First Thessalonians 025 – Submission to Godly Leadership

First Thessalonians 025 – Submission to Godly Leadership
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 7, 2023 • First Thessalonians


First Thessalonians 025 – Submission to Godly Leadership

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 7, 2023


Let’s go ahead and open with a word of prayer and we’ll get started.  Father, we’re grateful for today, a little bit of a wet day, but we’re thankful for all the people that You brought today to Sunday School and the main service.  This is a special day in our church as we commemorate the first Sunday of the month where we take the Lord’s Supper together, and we enjoy the fellowship meal together.  And so I just pray for a touch of the Holy Spirit today that we desperately need.  That the Holy Spirit could be involved in our fellowship, edification, remembrance, and teaching.  I just pray that anything the Holy Spirit seeks to accomplish today in Your church would be accomplished.  And so in preparation for that role, we are going to take a few moments of silence just to do personal business with You, not to restore position, but to restore fellowship, if need be, so that we can just receive all that You have for us today at Sugar Land Bible Church.

We’re thankful, Lord, for the promise of 1 John 1:9[1].  We’re thankful for the illuminating ministry of the Spirit that promises to guide us into all truth.  And just be with us today as we celebrate our Christianity.  We’ll be careful to give You all of the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, God’s people said amen.


Well, if we could take our Bibles this morning and open them to the book of 1 Thessalonians 5:12.  We are continuing our verse-by-verse look through 1 Thessalonians.  Having already dealt with Paul’s personal experiences as he was looking backward to the Thessalonians and his experiences with them and the church that he founded there in Thessalonica, and he has to do that to sort of get them to remember who he was.  Because one of the things that had happened to him as we have studied is what happens, unfortunately, to many, many people in ministry is people don’t like what you’re saying about this or that.  So they kind of go on a seek and destroy mission and they try to drag someone’s reputation through the mud.

That’s why you’ll have commands in the pastoral letters like 1 Timothy 5, it talks about don’t entertain an accusation against an elder unless you have two to three witnesses.  So we’re kind of living in this social media world where you can circulate rumors all over the world with the click of a button.  Hey, did you hear about so-and-so?  Can you believe they did this?  My response is, well, if it’s a Christian leader, do you have your two to three witnesses?  So the two to three witnesses’ requirement protects the elder.  It doesn’t make the elder above criticism, but it does provide some protection.

So Paul wrote that having his own reputation dragged through the mud, and that’s why he’s had to spend the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians rehabilitating his reputation.  Once he does that, he’s now in a position to correct the Thessalonians.  It’s hard to correct somebody if you don’t have any credibility.

Beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 through the end of the book, now he’s basically providing correction.  And you can see why he has to rehabilitate himself in terms of his reputation before he corrects them because he immediately goes for the juggler.  I mean, who wants to hear this?

Number one, sexual immorality is a problem (1 Thess 4; 1-8).  Number two, laziness is a problem (1 Thess 4:9-12).  Then they had understood his end times beliefs, but they had had some false ideas about it that he was not there to correct.  Beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 all the way through 5:11 he’s corrected their eschatological imbalances.  He’s dealt with the rapture of the church (1Thess 4:13-18) and then as you move into 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 he’s dealt with the time period that will exist upon the earth called the Day of the Lord subsequent to the rapture of the church.

And that really is the section of Thessalonians that most people are most aware of.  It’s kind of interesting about this book.  They know almost nothing about the rest of it, but they know a little bit about this rapture stuff.  Probably because that’s the clearest articulation we have of the rapture found anywhere in Scripture.

So a lot of people, once you get to verse 12 of chapter 5 through the end of the book, verse 28, they kind of mentally check out because there’s really nothing here for us to learn.  He’s just saying goodbye, right?  But let’s remember what the Lord Jesus said, “… ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ” (Matt 4:4)  Every word of Scripture is there by divine design.  God allowed that.

