12 by Clay Gentry
The worst enemy of enthusiasm is weariness. That tired feeling that results from having run out of strength, patience, and endurance. All of us have been there. We decide to start something great and wonderful, and then in the matter of a few days, or weeks, or months we are tired of it. What once was a joy, has now become a wearisome burden. Vacationers get tired of rest, millionaires get tired of money, kids gets tired of toys, and Christians get tired of doing good. What is true in the twenty-first century was true in the first century. Christians must battle against the weariness associated with doing good. Paul exhorted the saints in Thessalonica saying, “do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). For our lesson let’s look at some of the factors that would have contributed to the Thessalonians’ weariness. Along the way, we will make some application to ourselves.
Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Good Even When… You’re Persecuted:
The church of the Thessalonians was started amid the heat of persecution (Acts 17:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8; 2:13-16). The persecution these believers endured was not isolated to the beginnings of the church. Rather, they seem to have continued sometime after Paul’s initial visit, since he mentions in his second letter, their “persecutions and the afflictions that [they were] enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Therefore, we see that the Thessalonians knew nothing but persecution.
Yet even in the face of such persecutions and afflictions the Thessalonians continued to do good. Paul commends this faithful band of believers saying,
“We remember before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and in Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need to say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
“We ought to always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
The Thessalonians continued to do good because their focus was not on personal comfort, or fulfillment, or happiness, but on the glory of God and the fulfillment of their purpose of spreading the saving message of the gospel. This is why their faith in God and love for one another continued to grow.
Persecution will happen to everyone. Paul told the Thessalonians that Christians “are destined” (appointed – KJV) for persecution (ref. 1 Thessalonians 3:3b-4). Perhaps we are more familiar with the wording of 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Faithful believers must expect persecution and suffering of various kinds from a world that has rejected Christ. Does Satan tempt us through persecutions? Yes he does. (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5). He tempts us to give up, to grow weary and tired. However, remember the words of James and Peter, that it is through the temptation of persecution, that our faith is made stronger and purer through persecution (James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 1:6-8). That is what we see with the Thessalonians, and that is what we will see in our lives if we don’t grow weary in doing good, even when we are persecuted for our faith.
Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Good Even When…The World Around You Is Wicked:
The Greco-Roman world was engrossed with sex[i]. Both male and female prostitutes were the staple of many, idolatrous temples and worship rituals. The atmosphere surrounding Thessalonica would not have been an exception, rather it would have been the rule. I have heard it said that Thessalonica was the ancient equivalent to Las Vegas. Its from this kind of sex-crazed, idolatrous background that, according to 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, many of the Thessalonians left to follow the living God. So, with their background, it shouldn’t surprise us that Paul gave them these instructions:
“Finally, then, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warn you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
The pull of their world around them, coupled with their former lifestyle of idol worshippers made the temptation of sexual sins all the stronger for the Thessalonians. This is why Paul not only taught sexual purity while he was with them, but reminded them again, that we as Christians are called to lives of purity and holiness before God. He did not want them to grow weary in resisting the constant pressures of sex crazed culture. Because to do so, would mean the loss of their souls.
The world we live in today, while vastly different in terms of modernity, suffers from the same disease of sexual promiscuity. Any words that I might use to describe the world’s obsession with all things sex would be an understatement, no matter how well I might articulate it. The world is mad for everything sex. While the times have changed, the message has not, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
Some of the strongest language of condemnation in all the bible is used against sexually immoral people (Galatians 5:19-21; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:7-8, 22:14-15). Hear what Paul said in Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things” these things being the sins listed in the previous verse which included sexual immorality, “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” This verse should strike terror in every heart to think that the wrath of the creator God is coming upon those who practice sexual immorality. Now, if you are inclined to think that this warning does not apply to you, because you have never cheated on your spouse or fooled around, think again. Because Jesus said that if you even look at a women or man with lustful eyes, then it’s just the same as if you bedded down with them (ref. Matthew 5:27-30). Therefore, we must heed the words of Paul and “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). That encompasses the act itself, or people that would entice us, or material that would stimulate improper thoughts must be left in the dust of our tracks. The world around us is a wicked place. It’s a wicked, sex crazed jungle out there. We must remain vigilant against Satan’s attacks and not grow weary in doing good, even in the face of such perverse sexual wickedness.
Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Good Even When…Others Take Advantage of You:
It has often been said that many within the Thessalonian church had stopped working and were idle because of their misunderstanding teaching regarding the coming day of the Lord. The reason for this conclusion is based on the fact that both problems are addressed in Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians. While it is true that some within the church were not working, I would submit to you, that it was not because of a misunderstanding of the Lord’s return, but because those who were not working were lazy sloths – nothing more, nothing less.
Paul’s teaching on the importance of Christians working and supplying their own needs was a common theme in Paul’s teachings[ii], so it should be no surprise that Paul teaches on this subject when he first arrives in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Of the many things Paul taught the saints during his stay in Thessalonica, the need to work with their own hands and supply their own needs was stressed. Not only did Paul teach this while he was among them, he practiced it as well (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8; cf. Acts 20:4; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9). In addition to his original teaching and example, Paul again instructed the Thessalonians through his first epistle to, “work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and to “admonish the idle” that were among them (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Then in his second epistle, Paul calls for the church to separate themselves from those who had not heeded his earlier teachings on the matter (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).
Behind the scene are the faithful Thessalonians who were compassionately supporting the idle. The idle were not only ignoring Paul’s commands to earn their own bread but were burdening those who were working by taking advantage of their generous hearts (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:8). This is the context of Paul’s exhortation to the faithful, “As for you brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). The hard-working believers were had been taken advantage of by their lazy brethren. However, Paul reminded them that the truly needy still required help and that the Thessalonians must not be negligent toward them. No doubt, people will take advantage of your generosity. However, you can’t allow those people and those times of disappointment to harden your heart toward help others who are truly needy. Let us not grow weary in doing good, even when others take advantage of us.
Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Good Even When…Your Resources Are Few:
One of the great works of Paul was the collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem. First, by James during the meeting recorded in Acts 15 (cf. Galatians 2:10), Paul solicited funds from the predominantly Gentile churches in the Greek regions of Achaia and Macedonia (cf. Romans 15:25-27), though churches in Galatia also participated as well (1 Corinthians 16:1). Achaia included the congregations of Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8-9) and Cenchreae (ref. Romans 16:1). Macedonia included the congregations of Philippi (Acts 16:11-40), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), and Berea (Acts 17:10-15).
Paul commended the churches of Macedonia (and by extension the Thessalonians) for their desire to help their needy brethren, even in their great poverty, saying to the Corinthians:
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
In spite of their difficult financial circumstances, the Thessalonians possessed an “abundance” of, or surplus of joy, which translated into a “wealth of generosity.” The Thessalonians did not grow weary in doing good, even when their resources were few. Paul’s language indicates that they lived in extreme poverty (perhaps a reflection of their persecutions cf. Hebrews 10:34), yet “they gave according to their means” and “beyond.” The Thessalonians did not wait until they had enough to give, they simply gave what they could and sacrificed so they could give more. Let us remember that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Whether the giver is rich or poor, God loves those who cheerfully give out of the abundance of the blessings He has given them. Let us follow the example of the Thessalonians and not grow weary in doing good, even when our resources are few. Let’s give ourselves to the Lord and then to the service of others with whatever the Lord has placed within our hands.
Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Good Even When…Others Have Grown Weary And Given Up:
There is no doubt that many of us can think of someone who was once so faithful to the Lord, but now has turned their back on Him and His church. Such was the case with Demas. As part of Paul’s band-of-brothers, Demas demonstrated substantial commitment to the Lord’s work as a “fellow worker” of Paul’s (Philemon 24; Colossians 4:14). However, a love for the world led Demas to desert Paul in Roman prison and head to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10). It is believed by some scholars that Thessalonica may have been Demas’ home town. It is not out of place to think that someone from the Christian community there would have seen Demas or would have gotten word of his abandonment of the faith. Think of the discouragement this would have brought to the believers in Thessalonica, knowing that faithful, hard-working Demas had left the faith for the pleasures of this life.
There have been, and will continue to be, brothers and sisters, who for whatever reason decide that this life is more important than the next and will abandon God and us. There is no doubt about it is discouraging. However, we cannot allow ourselves to grow weary in doing good, even when others do not.
There are many reasons to grow weary in doing good. We have surveyed some of those that the church at Thessalonica faced, and I’m sure that we could have considered many more. Let’s end with Paul’s closing words of his second epistle,
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
This characteristic of our Lord is needed by all believers engaged in the great spiritual battle that surrounds us. May we all look to Christ for peace in times of weariness. May He establish us in every good work as we serve Him. Amen.