Faithlife Sermons

How to Walk and Please God with Excellence

I Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:08
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What does it take to excel at something? To be the very best you can possibly be?
We enroll our kids at the music prep school at MBU and every year the teachers stress the importance of practice. You all know the age old saying, “practice makes perfect” right? Well at this prep school they take it a step further and they tell the kids that in order to master anything, like playing the piano or the violin, it takes a certain number of hours. Does anyone know how many hours experts say it takes to become a master at any one thing? 10,000 hours. That is a long time of practice. That means if you did nothing but practice the piano for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week- you didn’t eat, sleep, or take any breaks whatsoever, it would still take you how long?
Let’s do the math: 24 hrs a day x 7 days a week = 168 hours.
52 weeks in a year x 168 hrs = 8736 hours in a year.
10,000 hrs / 8736 = 1.14 year or about 415 days of solid practice.
Now, you know that you can’t practice all 168 hours per week. What happens if you can only practice 14 hours in a week- 2 hours a day. Any ideas of how long it would take? Over 13.5 years. That is the kind of effort it takes to excel at the piano.
What about if you want to excel at walking and pleasing God? What if you are not content with mediocrity in your spiritual walk with Christ? What if good enough isn’t good enough when it comes to pleasing the Lord? This is exactly the thought provoking statement that Paul introduces to the Thessalonian believers in 4:1.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 KJV 1900
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
I love the first word of chapter 4-furthermore or finally. Do you know what it means when a preacher stands up in the pulpit and says, “finally, or in conclusion”? Absolutely nothing. And Paul is a man after my own heart- In chapters 1-3 there are 43 verses of Scripture. In chapter 4 Paul begins the word with finally and then goes on for another 46 verses! So, I am not the only one who is a long preacher. And unlike Paul I have yet to cause anyone to fall out of a window and die, although I have rendered unconscious many a toddler with the power of my voice (not to mention adults).
Anyway, Paul begins a new section here of the letter and he begins winding his writing to a close, and in verse 1 of chapter 4 he beseeches and exhorts these believers with a very important issue. And that is their need to abound or to excel or to progress or to be outstanding in walking and in pleasing God.
Paul was not content with baby, immature, lack luster, good enough Christianity! He lays out what should be the goal of every believer and what should be one of the primary ministries of the local church- and that is for all of us to excel more and more in walking and in pleasing God.
Now how do we go about doing that? Simple question and I hope it is an important one to you- how do you master or become excellent or outstanding at walking and pleasing God.

I. We must be convinced of the potential of every Christian’s walk (v. 1)

1 Thessalonians 4:1 KJV 1900
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
Λοιπὸν °οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ,
Finally then, brethren, we request and we exhort you in the Lord Jesus,
Beseech- to request or to ask a person to do something.
Exhort- entreat, to ask or request earnestly, to call to one’s side.
Both words are present tense verbs- so they carry a continuous action- and this highlights the importance of Paul’s entreaty. We are going to ask and call you to a decision continual because it is vitally important.
What does Paul entreat them about?
“That as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God”
ἵνα καθὼς παρελάβετε παρʼ ἡμῶν
That just as you received from us (no deviation from the apostles’ instruction— authority!)
τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ*,
how it is necessary for you to walk and to please God,
Walk- to live or behave in a specified manner (present/continuous action)
Please- to be pleasing to someone (present/continuous action)
1 Thessalonians 4:1 NASB95
1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.
καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε,
just as also you are walking,
Textual Variant- External evidence is strong- most older manuscripts include this phrase, and internal evidence supports this reading as well. The very next phrase makes more sense with this parenthetic thought. And my whole point in this verse is highlighted to a greater degree.
What is the last phrase of the verse?
“so ye would abound more and more.”
It makes more sense to what Paul is saying if you include this small side note. Think about it- Paul is saying, “My brothers and sisters (whom I love dearly, and pray for constantly, and whom I cannot wait to get face to face with so that I can complete what is lacking in your faith), I am asking you, no I am earnestly calling you over to my way of thinking- that just as you have received from us how it is necessary to walk and to please God (and I know that you are already walking this way- you are already living just as we have already instructed you) BUT I am imploring you that you abound more and more.”
Doesn’t that make this verse make more sense? I am urging you Thessalonians, to walk and to please God (and you are already doing it!) BUT, don’t get complacent in you spiritual growth- instead ABOUND!
ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον.
That you progress/be outstanding/excel more and more
Abound- to be plentiful or to exist in large quantities. The idea is that you progress or be outstanding or EXCELL
How far should your ability to walk and please God excel?
μᾶλλον- MORE AND MORE- to a greater degree or extent than it was yesterday- and next week your ability to walk and please God should be to a greater degree or extent than it was the week before- more and more- and it never stops until rapture- when Jesus summons us and gives us glorified bodies that are finally and forever perfected.
This is the potential of EVERY believer! Every person who is in Christ and has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of them has the potential and the expectation to constantly be excelling in their faith- all of us have been called by God to be outstanding in our walk and in please God. God would not have commanded it of us if it were not possible.
V. 3- For this is the will of God, even your sanctification
V. 7- For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness
God called each and every one of us to be outstanding at personal holiness, God has called everyone of us to excel progressively in sanctification.
Illustration: Micah's strength coach- 4 out of 10, even though he only played 13 min and scored 14 points- only missed one shot the whole night. But people that strive to be excellent realize there is always room to grow.
Refutation: Pastor, I have been saved for decades. I am already walking and pleasing God. I’m good.
So were the Thessalonians. Paul even says it- just as you actually do walk- but I want you to excel more and more.
When can we stop? What is the point at which we can say I have grown enough, I’m good? What does Scripture say?
Ephesians 4:12–13 ESV
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Have we gotten there yet? Are we even close?
BUT, the potential for everyone of us is that we can all be outstanding at walking and pleasing God?
Is that what you want?
How do we do that?