So there are even things, tremendous things as I was trying to study this out this week, but tremendous things to learn for us here at this conclusion of the letter.  So I would really encourage you to stay focused, particularly when Paul earlier in the book says, “When I speak, God is speaking.  When I write, God is writing.”  Which he as an apostle had the authority to say.

So obviously that continues on.  And God didn’t stop speaking in Verse 11.  Does your Bible end Thessalonians with verse 11?  No.  There’s a Verse 12 there, and it goes all the way through Verse 28.  And what God says in those latter verses is just as authoritative as what He has said in the heart of the letter.

This is one of the reasons why we teach here at Sugar Land Bible Church verse by verse.  Because of what Jesus said.  ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ”


So having said all that, He gets now into the subject of ministry imbalances.  From what we can tell, it looks like there were some people in the church there at Thessalonica who basically did not want to submit to their leaders.  I’m glad that never happens in church life today.  Kind of some rebellious sheep, so to speak.

Here Paul restores the concept of submitting not to just any leader, but to leaders that are following God’s blueprint for the church.  So what kind of leaders do you submit to?  What kind of churches do you select?  Because once you join a church, the injunction is you’re supposed to submit to the leadership of the church.

Can leaders, are they untouchable?  Can they just do anything and say anything?  What if a leader goes astray?  Are you supposed to still submit to them?  Those kind of questions are dealt with here in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 through what we would call ministry imbalances.  We have a proper attitude towards church leaders, Verses 12-13, and then ministry towards one another, Verses 14-15.

So let’s pick it up here in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, ”  So here he says, Verse 12, I’m making a request.

You’ll notice the word “brethren” there.  Paul is not here leading unsaved people to Christ.  John’s Gospel is primarily written for that.  Here he’s exhorting Christians on how to basically behave in a local church relative to leadership, and the word “brethren” there is your clue.  Although the word “brethren” can be used of fellow Jews in Scripture, that’s not how it’s being used here because Paul is not writing to fellow Jews.

As we’ve talked about, the primary group that he is addressing are Gentile Christians.  So he’s using “brethren” the way our Lord used that expression in Matthew 12:46-50[2] when Jesus was asked or was told, “Your mother and your brothers are waiting for you.”  And He said, “Who is my mother?  Who is my brother?  Who is my sister?  Are not they the ones that do the will of My Father who is in heaven?”

So here the Apostle Paul is using “brethren” that way.  Christians within the church.  So he’s not really dealing with a birth truth here.  He’s dealing with a growth truth.  Paul basically says here in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate [look at that] those who diligently labor among you, ….”

In other words, the proper attitude towards a God-ordained Christian leader is not sort of grudging submission.  Yeah, I’ll submit to him, and I’ll submit to these elders, but just wait until the next chance we get to vote on elders.  We’re going to make sure he’s removed, and we’re going to get our guy in there, and then I’ll be happy.

Well, I mean, that’s really not what the Bible says.  You notice that it starts with a hard attitude.  You should look at a God-ordained Christian leader, someone you think that the Lord has put into that position, you should basically have an attitude of appreciation towards them.

Now, you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t say “submit” no matter what.  There’s a lot of pastors, unfortunately, that become sort of “tin-pot dictators[3].”  They’ll say, “Well, this church is a theocracy, and my name is Theo, by the way.  So everything I say here is a law.”

Well, you’ll notice that the Bible is very balanced on this.  It doesn’t just say leaders just do whatever you want.  It gives the criteria for what godly leadership looks like.

Criteria for Godly Leadership is Diligence and Spiritual Consistency (1 Thess 5:12)

You’ll notice the first thing that he mentions here for godly leadership is diligence.  “… who diligently labor among you, …”  A true spiritual leader is one that is spiritually consistent.  I’ll show up and teach when I feel like it kind of mindset is not what godly leadership is.

The Holy Spirit is working their life where they’re willing to do their duties.  As the Apostle Paul would later say in 2 Timothy 4:2, “… in season and out of season; …”.  You do it when it’s popular and you do it when it’s unpopular.

