5 Ways to Love Others Through Self-Discipline
December 5, 2016 Year A
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
It takes self-discipline in order to grow. If I want to have a healthy body, I need to stay in shape by getting exercise and eating properly. If I want to have a healthy loving relationship with others, I need to also “stay in shape.” Staying in physical shape requires that I engage in exercises that tone my body. Staying in the proper requires a self-discipline. I refrain from eating unhealthy foods and I get involved in activities that help me.
The same is true in my relationships. Sanctification is a big word for spiritual growth. When people think of spiritual growth, they think of meditation and Bible reading. However, these are spiritual disciplines which help me internally. Yet spiritual growth is also about relational growth. I must reflect my personal discipline outwardly in a relationship with other people. God calls me to love Him and love others. If I am going to continue to “walk and please God” (spiritual growth) (1 Thessalonians 4:2), then I need to obey the commands of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:3). What is the commands of Jesus?
Love God and love one another. We know this is true because Paul brings it up in 1 Thessalonians 4:9. He says that we are taught to love one another. In his instruction to the Thessalonian believers, he shares five ways to grow in loving relationships with other people by self-discipline. This self-discipline requires that I resist my sinful nature in myself to love others the way that God wants me to do – to please Him.
Self-discipline, in this case, is like resistance training. I exercise my body in resistance against a weight to strengthen my muscles. In the same way, God wants me to resist certain urges in order that I might grow in self-discipline and self-control so that I can properly love as God wants me to.
5 LOVING EXERCISES OF RESISTANCE
1. Abstain from lust (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
The first exercise of resistance is sexual. God wants me to abstain from lust. Sexual desires can get out of control in relationships. I have to learn to say “No” to those desires.
2. Stop cheating my neighbor (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
The second exercise of resistance is how we treat another person. I learn not to take advantage of another person – whether it is their wife, their wealth, or their wisdom, I have to resist the desire to steal from someone else.
3. Lead a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
The third exercise of resistance is in how I speak. I can still relate to other people without always speaking my mind. I don’t have to express myself when I meet with people. Listening to others in an important skill. As a pastor, I often talk too much. It’s important that I learn to listen more than I speak. Listening is an important relational skill. Sometimes, the most important skill is to resist to speak so that I take the time to listen intently on what the other person is saying.
4. Mind my own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
The fourth exercise of resistance is how involved I get in other people’s business. The verse literally says to “practice my own things.” I need to stay busy taking care of what God has given me. I don’t need to butt into other people’s business uninvited. People who are “busybodies” are people who think they have to be involved without being asked.
If someone needs my help, they will ask me. Sometimes, it takes listening to the Spirit to see if a person is asking for help. At the same time, the Spirit never wants me to stick my nose in where it does not belong. That can get me in trouble.
5. Work to provide for my needs (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
The reason why I need to mind my own business is because God wants to use me to work to provide my needs. God gives me the fifth exercise in resistance – work – to provide for my needs. I should be a giving person, not a needy person. Needy people look to others to provide for their needs. Healthy people resist this weakness by working the work God has provided for their needs.
As a Christian, I should depend upon the work that God gives them to provide for their needs. This is loving because it shows outsiders that I depend upon God for my needs and I don’t always ask for a handout. I love God enough to ask Him for help, not anyone else. This form of self-discipline speaks volumes to outsiders about the kind of person I am. It shows that I live with respect. I show that God is loving to me by providing for my needs.
Photo by Abigail Keenan courtesy of Unsplash.com