1 Thessalonians 4: 1 -2
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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
A friend of mine an excellent after dinner or Burns’ Night speaker always as he nears the end of his speech (but not too near) says “And finally …….. I like to say that because it is important to give my audience hope”
An alternative expression of the same message is “What is the definition of an optimist?” Answer “An optimist is a woman who nudges her husband awake and slips her shoes back on when she hears the Minister say And finally”
You would be forgiven for thinking that Paul is doing something similar when he starts the fourth chapter (not that Paul knew anything about how his writings would be divided up into chapter and verse, that came centuries later) when having said ‘Finally’ he then goes on for two whole chapters, a good third of the letter!
That though would be to misunderstand his use of the word, he uses it to mean ‘As for the rest’ It’s a transition from one part of his letter to the next rather than a conclusion.
Having looked back at how the community of Christians in Thessalonica came to be where they are Paul now looks to the future, and basically he is saying keep on doing you are doing and you won’t go far wrong.
He stresses that there is always room for improvement we might think we are doing great but we can always improve, likewise never be discouraged if you think you are failing for we can always try to improve and sooner or later we will.
Many years ago the great golfer Jack Nicklaus was giving a golf day to a group of very wealthy business people. It had been organised by a certain man whose enthusiasm for golf was matched only by his inability to play the game. He was though very wealthy and powerful (and no his name was not Trump) so people put up with him. Having paid a lot of money to attend the golf day they were less than pleased when the organiser more or less monopolised Nicklaus on the practice ground.
He was asking Nicklaus how he could cure his awful slice with which he hit just about every long shot. Nicklaus patiently took him through gripping the club, addressing the ball and swinging the club. All to no avail as time after time his drives bent violently to the right. The crowd watched as Nicklaus put his hands on the man’s shoulders looked into his eyes and said something.
A miracle happened! For the first time he hit shot after shot straight down the line he was aiming at. Amazed everyone wanted to know what it was Nicklaus had said that transformed his game but he refused to tell. Until one night after a good game and a better session in the 19th he finally told his friends “After all the time we had been talking and trying different things without making a difference to my slice, Jack looked me square in the eye and said “I want you to hit five shots now and if you slice any of them I’m going to smack you in the mouth!”
God is pleased when we get it right and encourages us when we get it wrong but not by threatening to smack us in the mouth but as Paul says in love
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, we are frail as you know, encourage us when we are weak and show your pleasure when we are strong, so we may do more and more for you.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,