And as far as I can tell, in the current climate today in the United States of America, the style of ministry that we do here at Sugar Land Bible Church I think is pretty unpopular.  It’s a style of ministry that wants to teach the whole counsel of God’s Word.  It’s a style of ministry that is not always trying to gather a crowd around the latest topic of the day, but to teach through the Bible and let the Bible speak.

A lot of churches are not interested in this philosophy of ministry on the grounds that this philosophy of ministry is not conducive to church growth.  So what they do is they go out, and this whole mindset, as far as I can tell, really started in New York with a guy named Norman Vincent Peale.  You know that name.  All you have to know about Norman Vincent Peale is what the late Walter Martin said about Norman Vincent Peale.  Walter Martin said, “Paul is appealing.  That Peale’s theology is appalling.”  In other words, way back then, Walter Martin recognized this guy for what he was, more of a motivational speaker.  Toss in a few verses, maybe to sort of Christianize it, and he discovered, “Wow, people will fill up the church if you do that.”

This sort of became popular in Southern California, where I grew up under a man named Robert Schuller.  Robert Schuller became a mentor of a man named Rick Warren, who further popularized the idea in the early 1980s.  I was actually involved in a church that had totally succumbed over the course of time to Rick Warren’s sort of philosophy.  That you teach the Bible very selectively.  You only teach the parts of it that appeal to people’s felt needs.

Here we are in Houston.  We have one of the biggest seeker-friendly type churches in the world.  Most people, when they watch TV and they figure out I live in Houston, they want to know, you know, do you go to that church?  And I don’t mean to be overly rough about it, but my reaction is that’s not a church.  That isn’t a church.  And here I’m speaking of Joel Osteen.  That isn’t a church.  That’s a motivational talk to a crowd of folks, some are saved, some are not.  That doesn’t fit the biblical model of what a church is.

Joel Osteen, what he basically is, is a younger version of Norman Vincent Peale.  If you were to take Norman Vincent Peale and put him in a younger body, that’s basically what you have with Joel Osteen.  I’m not saying the guy is not saved.  I’m not saying he’s not a nice person.  I’m not saying anything like that.  I’m just saying he is pursuing an ecclesiological model that is very popular that we don’t necessarily see as taught here in the pages of God’s Word.

So this is the type of leaders that we should be submitting to, people that are diligent in doing the hard things, not necessarily the popular things.

Submit to Leaders Who Diligently What?  Labor (1 Thess 5:12)

You should also submit to leaders that want to get their hands dirty.  Because what does he say here in 1 Thessalonians 5:12?  “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, …”

Make no mistake about it, ministry is hard.  “Hey, gee, pastor, I’d love to have your gig.  All you do is show up and work an hour a week or two hours a week and you’re done, right?” Well, people that say that kind of thing shows me that they’ve never actually been in ministry because what you start to see very fast is it’s a lot of hard work.  And the truth of the matter is I am pulled in so many different directions that if we didn’t have diligent elders here, diligent deacons, diligent staff members, very little would be accomplished.

In fact, some of you might be aware that we had our Christian perspectives play done on this stage last night.  I was sitting right there watching the whole thing, partly because my daughter was in it.  And this whole place was filled up with people, some from our church, some from around the community.  And at the end of that whole thing, it was about 9 at night, I said, “I wonder how they’re going to get everything ready for church tomorrow.”  Because this was a play up here, different lights, different everything.

I think Casey could sort of see the worry in my eyes, she says, “You guys just go home, you and Ann and Sarah, and we’ll take care of it.”  So I woke up this morning and here we are.  It’s like nothing had ever happened.  Diligence in the staff, diligence amongst the elders, diligence amongst the deacons.  I mean this is like a full-time job.  And I’m also grateful to be in a church that actually allows me time to study the Word.

There are so many churches where the pastor really has no time to study and teach, which is really his primary calling.  Because he’s yanked around in every other direction.  And you actually have scripture on that in Acts 6.  We’re studying the Book of Acts on Wednesday night.  And we may be getting to Acts 6 at some point.  We’re in Acts 3.  Hopefully get there before the rapture.  And who knows, if the Lord tarries, we may even finish the Book of Genesis.