II. We must actively participate in God’s plan for every Christian’s walk (v. 2)

1 Thessalonians 4:2 KJV 1900
2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
Hopefully you agree with Paul from v. 1 that the potential for every believer is that we can all of us be outstanding in the way we walk and please God. Do you agree that the potential is there? How do we access that potential? Well, what does Paul do in order to help the Thessalonians excel in their walk?
What does Paul proceed to do in v.2 and then for the rest of the letter in order to help the Thessalonian believers excel in their faith?
What is he doing in v. 2?
For ye know what commandments we gave you
2 οἴδατε γὰρ τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν
For you know what (apostolic) instructions we gave to you
παραγγελία- an order, a command, a precept, an injunction to do something. Here it is used in the sense of apostolic instruction.
In those days they didn’t have the completed cannon of Scripture. Rather what you had was the apostles speaking and repeating the commands that they had been personally taught by Jesus Himself- they were teaching other believers all of the commands that Jesus had taught them. And when they gave this kind of instruction whose authority were they speaking in? Paul tells us at the end of v. 2-
by the Lord Jesus.
διὰ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ*.
Through the Lord Jesus.
Paul was bringing to bear in the lives of the Thessalonian believers the authority of Jesus Christ. This is such an important point. And it is repeated several times in this paragraph.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 KJV 1900
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4:8 KJV 1900
8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
Now connect the dots here. Paul just told these believers that the potential for their faith was that all of them could excel or be outstanding in their walk and in the way they pleased God. And I believe the same goes for us- we need to excel more and more in our faith. Great! How do we do that? Again, what does Paul do?
He commands them to excel more and more in v. 1. And then in v. 2 in order to help them accomplish that goal the very first thing that Paul does is to personally bring to bear the authority of the Word of God in their life.
OK, so there is no secret formula here. There is no new method. The responsibility that God lays on our shoulders for excelling in our faith involves believers personally interacting in each other’s lives and bringing to bear the Word of God in the lives of other people.
Here is the pattern- You have Paul and Silas and Timothy (the mature believers in Christ) teaching the younger believers in Christ (the Thessalonians) the commands of God. The other part of this pattern is the kind of relationship that existed between Paul and the Thessalonians- and we could sum it up by saying that love was the primary factor that motivated Paul to bring to bear the authority of the Word of God in their lives. And this is proven all over the place in the book of I Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 2:7–8 NASB95
7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:11–12 NASB95
11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:17 NASB95
17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.
1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 NASB95
19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 3:10 NASB95
10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
1 Thessalonians 4:2 NASB95
2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
So here is the secret formula- which is no secret at all- it is just obeying what God told us to do in the first place- how do you excel in your faith?

You need a mature believer personally involved in your life.

You need another believer who loves you in the Lord, who is willing to spend their lives investing in you.

You need another believer who will bring to bear the authority of the Word of God in your life.

You need this person to do this faithfully for the rest of your life so that you can excel still more and more in your faith until we all come unto the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ.

I believe the context that Jesus wants us to do this kind of growth in is the local church.

Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Romans 15:14 NASB95
14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Galatians 5:13 KJV 1900
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Galatians 6:2 KJV 1900
2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:25 ESV
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
John 17:17 NASB95
17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
Ephesians 5:19 NASB95
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
Colossians 3:16 KJV 1900
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB95
11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 NASB95
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
1 Peter 1:22 NASB95
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
1 Peter 4:8 ESV
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:10 ESV
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 John 3:23 KJV 1900
23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1 John 4:11 NASB95
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Why do all this? What is our ultimate motivation in one another ministry?
Mark 12:30 ESV
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
John 14:15 KJV 1900
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 15:12–14 NASB95
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB95
8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
Illustration: Seth loving me enough during a summer at camp to come up to me every day and say- here is my one thing for today- what is God teaching you? That did more for my spiritual growth than all off the sermons put together that summer at camp. And it is what I remember most 20 years later.
Refutation: I don’t really think I need anything else except the main Sunday services. Listening to preaching from the pulpit is good enough.
Seven Reasons We Need Small Groups
He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders:
The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.
The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.
Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.
Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.
Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.
Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.
Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. Oh, how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.
Folks are we content with being mediocre Christians? Are we satisfied with “good enough” when in comes to walking and pleasing God? Do you want to excel still more and more in your faith?

We must be convinced of the potential of every Christian’s walk

Philippians 2:13 KJV 1900
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
John 15:5 KJV 1900
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

We must actively participate in God’s plan for every Christian’s walk

Philippians 2:12 NASB95
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
Matthew 28:19–20 NASB95
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
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