Everyone needs someone, at some time, to give them something, in order to become the someone they long to become. Sounds like a tongue twister, doesn’t it? It really is.
But think about it. It’s true. Everyone needs someone, at some time, to give them the something, in order to become the someone you long to become.
I had a time when I had some major issues going on in my life and hindsight is 20/20. I was only going into seventh grade. Came into a large junior high, eight or nine hundred students, I was the shortest and skinniest kid of all the boys or girls.
At least, when I was in elementary school, my claim to fame was I was the smallest but the fastest and now I went into junior high and I was just the smallest. People kept growing and they ran right by me.
And so, I did what happens when you feel very insecure and you go through junior high years, you don’t feel very good about yourself and I became a real arrogant, smart aleck and I covered up all my insecurities with my mouth.
And so, I acted like I really had it together and I would put people down and became obnoxious, so that people would reject me, which helped reinforce how insecure I was.
Well, there was a fellow named Coach Lance. And Neil Lance saw beneath the little, arrogant kid’s mouth and somehow saw some potential. He was my P.E. teacher. I ended up three years there. He ended up coaching me and I ended up working for him, in my college years, painting houses.
But he motivated me. Early on, he motivated me to see beyond my own horizons. As I got around him somehow he saw something in me, he wanted to bring out the best in me, and he did it in such a way that I began to dream new dreams, things that would really matter.
And then after motivating me, and beginning to feel better about myself, then he instructed me; he taught me. I thought it was about basketball but when I look back, he was teaching me about life.
He spent time. He would, before class, after class, during lunch periods three or four days a week, he and I alone, in the gym, one on one. He taught me how to play, taught me how to shoot, taught me how to play defense.
But there was a little talk before, and a little talk afterwards, about life and about values, and work, and principles, and honesty. And then it was like he had eyes and he would look just to see whenever I did something right;
He knew what the temptation was with my mouth and whenever he saw me even mildly keep it shut, he’d encourage me and affirm me. And he not only motivated me, instructed me, and affirmed me but he cared enough that he corrected me.
I’ll still never forget. I was in his office and now it’s my ninth grade year and
I had this real, it’s just me and him, and I say this real smart aleck type thing… I’ll never forget. This is in the old days. He grabs my shirt with both hands. Now, not brutally, not brutality, nothing.
And he put me up against the wall like this. And I slid down into that chair and then he bent over and he got right in my face. He said, “Ingram, I’m going to tell you something right now. That mouth of yours is going to get you in trouble.” He said, “You’re ending ninth grade right now and you’re going to go across to that big building and you’re going to open your mouth like that and some junior or senior is going to stick his fist right through it and you will deserve it.
“And I want you to know something, you loud-mouthed, smart aleck kid. I care about you too much for you to mess up your life like that. Do you got it?” I don’t think it’s an accident that after all those years and all that time practicing, that I went to play college ball because of Neil Lance.
I ended up playing ball around the seas because of Neil Lance. I’ve become a pastor because I went overseas. My life has been shaped, because someone understood how to bring out the best in another individual. Far more, far greater than I could ever, ever see.
And this morning we are going to learn, from Scripture, how you can be that person in someone else’s life.
And if you want to learn how to do that, the apostle Paul models it for us in I Thessalonians 4:1 to 12. We’re going to learn that there are four keys to inspiring others, to bringing out the best in their life.
The first one is: You gotta motivate them. You gotta help them soar beyond their present horizon. Secondly, you have to teach them, in the most strategic arena of their life. Third, then you have to affirm them and you have to affirm them in the areas where they’re making the most progress. And then finally, you have to correct them whenever their attitudes or their actions are thwarting the progress that God wants them to make.
And you’re going to see here the apostle Paul with supernatural, divine wisdom takes this church in the center of a pagan, pagan culture and he’s going to take people that are really making progress and he’s going to take them to the next level. Here’s what he does. You might want to jot this down in your notes if you have a pen. Motivate them to soar beyond their present horizons. That’s what motivation is.
Listen to the apostle Paul, verse 1. He says, “Finally, brothers, we instructed, or you received our teaching, about how to live in order to please God.” See, he appeals to the various highest level of meaning and purpose. He says, “I don’t want to motivate you to some small-time, temporal achievement.”