And we might actually get into the Book of Exodus.  We’re going to get to Exodus 18, where you see the same issue, where everybody is running to the leadership saying, solve this problem.  Solve that problem.  And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, says you need to appoint lower court judges, and don’t just appoint anybody.  Make sure that their character is of a godly character, and then you handle the more major Supreme Court type issues.  Because if you keep going the way you’re going, Moses, doing everything yourself – and we think that there was about 1.5 million people, if biblical numbers are true, which I think they are, where Moses was trying to do everything.  And Jethro, his father-in-law (by the way, you can get some good advice from your father-in-law).  He says, what you’re doing is not good.  You’re going to wear yourself out.

And it’s the exact same issue in Acts 6.  There was a distribution of food issue.  Everybody ran to the apostles, solve the problem.  Solve the problem.  And the apostles said, we need to appoint deacons to do this so we can give our attention to prayer and the Word.  And had the early church not made that move, it would have been derailed.  It would have been neutralized.  That’s why the book of Acts Chapter 6 concludes with “The word of God kept on spreading; … and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)  And even some of the priests were coming to faith.  Why?  Because the apostles were given the freedom to fulfill their ultimate calling, which was the Word of God in prayer.

And so I’m very fortunate to be in a church that basically allows me to do that.  But the truth of the matter is I do it three times a week.  We do a new show called Pastors Point of View.  We typically record it on Thursday.  Should you ever want to be part of our live studio audience, that’d be kind of neat.  We have a Pastors Point of View up here and a bunch of empty chairs.  So if anybody wants to come and fill those empty chairs, don’t worry.  We won’t put up signs that say clap now and all that kind of stuff.  Just kind of a vision that I have.  You can come and do that.  So we do three Bible teachings a week.

We do a new show related to Bible prophecy once a week.  And the truth of the matter is it takes a lot of work to do it.  I mean, this is like a team job to pull it off.  We have three, four, five people working on Pastors Point of View when we do it.  And if it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t do it.  And if it wasn’t for the folks up there and the deacons and the elders who came in and set everything up, we couldn’t do this ministry.  But even though I have all of this help, it’s still hard work.  I mean, it is just arduous work.  It’s focused work, but it’s work, nonetheless.

1 Timothy 5:17 says, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”   Notice that preaching and teaching is hard work, because you’ve seen those memes floating around social media of the iceberg.  What’s the part of the iceberg that’s above the water is basically the sermons or the teachings that you see, but the bulk of the iceberg that’s below the water, which sunk the Titanic, right?  That’s all of the labor, all of the work you have to go through to put together just a simple sermon or a simple Bible study.  And so it is hard work to do this.  It requires diligence.

And if you find a spiritual leader that wants to do that, because a lot of them don’t.  The ministry is a tremendous hiding place for lazy people.  I’ll just be honest with you.  If your basic character is lazy, you can actually hide in the ministry for a long time without people figuring it out.  And that’s not the type of leader you want to submit to.  The type of leader you want to submit to is a leader that is working hard at his calling of preaching and teaching God’s Word.

Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

Submit to Leaders Who Diligently Labor Where?  Among You (1 Thess 5:12)

So who do you submit to?  You submit to leaders that are diligent.  You submit to leaders that are laboring.  And what else does it say there in 1 Thessalonians 5:12?  You submit to leaders who are diligently laboring among you.

I don’t know how it’s possible to be a pastor without being with the sheep.  Show me a pastor that’s not with a sheep, and I’ll show you a pastor that probably is not very effective.  And there’s a lot of ministry models that basically separate the laity from the clergy.  The clergy are sort of untouchable.  You have a social event.  The only people that show up are the sheep.  You never see the pastor.  You never see the pastoral staff.  You never see the elders.  You never see the deacons.  And that’s not biblical either.

