The character of the first churches in the New Testament varies widely. Most were founded in trial and affliction, and often there were issues that needed to be addressed. In Phillippi, a couple of women had some disagreement Paul needed to straighten out. The Galatians were in grave danger of accepting another gospel, and the Corinthians had a load of problems. Paul’s counsel and at times, rebuke, of them spans two letters. It is almost with overflowing relief that Paul writes his first letter to the Thessalonian church. The believers in that city were doing much to commend. Faith, hope, and love characterized their discipleship, and Paul expresses his affection several times. “For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.”(3:7.)
One may think that things are going so well in Thessalonica that Paul has little need to tell them what to do. But he does tell them and does so with the embrace of both praise and challenge. “Finally, then, brothers, 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.” (4:1)
Paul acknowledges how they are following the Lord Jesus just as he instructed them, and his delight in them throughout the letter is evident. What a comfort and joy their faith is to him! But he also urges them on to do so even more. There is always room for conformity to the Lord Jesus. You are doing well – keep doing it!
Many times elders and pastors spend time helping the struggling and the hurting, as they should. Those who don’t hold a New Testament office can and should do this also. The body builds itself up. But there are those faithfully going on with and for the Lord, month after month, year after year, who aren’t struggling. They aim to please God quietly, and like the Thessalonians, pursue the “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:3)
We should encourage such believers in the two-fold way that Paul does. Thank them for their steadfast example, and urge them to continue, striving to be imitators of the Lord with even greater closeness. You know some of these believers; they are part of your local church. They don’t seek recognition, but they are the bone and sinew of the body of Christ. Thank God for such Christians, and perhaps without fanfare, encourage them to persevere in their faithful testimony.