Wrapping up his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul provides a blueprint for our peace and joy as Christians. The historical context of this blueprint was apparent anxiety on the part of the church in Thessalonica concerning when Jesus Christ would return and how they should prepare themselves or conduct themselves in anticipation of that event. Making things even more tense for some of the Thessalonian Christians were the hardships and challenges many Christians were facing in the first century Roman world. The teaching Paul gives is as instructive for us as it was for them.
In the fifth chapter of I Thessalonians, Paul told the Thessalonian church not to worry or speculate about the return of Jesus, but rather to conduct themselves in a way that would bring glory and honor to Christ. He then explains what kinds of things Christians can do to glorify God. His list of specific exhortations is something each church and individual Christian should pursue and model:
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
16 Rejoice always,
17 pray without ceasing,
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
20 Do not despise prophecies.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Take a few moments to review Paul’s list. Ask yourself how you are doing in each area. We do not know when Christ will return, because we don’t know the future. But we do know the God who is sovereign over the future. And we know what His instructions are for the present. The extent of our peace and joy (even in the midst of life’s challenges and uncertainty) will be commensurate with our commitment to the principles and practices to which Paul exhorts us in I Thessalonians 5.