A pastor has to be among the people.  It’s not some kind of thing where you show up behind a pulpit.  And then once the sermon is over, you push a button, and some kind of trap door opens, and you kind of escape to your office or wherever.  A lot of churches are run that way.  The pastor is untouchable.  I’ve heard people say, I’ve never talked to my pastor.  Well, he’s not really a pastor.  I mean, he’s not really a shepherd.

And obviously, as the church grows, the pastor starts getting pulled.  But that’s why here at Sugar Land Bible Church, each of our elders has a shepherd’s list.  Or if you can’t get to the pastor, then your primary point of contact is your elder.  And if the situation merits it, then the staff can be involved.  The pastor can be involved.  But we do our best here to make sure that the shepherds are with the sheep.

I, for one, am not really interested in putting elders on our elder board who are really good at hiding in a boardroom somewhere and quoting the Church Constitution or the policy manual, but never have any interaction with God’s people.  I mean, that’s not what a shepherd is.  A shepherd has to be among the people.

So Paul here is really laying out what should be obvious, the type of people that you should appreciate and submit to.  They diligently labor among you.

Submit to Leaders Who Diligently Labor Among You Who What? Have Charge Over You In The Lord (1 Thess 5:12)

And you’ll notice also that 1 Thessalonians 5:12 says, “… and have charge over you in the Lord ….”  Have charge over you in the Lord.  The type of leader you want to submit to is a leader that didn’t get just voted in, but someone that you actually believe God put there.

Over in the book of Acts 20:28, Paul, as a shepherd, is speaking to shepherds at the church at Ephesus towards the end of his third missionary journey in a port city called Miletus, which is very close to Ephesus.  And Paul says this to shepherds, ““Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Notice he does not say there, Acts 20:28, be on your guard for yourselves and for all of the flock among which the board has made you overseers.  Which the policy manual has made you overseers.  Which the church constitution has made you overseers.

Paul is very clear here that you should be in your position because the Holy Spirit made you an overseer.

And so when we select leaders at Sugar Land Bible Church, what we try to do, and you guys can help us with this, with nominations, because we’re sort of going through this process right now as we speak, the results will be given at our congregational meeting coming up, I think in a week or two, something like that.  The 21st, right?  May 21st.  Is that right?

We try to select people where we believe that the Lord is already at work in their lives using them as a shepherd.  We don’t say, “Hey, such and such is a nice person,” and they part their hair on the correct side of their head, and they’re successful in the business world, and they would fit in with us really well.  Let’s make them an elder.  No, that’s not how you select leaders in the church.  You lay hands on those that God has already laid hands on.

So if someone is called to be an elder, if someone is called to be a deacon, it’s already obvious that God is using them in that capacity, perhaps in an informal way, an unofficial way, and we say, “Aha, that’s the person we want to lay hands on,” because if you don’t do it that way, what happens is, what 1 Timothy 5:22 says, you lay hands too hastily.

The nation of Israel wanted a king really, really bad.  And they got a guy named Saul.  And they laid hands on that guy way too fast.  And they should have known better, because Saul came from the wrong tribe, Benjamin.  Tribes are supposed to come from Judah.  And Saul was a complete and total disaster as a king, the first king of the United Kingdom.  And if the nation of Israel at that time had just waited on the Lord, yeah, but we’ve got our schedule.  We’ve got to fill these slots.  No?  The Bible says wait on the Lord.  “Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

You know the Eric Little verse.  I’m probably not doing it very good justice because I’m paraphrasing it.  But there’s a lot in scripture about waiting upon the Lord[4], waiting for God’s timing.

Had the nation of Israel waited on the Lord, they could have bypassed Saul.  Saul reigned for 40 years.  That’s a long time.  Would you want the current president to be in office 40 years?  I’m sorry to be political, but just an analogy.  If they had waited upon the Lord, they could have had David, but they didn’t want to wait.  We’ve got our schedule.  And the result was a disaster.