He says, “You have the potential to please the living God of the universe.” Now that’s up there pretty high. Notice he goes on, “As, in fact, you are now living.”
See, not only do you appeal to the highest level of meaning and purpose but, secondly, you do it positively. He’s saying, “This is where you were, you’ve trusted Christ, you’re making progress, and your lives right now are pleasing God.”
Can you imagine how motivating it would be to get that kind of word from someone like the apostle Paul? Or can you imagine how motivating it would be for some kid, or some person, or some friend, to hear from you that they’re really pleasing God?
But he goes on. He teaches them that beyond that, that when you motivate someone it’s not just appealing to the highest level of meaning and purpose, and it’s not just doing it positively. He’s going to do it as a fellow traveler and remind them that this whole journey of growth is a process.
Look what he says. He says, “Now we ask you,” and the term means: From one equal to another. He’s a fellow journeyman, a believer in this trek we call life. He says, “Now we ask you and we urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”
He says, “You’re pleasing God already, you’re making great progress,” but he says, “excel more.”
And then notice, what’s the goal of his motivation? It’s not his agenda. It’s not even their agenda. Look at verse 2. Verse 2 says, “For you know what instructions,” this is a different word than the earlier word.
This is command or order, “For you know what orders or instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” Do you see what he’s saying? You motivate people to fulfill God’s agenda.
The issue, when you motivate another person, is appeal to the highest level of meaning and purpose and that’s to please God.
And so the goal is not so they fulfill their agenda, not so they fulfill your agenda. What is it? They fulfill God’s agenda, His will. And that’s the first step.
And by the way, I think we need to take motivation seriously. It’s a multi, multi- billion-dollar industry. Companies have understood that when people aren’t motivated, they don’t do much.
We need to understand, as believers, we need to look into one another’s eyes and realize we need to motivate, we need to encourage, we need to lift the horizons where people begin to sense and feel and believe they could do what they never dreamed they could do.
Motivation is not enough, though. Motivation without education is hype. You gotta raise the level, and then you have to give instruction and teaching, so they can fulfill God’s agenda.
Teach them the most strategic area in their life that will produce life change.
The apostle Paul is going to do that. He’s writing to a group of people that are in an incredibly secular world. There are temples on every corner, there is immorality like you can’t imagine. The average Thessalonian man who just came to Christ, he has a wife, and the wife’s job is to stay at home, not be seen, not do anything, bear him children and heirs.
Most of them would have a mistress – that was for fun – and then, if you were having a low day, all the pagan temples had prostitutes. Because a part of pagan worship was sexual acts.
So guess where the apostle Paul… what’s the most strategic area to teach them in? He’s going to teach them that God is holy, God is loving, God is compassionate, and God is good. And he’s going to teach them that your present sexual practice is separating you from God. There’s a huge price tag that you’re paying, it’s unworthy of your calling, and your life is not a testimony to the world.
First, he’s going to explain clearly what God’s will is. We instruct people to fulfill God’s agenda, doesn’t it make sense? Tell them what His will is. Not your will, not the church’s will, not an organization’s will, not the denomination’s will, not what your grandfather believed. What is the will of God?
Well, where do you find the will of God? It’s in the Word. So notice what he says, verse 3, “For it is God’s will that you should be sanctified,” the word means “set apart,” be holy, pure, undefiled… that you should avoid or abstain from sexual immorality.”
He says, “Let me tell you the will of God. And the will of God is that you be sexually pure.” And you can do a little study on this phrase and it means that you be sexually pure in your mind. It means you don’t have lustful thoughts. Remember Matthew 5? Jesus said when you lust for a woman in your heart you have committed adultery. It’s about your thought life.
It’s also about sexual purity vicariously. You know, there are some people, though, that never think of hopping in a bed with someone other than their mate, but live on pornography, soap operas, and romance novels and vicariously live through sexual fantasy. He says, “No, you need to be pure.”
And third, not only our thought life or vicarious expression but in our relationships. This is saying God wants us, as believers, for our good because of His character, and His love, He wants us to be sexually pure. He’s saying, this phrase, “It is the will of God and here are the boundaries and inside the boundaries one man, one woman, sex after marriage as the fulfillment of depth, and commitment, and communication. Any other sexual expression by single people, or married people, or same-sex people, is out of bounds.”
