Christian Hope: Encourage the Fainthearted
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
In today’s passage, the apostle Paul encourages the fainthearted to recognize God’s encouragement of a future hope for all believers. This hope causes us to stay awake now because we have been made ready by Him.
Point 1: Faint Hearts
Paul specifically addresses the fainthearted (“small-souled” in Greek) in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. The Thessalonians experienced great discouragement because fellow believers died before Christ’s return (4:13-14). Grief over death (and other current trials) is appropriate, but Paul instructs that all believers—alive and dead—have a future hope. We are not to “grieve as others do who have no hope” (4:13).
Point 2: God’s Encouragement
Chrisitans have an informed future: Upon Jesus’ return, the dead in Christ will rise first (4:16), and remaining believers shall follow (4:17). This world is not our final home, so any present sufferings do not compare to the future eternal glory awaiting us (Rom. 8:18). Yet, we tend to concern ourselves about the tomorrow we do not know rather than future we do know. So we must receive God’s encouragement by contemplating scriptural truths about His future provision. When we experience need, we must cry out to God. And when He speaks, and we are satisfied.
Point 3: Stay Awake
Another source of faintheartedness involves concerns with our readiness for Jesus’ return, for He shall come like a thief in the night (5:2). For unbelievers, His appearance will most certainly be an unexpected and fear-inducing occurrence (5:3). But Christians are children of the light (5:5) who have been made ready because of Jesus’ work of salvation (5:9). Therefore, our response is joyful alertness as we wear the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of hope of salvation (5:8).
When we find ourselves fainthearted, we gain encouragement from what God says about the future. Doing so empowers us in the present. And when we are encouraged, we become alert because we’ve been made ready by the grace of God in Christ.