So it’s God that installs leaders, the Holy Spirit that installs leaders.  The function of other leaders is to recognize whom the Lord has placed His seal of approval on in terms of a leader.  And generally, you can tell it by how is God using them now.  Because if they’re not among the sheep ministering now, you can’t expect all of a sudden them to do it once they get on the elder board.  You have to look at how God is using people currently.  Say, “Oh, so-and-so is really being used by God.”  So-and-so is a blessing to so many people.  Let’s pursue them as an elder.  You know, let’s pursue them as a deacon.  Let’s pursue them as a ministry leader.

Submit to Leaders Who Diligently Labor Among You Who Have Charge Over You In The Lord and Do What?  Give you Instruction.  (1 Thess 5:12)

So who do you submit to as a Christian?  Those that diligently labor among you in the Lord.  What else does it say here?  “And give you instruction.”  There’s no getting around this, that one of the great functions of the church is instruction.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

So a spiritual leader is called to be in some form or substance a teacher of the Word of God.

2 Timothy 4:2 says, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”

1 Timothy 4:13 (Paul writing to Timothy) says, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”

In fact, as we’re here in 1 Thessalonians, look at 5:27.  Paul is signing off.  He says, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”

Now, later in Timothy, he says, “Read and teach.  Read and exhort.  Read and proclaim.”  So it’s not just standing up and reading it.  It’s giving the explanation as to what the letter is about, which is what expository teaching is.

And that’s who we are at Sugarland Bible Church.  We are a teaching church.  This class, Adult Sunday School, you’ll be taught the Word of God.  The main service that follows, you’ll be taught the Word of God.  All of our children that are meeting during those two hours are being taught the Word of God.  When we live stream the teaching time in Sunday School and the main service in the overfill room, the Word of God is being taught.  When our home groups are meeting and there’s a schedule of when they meet in the bulletin, I think, the Word of God is being taught based on what the elders have approved should be taught.

And this allows us to keep out of the life of the church a lot of monkey business and funny business about your best life now and sort of talks that are half biblical and half psychological.  My wife and I met at this church that eventually moved into a Rick Warren model and they became very open to so-called Christian psychology.  And they would routinely have speakers come into the pulpit who would say things like this, “You know, if someone has offended you, you really don’t have to forgive them right away.”  Well, why not?  Well, because it took God 4,000 years between Adam and Jesus, roughly 4,000 years between Adam and Jesus.  It took God 4,000 years to kind of get over it, to kind of get over what Adam had done for him.  And so even God had to sort of work through the process of emotional healing.  And so if you don’t forgive someone right away that’s offended you, that’s okay.  God didn’t forgive everybody right away.

And you’re listening to something like that, and you’re saying, “Who is controlling the interpretation of the Bible here?  Is it the Bible or is it modern day psychology?” Because my Bible says, and you know the verse in Ephesians, “… do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (Ephesians 4:26)

It talks about being a person of forgiveness.  And that doesn’t mean let’s move to Alaska as fast as we can so we can be angry longer.  I mean, if you’re not going to be a forgiving person, it’s just like taking poison and drinking it.  You don’t hurt the person that injured you.  You know, you hurt yourself.

And so when we are not people of forgiveness, the book of Ephesians tells us we give Satan a foothold.  So I start to bottle up all of this resentment.  And then suddenly it spills over onto an innocent party that never hurt me at all.  It spills over to my wife, spills over to my family, spills over into my children.  And there have been many times where I’m verbalizing things in a house in an angry way, and my wife will just say, “Well, wait a minute.  Hold the phone here.  What’s really bothering you?” And generally speaking, it is I didn’t forgive somebody, and so I’ve got all of this anger inside of me, and it’s kind of spilling out on innocent people.

And as I heard that talk, as God is my witness, the people left that building gleeful, because it was a sermon that appealed to their sin nature.  And they said, “Oh, I don’t have to forgive right away.  It took God 4,000 years to get over Adam’s sin.”  Well, what people heard, it was masquerading as a biblical sermon, but it was pure psychology, or the Bible was kind of used as a footnote.  The tail was wagging the dog.

