to do anything around the apartment except sleep, eat, and make a mess. Losing control over her idleness and laziness will not spur her on to responsibility. Sometimes these circumstances do provide more opportunity for frustration than patience. But frustration is the opposite of patience. And often this will only exasperate hurting and struggling people.

Here in the middle of a verse on discipleship Paul is discipling us. Even when we are the ones helping, we must understand that we have not arrived spiritually. We need constant reminders to be patient, kind, and compassionate to hurting people. Patience is what will make all of the previous commands stick, because patience is directly at the heart of Jesus. He is always patient with the struggling believer who is stuck in the pit. And he is always patient with us, even when we shake our fists at him.

Often we like to talk about discipleship as a fun and lighthearted endeavor relegated to college ministries and accountability groups. But true discipleship is never easy. Fighting sin with another believer takes work, and more importantly it takes the Holy Spirit. The command to be patient is not something we can do on our own. Have you ever tried to be patient on your own only to be met with your inability? Only Christ can give us the grace to live with our brothers and sisters in grace and understanding. And only Christ can be the true means of change for the idle, fainthearted, and weak.

I am thankful that I am memorizing this verse this semester, primarily because I need to be regularly reminded to be patient. It is a great need in my life. But more importantly, I need a greater heart for the struggling believer, because in reality I am no different than them. May we all learn what it means to be patient with one another, and thus point our brothers and sisters to the most patient One of all—our Christ.


Rebecca said...

Stumbled upon your blog through searching stuff at desiringgod.org. Thanks for your thoughts... preparing a talk for a college students' retreat and my topic is "dealing with the hard stuff" in the context of discipleship for a bunch of college girls. Thanks! :)

cdt said...

Hey Rebecca,

I am glad you stumbled here! Thank you for reading. I will pray that God gives you great wisdom to speak to these women!

Thanks again for your encouragement!