October 12, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:14
And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.
Scripture teaches us to love all people. But this doesn’t mean we treat everyone in the same way. Our care for people should respond to their particular situations, to what they need from us. But all people – being fallible, fallen human beings – need patience, including us.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians
In yesterday’s devotion I noted that 1 Thessalonians 5:14 teaches us to pay attention to what people really need from us. Someone who is a slacker might need admonishment. Someone who is discouraged could use encouragement. Someone who is weak might very well need practical help. Of course, you could add many kinds of people to this list, specifying the exact sort of service you might offer them. As we seek to care for each other in the church, we will learn to individualize our care in light of the needs of others.
But, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:14, one particular kind of care is suitable for everyone. The last phrase of that verse says, “[B]e patient with all of them.” Be patient with the slackers, the discouraged, and the weak. No matter whom you’re dealing with or why, patience is warranted.
Why? Why is patience needed? Because people are slow. People don’t change and grow at the pace we’d prefer. (Of course, it’s likely that we don’t change and grow at the pace preferred by others!) This is simple human nature. We take time to learn, to try new things, to correct our behavior, to emerge from discouragement.
Now, it makes intuitive sense to me that we should be patient with the faint hearted (AKA discouraged) and the weak. But I find it curious that we are also to be patient with the idlers (AKA slackers). If I had been one of the Thessalonian believers, I expect I would have been impatient with those who were failing to work even though they were able and relying on the generosity of others. I might well have thought that these idlers should get moving . . . right now! Yet, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 challenges me to learn to be patient with all, not just those who obviously deserve it.
I’ve known some people in my life for whom patience seems to come naturally. I am not one of those people, however. Whatever patience I can muster these days is a result of God’s work in me over many years. And not just God’s work, but also God’s patience with me. When I reflect on my life as a follower of Jesus, I am embarrassed by how long certain sins have plagued my life. I could imagine God getting to the point of saying, “Okay. That’s enough. I’m done with you.” But that’s not what God has said. As God was with Israel, so God has been with me: patient, kind, utterly faithful and reliable. Or, as we read in Psalm 103:8-13:
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.
The more we experience God’s grace in our lives, the more we know that God is “slow to anger,” the more we experience God’s compassion, the more we will be able to be patient with others.
Who in your life has been an exceptionally patient person? How did you experience their patience? Why, do you think, they were able to be so patient?
Would you say you are a patient person? If so, why? If not, why not? In what parts of life do you find it easier to be patient? In what parts of life do you find it harder to be patient?
In what ways have you experienced God’s patience in your life?
Is there someone in your life who is needing your patience? If so, ask for the Lord’s help to be graciously patient with this person.
Gracious God, thank you for your patience. You have been patient with your people for millennia. And you have been patient with me for decades. How grateful I am that you are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Thank you for your mercy and compassion. Thank you for hanging in there with me without giving up on me or sending me away.
Help me, Lord, to be patient with people in my life. I ask especially for patience with those I’d like to hurry up. Whether at home or at work, please help me to bear with people because you have borne with me. May the grace you’ve lavished upon me flow generously to others. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Finding Each Other in the Dust.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.