And so when you listen to teaching, listen to sermons, the content of the sermon should come from the scripture.  That’s why Paul says you submit to leaders who are diligent among you and giving you instruction.  I mean, what kind of instruction?  Instruction from the Word of God.  I mean, if a spiritual leader so-called is not used to or interested in giving you spiritual instruction from the Word of God, then it’s time to find somewhere else to fellowship.

Which is what my wife and I had to do on that particular occasion because we just couldn’t submit to the leadership anymore based on the direction that they were going.  So rather than sit there and try to change the church from within, which is a losing proposition, it’s like betting against the house, it’s time to find another church.

And a lot of people say, “Well, I can’t find a church.”  Okay, well then start a home group.  Start a cell group.  Yeah, but we don’t have any preachers and teachers for our cell group.  Well, that’s why we put all of our stuff on the internet.  You’re free to take all of our stuff and use it in your cell group any way you want until God, in His sovereignty, raises up somebody within your group that would have the gift of teaching.

So you probably didn’t realize 1 Thessalonians 5:12 had so much application, did you?  “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,”

Response to Those Who Diligently Labor Among You and Give Instruction:  Esteem Them Highly in Love (1 Thess 5:13)

And then you go down to 1 Thessalonians 5:13 and it says, “and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. ”

So notice these expressions.  It doesn’t just say esteem them.  It says esteem them highly.  Esteem them in the love of the Lord.  Treat them the way the Lord would treat you, in other words.  Love them unconditionally.  It doesn’t say love them until you disagree with some minor point.  You take a spiritual leader that’s called by God, that’s diligently laboring, doing all the right things, and although his character, because he’s a flawed human being, is not 100% perfect.

By the way, if you find a perfect church, please don’t join it.  Because you’ll end up ruining the perfect church, right?  There is no such thing as a perfect church.  I mean, we’re all growing together.  We’re all learning, hopefully, to say no more frequently to our sin nature, and yes to the things of God.  And that process, there’s kind of ups and downs, so don’t look for churches that are perfect.  There’s no such thing.

The purpose of the church is to bring God’s people to maturity.  But if you see that maturity process, and generally things are going in the right direction, then that’s the type of leader that you are to love.  And it doesn’t just say esteem.  It says you esteem them highly.

So these are all attitudinal aspects of being a healthy, vibrant church member.  You just have to sort of guard yourself against the critical spirit.  It’s so easy to come into any church environment and criticize.  Some people think their spiritual gift is criticism.  Criticize this, criticize that.  I’ve fallen prey to that in the environments I’ve been in, and that’s not what our calling is.  We’re not called into hyper-criticism.

We’re called into finding places that are generally moving in the right direction in terms of progressive sanctification.  We’re called to love leadership that are moving in that direction, and not just to esteem them, but to esteem them highly.

Now the book of Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account …”.  Now notice that a spiritual leader is not in some untouchable position because he must give an account unto the Lord.  “… Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

I don’t have the exact statistic.  Dennis Rokser, the last time I heard of this, has the statistic.  But he quotes the number of pastors that are quitting the ministry.  It’s just like a number that’s just staggering.  It’s astounding.  We get the notifications constantly at Chafer Seminary, “This pulpit is vacant, that pulpit is vacant.”  Well, what happened to the former pastor?  Did he retire?  No, he just quit.  It just got to be too much for him.

And part of the problem is the sheep can become unruly against the pastor.  In fact, Dennis Rokser was talking about a story where someone came to his house to sell life insurance.  And he allowed the person to come in just to kind of hear their spiel.  And the person selling the life insurance wanted to make sure that Dennis was not in some kind of high-risk category, which is what a good insurance person, salesman, would try to do.  So we started asking Pastor Dennis a series of questions.  “Do you jump out of airplanes?  Are you a skydiver?” That was the first question he asked.  You know what the number two question was?  “Are you a pastor?” In other words, if you’re a pastor, the insurance guy is saying you’re in a high-risk category.  Because pastors get frustrated, pastors get burnt out.

