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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”—1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NKJV)
Paul had a special bond with the Christians of Thessalonica. When you take a magnifying glass to the two epistles he wrote to them, you can see he really loved them and made no attempt to conceal it in his letters.
What makes this all the more thought-provoking is the fact that when we read about Paul’s ministry among the Thessalonians, it was comparatively short. The text in Acts 16:39–17:1 indicates he spent about three weeks with them. Paul spent a lot more time in places like Ephesus and Corinth, several months as a matter of fact. In comparison, Thessalonica was like an afterthought. And yet you’d never know it by the fact Paul wrote two letters to them, which were laced with an unusual amount of good will.
Perhaps this was due to the paternal side of Paul that deeply longed for more time with this extremely young and seemingly unprepared band of believers in a hostile environment. But regardless of what they may have lacked, Paul understood they had something that would not only enable them to survive the storms of spiritual persecution, but something on which they could build: a strong foundation of a spiritual community.
In many instances, Paul concluded his letters with a listing of individual men and women he singled out for some particular reason. Romans and Colossians especially stand out in this regard. But we don’t get any of that in either of the letters to the Thessalonians. The tone is remarkably communal, and that’s likely because in Paul’s mind there was such a strong sense of community when it came to this particular group of believers. They were not individually notable, but undeniably notable as a collective community. And because they were so communal, Paul trusted they were also capable.
Notice in today’s passage how the exhortation is for everyone to warn the unruly, comfort the faint, uphold the weak, and exercise patience with all. These are the sort of things that require a collective effort. In order to fulfill such mandates, there must be a foundation of community to support it. Paul issued these mandates, gave them this mission, because he knew and trusted these Christians were a community, not a collection of loners who happened to believe the same thing about Jesus. They were connected and through this divine dynamic of community, they were capable of accomplishing everything the apostle charged them with—and more!
The point we cannot miss here is that community enables us to fulfill God’s mission for His Church. Capability is linked to community. Together, we can always achieve more in the long run than we can on our own. Community is the base that sustains the weight of the work God desires to do through us. Thessalonica was a demonstration of this, as is any community of Christians who are committed to walking in God’s will for their lives together.
Pause: What was Paul confident in when it came to the Christians of Thessalonica? How is this evidenced in his writings to them?
Practice: Community and capability linked. Connect with some Christian friends and brainstorm ways you can impact your community together.
Pray: Lord, help me to see the power of community when it comes to walking in Your will for my life and for my ability to fulfill my mandate and mission. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.