“[…] Just as you are in fact walking, we request you and appeal to you by the Lord Jesus to keep doing it more fully.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1
The members of the Christian congregation in Thessalonica were not perfect.
They had moral standards and love, but could improve on both counts. (1 Thess. 4:3,4,9,10)
That is why Paul commended them while tactfully encouraging them to “pursue what is good toward one another.” (1 Thess. 5:15)
Regardless of how long it has been since we became Christians, ‘making sure of all things’ and ‘holding fast to what is fine’ is something we have to remember to do every day. (1 Thess. 5:4,6,8,21)
We cannot afford to take our faith for granted, and as long as we are imperfect, there will be things we can improve on.
“Happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.”
The verse the Apostle Paul is quoting in this passage is a Psalm which continues: “In whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)
In order to benefit from the joy of being granted true forgiveness, we must first turn around from our evil course. (Eze. 33:11; Acts 3:19; Ep. 4:22-24)
This implies being humble enough to recognize the error of our ways and a willingness to put in the effort to change.
Once we have demonstrated our repentance, we are able to feel the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Jesus. (Rom. 5:11)
The knowledge that God loves us and assumes the best in us when we try to please him can carry us joyfully through difficult times. (Rom. 5:2-6)
“[…] Because I have experienced the help that is from God, I continue to this day bearing witness to both small and great […].”
It is not easy for most Christians to put ourselves out there, knocking on strangers’ doors, or greeting others on the street.
Most of us do not naturally have a “sales personality.”
Speaking to neighbors, acquaintances, or strangers about spiritual matters requires a great deal of resiliency and tact.
Realistically, most people do not want to be approached about something so personal.
Those who do like to have spiritual conversations are usually discouraged by friends or family who are afraid they will be brainwashed. (Matt. 10:35,36)
As imperfect humans, we may also experience friction between our partners in the ministry from time to time.
But like Paul, we humbly recognize that we are only able to carry on God’s work through the strength he gives us to endure, despite our own limitations. (Matt. 24:13,14; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; Php. 4:13)
“Barnabas was determined to take along John, who was called Mark. Paul, however, was not in favor of taking him along with them […]. At this there was a sharp burst of anger, so that they separated from each other.”
All three men involved in the discord were spiritually strong and had an extraordinary record of service to God. (Acts 13:4,5)
Still, there was at least one occasion in which Paul was disappointed by Mark, and eventually, he and Barnabas had a grave argument about it.
In time, though, Mark took on more responsibilities and even wrote a gospel account of Jesus’ life, having been eyewitness to some events. (Mark 14:51,52; Phm. 23,24; 1 Pet. 5:13)
Some time prior to the completion of the gospel, Paul came to forgive Mark and even requested his company in Rome. (2 Tim. 4:11)
This account teaches us that while Christians should constantly strive to display patience and self-control, we are not perfect and from time to time, will have serious disagreements with other mature Christians. (Gal. 5:22,23)
But much like Paul, Barnabas and Mark, such disagreements should not impede our desire to continue serving Jehovah to the best of our abilities. (Acts 15:39b,40)
That a fellow believer has a differing point of view does not automatically disqualify them as a spiritually strong person.
“[…] They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries. […] And the disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”
Jesus had foretold the type of joy his disciples would reap on account of persecution:
“Happy are you whenever men hate you, […] and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! your reward is great in heaven […].” (Luke 6:22,23)
Paul and Barnabas were physically thrown out of Antioch of Pisidia by “God-fearing” women and prominent men after only about one week of preaching there.
But the many Greek-speaking new disciples were happy despite the opposition because they knew they had God’s spirit. (1 Pet. 4:14)
While some modern day Christians enjoy more freedom of worship than others, all of us undergo various trials to our faith.
Whatever we are experiencing, if we endure with a positive attitude, we will also be blessed with a feeling of joy. (Jas. 1:2,3)
“[…] But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
Jesus knew his closest friends were about to run away as he would be taken into custody, but he relied on his relationship with Jehovah to get him through that dark period of his life. (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31)
He had warned his disciples that one day they would face similar trials, but like him, they too could prevail. (John 16:2, 33)
No matter what this crazy world throws at us, when we take comfort in the peace that Jehovah gives us, nothing can ruin our faith. (Rom. 8:35-39; Php. 4:6,7)
“Let us also go, so that we may die with him.”
While most Christians do not die as martyrs on account of their faith, the Apostle Thomas set a good example of willingness to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice.
Two attempts against Jesus’ life had already been made in Judea. (John 8:59; 10:31)
Still, Jesus courageously returned to the area with the intention of resurrecting his friend, Lazarus. (John 11:11,14,15)
Jesus later emphasized the need to be self-sacrificing when he returned to Jerusalem a week before his death.
He prayed, “Father, save me out of this hour. Nevertheless, this is why I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27,28)
Jesus knew he was about to endure a great deal of pain, but he put his Father’s plan before his own comfort.
He trusted his followers would be willing to do the same, and Jehovah blesses them for that. (John 12:25,26)