There is one question that many of us may get asked nearly every day that can elicit several responses ranging from happy to depressive.
“How was work?” , or “How was your day?”.
Simple enough questions, usually asked in innocence by someone who actually cares for us, but sometimes the best we can manage is an audible grunt or even inaudible shrug.
Work can either make us feel liked our talents and gifting have been well utilised or that we have just been used. It can frustrate us, or it can make us strive for more success and accomplishment.
Here, Paul has some very clear commands to give us in regards to our work, especially our work among other believers.
1 – Some Work Against Us. v 1-2
It doesn’t take us long at all as we step out into the world to realise that not everyone is on our side.
Our first reactions to enemies is attack or retreat, but the first response Paul asks the believers to have is one of prayer (2 Thess 3:1) , because you are in a spiritual battle.
Paul recruits these new believers to pray for himself and the other apostles as they do their work of evangelising the lost, and seeking to spread God’s Word to as many as they can.
He outlines what they can pray for:
- that God’s Word would ‘speed ahead’
- that it would be received with approval and reverence
- that the team doing the work would be protected from wicked men
It seems like an obvious thing for Paul to say that ‘not all have faith’, but how often do we look at unbelievers behaving badly, especially in relation to God’s Word being clearly presented, and we are surprised or shocked at their attitudes towards God?
That some work against us while we seek to work for God is a fact, but is not something that should occupy our time other than our praying about it.
Prayer is first call of every outreach opportunity, and the first thing we request of every believer we are seeking to work with in the work of God.
Each member of the church, not just church leaders, are in need of your prayers for them. They should be able to depend on them.
2 – God Is Working For Us. v 3-5
One of the results of praying for God’s Work and for others who are involved in it is that we will, ourselves, mature and grow in our own faith as we interact more with the God Who is not only doing a work for others as we pray, but He is also doing a work in us.
He is faithful, and when we face opposition and unite around the Gospel, we will see Him establish us, and guard our own hearts against spiritual attack. (3:3).
We know what is like to use muscles we didn’t know we had, and how they can give us grief, at the same time, the more we do, the more we can do.
Pray seems to us like a small thing, but it is the greatest. It leads us to a confidence in the God Who works for us and through us.
As we pray and commit to God’s Work, we see Him directing our hearts towards His. (3:5)
To have a direction in life that leads you towards God’s love and the steadfastness of Christ is an example and an encouragement to those around you that can clearly see where your allegiances lie.
Where would people say your heart is directed?
Would people say you have way of communicating who Jesus is that shows God’s love, or do people see our fickleness, our indifference, our lack of spiritual growth?
It challenges us to pray all the more for God’s Word to not only have free course in the hearts of those who have never heard it, but we must not think we are past our need for it to have free course in our hearts also.
3 – We Should Get Involved In God’s Work, Together. v 6-18
3:4,3:6a,3:10, 3:12 all list commands…
There is something else Paul repeats through chapter 3 that shows why it’s so important. 3:1a, 3:6a, 3:6b, 3:13, 3:15b all mention the word ‘brother’. Twice in the singular, when referring to the disorderly/idle/lazy/irresponsible brother, but other times in the plural when speaking to the main body of believers.
The two words repeated ( command/brother) tell us that not only is there a brotherhood/family/community dynamic to the church, but also that that family has some rules that all members of it should abide by.
We don’t like rules. We don’t like being told what to do. We do however, like telling people they shouldn’t tell us what to do. We like making rules about how people shouldn’t make rules!
- don’t let anyone be disorderly/lazy/irresponsible ( 3:6)
- support yourself where you can and don’t become an unnecessary burden (3:7-10)
- don’t be a busybody, always messing with other people’s business and disrupting their lives, mind your own business (3:11-12)
- keep doing good, don’t let the lazy people get to you ( 3:13-15)
Paul is building on an instruction he gave them in his first epistle ( 1 Thess 4:10-12) that Christians should stand out in the broader community as being of excellent reputation. The hardest working, but doing their work without drawing attention to themselves. Providing their own way, not sponging off others when they would be capable themselves of contributing and doing it well.