And you say, “Well that sounds pretty prudish to me. Of course, let’s do a little cost/benefit analysis. I wonder what life was like when this was in the moral fabric of our culture. The divorce rate was miniscule, we didn’t have AIDS then, genital herpes was a rare commodity, families weren’t fractured, people weren’t paying financially for paternity suits, we didn’t have the great majority of people going into marriage with psychological and emotional scars, we hadn’t done the research, and we didn’t know the people that are promiscuous, before they’re married, have less satisfying sex lives after they’re married.
See, we didn’t have a lot of the junk and the price tag that we have now. But, see, God knew. And so, once you explain God’s will to them, that’s verse 3, now notice in verses 4 and 5, when you want to explain God’s will, I think, here’s what he does: Tell it like it is, with conviction.
We have a lot of people that, when it gets down to some sensitive subjects, we kind of waffle: “Well, you know, I’m not really sure what…of…Bible…says about…” I’m real sure what the Bible says. I may not like it and it may be hard but, I mean, this is not one of those, “I wonder what God really thinks about sex?”
You know what every college person always asks you at a conference? “I want to know the will of God. We, can you tell me what the will of God for my life is?” So here’s one of the passages I always turn to, “Sure, it says right here: The will of God for your life is that you be sexually pure.” Makes those conversations pretty short, you know?
Notice now though how to say it. When you communicate and you want to inspire people there’s a balance. In verses 3 to 5, you tell it like it is, with conviction. But lest you get too uptight, in verses 6 through 8, you tell it why it is, with compassion.
So let’s look at it. Verse 4 he says it’s, “…that each of you should learn,” the word means to habitually learn and make a practice in your life, “learn to control his own body or vessel in a way that is holy and honorable,” he states it positively.
He said, “…operate in such a way, in the sexual arena, that it is holy and that is honorable.”
That means every thought that goes through your head, whether you’re at the beach, or whether you’re at a movie or whether you’re in the office – is the thoughts that are in your head are pure, holy, and honorable.
It means that every time your rent a video, anytime you open a magazine, every time you’re at a hotel and push the button, watch something that comes on the screen, every time you stick something in the VCR, you would look up to God and say, “Hey, God, I know that what I am watching is holy and honorable.”
It means that every relationship with the opposite sex is one where you don’t feel guilty, you don’t feel ashamed, you don’t feel bad, you don’t feel like you’re violating… you know, you could stand before God and know that whether you’re married or single, that my relationships with the opposite sex are holy and honorable.
He goes on to say, “Not,” by contrast, “in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God.” And so he tells it like it is and he tells it with conviction. Why? It’s because God cares so much.
In verses 6 through 8, he’s going to give us three specific reasons why this is the smartest, most logical, beneficial thing for you, and all the people you’re trying to help. In verse 6, he’s going to teach us sexual purity is crucial because when we’re immoral it harms others. In verse 7, he’s going to say it’s going to harm you. End of 7, he’s going to say it’s inconsistent with your high calling.
So let’s look at it. Reason number one he says, “Look,” compassionately, now the tone changes. He says, “Don’t have sex outside of a monogamous, marital relationship because, one, it harms other people.” Verse 6, “And in this matter,” what matter? In the matter of sexual purity, “No one should wrong,” it means, “trespass, sin against,” “his brother or take advantage of him.” That means, “defraud.”
See, Paul had this holistic view about life, unlike us. He had this picture that, okay, there’s all these men, there’s all these women. If I get involved in immorality, or you get involved in immorality, and you sleep with this person, that person, this person, that person, and that person, and they sleep with this person, that person, and that person, the day is going to come when they marry someone.
And when they marry that someone, God’s plan, because sex is holy and sacred and He’s actually for it, don’t let this out, He invented it. And He invented it for pleasure, procreation, and the joy of His children. It’s not dirty, it’s not evil, it’s not bad, God’s really pro-sex.
But when you have it with other people, then the person who shows up at wedding night with someone else that you’ve had sex with, is a used commodity. You’ve defrauded your brother, you’ve defrauded your sister.