He gives them an illustration – himself. ( 2 Thess 3:6b-10).
They knew how he was when he was with them. He owed no one anything. He paid his own way, so as not to burden the congregation.
His example he was reminding them of was one not just of hard work, but of work without distraction. Commitment to the task. Taking responsibility for your own actions. Not being lazy while everyone else is active. Not getting in people’s ways with unimportant and burdensome requests for things you should be doing for yourself.
There is saying ( said in jest, of course!) a little too often said in our home when someone is asked to do something for another, “What did your last slave die of?” to which the usual speedy reply is, “He’s not dead yet!”.
Paul is challenging the church to not place burdens on one another by being disorderly, irresponsible or lazy. Do your own work, and do it well, expecting nothing in return for your labour, while seeking to free other people up to do the work they have to do also. Stay out of one another’s way as you do God’s work, or as a direct paraphrase might say, “Mind your own beeswax!”.
Other places in Scripture teach us that if someone doesn’t want to work, they shouldn’t eat either. It’s common sense, but we forget it so often, especially in a church setting where so often a small percentage of the congregation does a large percentage of the work while the larger percentage of the congregation openly critiques or outright hinder the work that is going on.
Disorderliness and idleness are not character traits that belong in a church that is seeking to be as effective as it can be for God’s glory, and Paul rightly says we need to warn those who seem insistent on having the world revolve around them.
We do need to care for one another, we do need to bear one another’s burdens ( Galatians 6:2), but we should never be creating burdens for others by being immature or irresponsible.
Most times, we just stop at Paul’s first note of not having anything to do with them (3:14b). We’re good at ignoring the problem people in our churches, we don’t usually need to be told twice to steer clear. We’re not so good at warning them though ( 3:15), and this is what we should ultimately be doing – aiming for their restoration to full fellowship and contribution to the congregation.
Warn that brother or sister who is being disorderly. If we consider them part of our church family, we should warn them.
Sanctification is partly a community project. We are responsible for our brothers and sisters, and if we see them straying, if we see them falling away, especially in instances like this, we are told to extend love to them( James 5:19-20). Never to endorse their sin or behaviour, but to lovingly confront them and say, “This is wrong, this is not glorifying to God.”
Other people not pulling their weight should not discourage us either. (3:13).
Don’t grow weary, keep up the work you are doing for God. Keep looking to Him as your reward, not around you to see if others are doing their bit. Shake off those that would seek to distract you from your work, if they won’t listen, they won’t listen. Haters gonna hate, shake it off, get on with your task at hand, which to focus on becoming more like Jesus. You are only responsible for your own actions, and if you want to please God, you will follow His Word, not your own agenda.
Issues like this can cause conflict. We don’t like it when the dynamics are negative, but we are called to be in community with other believers. We want peace from outside opposition (3:2) and internal indifference (3:6-15), and that peace only comes from the Lord of peace(3:16).
Yes, church would be great if it wasn’t for other people, but seeing as there are other people there, we had better spend some time in prayer and meditation on Scripture figuring out how we are all best meant to get along.
Christ’s example, of course, is always the best to follow, and in Philippians 2:1-8 we are shown what the mind of Christ is, and how we should apply that specifically to our relationships with other Christians.
The message of Thessalonians is clear, Jesus will return and He is looking to find us faithful when He returns.
What will He find in us when He comes back?
Busybodies – more interested in sharing gossip than sharing burdens?
Disorderly and irresponsible people – more interested in making work than doing any?
Or will He find people who are confident in His love, enduring in Christ’s work, while actively living in a community with one another that builds up for God’s glory?
Taking steps towards being ready for Christ’s return is as easy as asking Him for help, and then seeing how you can help the person next to you become more like Jesus.
Anticipating the return of Christ is a community project that every believer should get busy with.