I don’t know if you know this, we had a suicide from a pastor in this area a few years back.  It’s a very sad thing to behold.  You look at a situation like that, you don’t know exactly what the issues were.  But it’s a very sad thing to behold.  I think a lot of that could be avoided if we would simply submit to the authority of pastors and not become unruly and make life difficult for them.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

How is it really going to help the sheep if the pastor is suicidal?  Or if the pastor is quitting?  Or if the pastor is being burnt out?  Well gee Andy, you must have a lot of unresolved grievances here at Sugar Land Bible Church to talk about all this stuff.  No, not really.  Sugar Land Bible Church has been pretty good to me.  I don’t have any major laundry list of I wish they had done this, and I wish they had done that.  I’m just trying to teach the Bible, and when you teach the Bible, you talk about things that the Bible talks about.  And so that’s what we’re talking about here.

The kinds of leaders that should exist in God’s church.  The kinds of leaders that we, collectively, should submit to.  And it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:13 “and that you esteem them very highly in love [notice this] because of their work …”

You find a shepherd who is faithful amongst the sheep, and you should respect that person because it’s not their work.  It’s God’s work.  God is the one that ordained for the shepherds to tend to the sheep.  You go back to Peter’s restoration, as given in John 21:15-17, where the Lord asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Not once, not twice, but three times.  Why three times?  Because Peter had denied the Lord three times.  And so now Peter’s threefold denial is leading to the grace of God, where Peter is not getting his salvation back or something like that.  He’s being restored to his place of leadership.

So you know the verses very well, John 21:15-17 “So when they had finished breakfast, …”  so interesting Jesus is eating breakfast in his resurrected body.  Check out our Easter or Resurrection Day sermon.  We talked about that.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”  We’re not sure who the “these” are.  Some think that these could be the fish, literal fish.  Because Peter, his occupation was a fisherman, and when he got despondent, he went back to fishing.

So Jesus says I want to make you fishers of men (Mark 1:17; Matt 4:19)  I’ve called you into something more than just being a literal fisherman.  I want you to be fishers of souls.  So when Jesus says, “Do you love me more than these?” He could be, it’s not something we’re starting a new church over per se, but he could be referencing the literal sheep, Peter’s career in other words.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15–17)

So when you read this in the King James Version, it will say, “Tend my sheep.  Shepherd my sheep.  Feed my sheep.”  So you come to a church, and you see spiritual leaders doing those three things:  tending God’s sheep, shepherding God’s sheep, and feeding God’s sheep.  Obviously, you feed them with the Word of God because ” … ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

The goal of Sugar Land Bible Church is right out of Ephesians 4[5], we want to edify God’s people in God’s Word so that they’re equipped for their life wherever they are.  They have to be fed; they have to be nourished.

I don’t think you can do it adequately with three points in a poem.  One of the things to understand is the modern evangelical church, very sadly, is not set up to teach.  Because there is such a, dare I say, kind of a dog and pony show on the stage.  Where all these things are being promoted and all these things are being said and then they bring in a skit and then they – sometimes like Tinkerbell at Disneyland, Tinkerbell comes gliding in.

All of these things are going on and there’s so much of the service spent in singing, singing is important.  But sometimes it can get disproportionate.  That you actually look at how much time is actually spent in actual teaching.  And the answer will shock you, it’s 20 minutes.  In fact, when I graduated from Dallas Seminary, there was a church at the time that was interested in hiring me and that was into the 20-minute sermons.  And I said to the elders at the time, I said, “Can we expand the teaching time to 30 minutes?” And you guys should be laughing because that’s like half of what we do here, less than half I guess in some cases.  And they were just in shock that anybody that’s a pastor would ask to do something like that.  There’s no way that people could sit through that.  And so I was sort of quickly, easily dispensed on the list of pastoral candidates.  That’s how I ended up here by the way.  God had something better.  God says, “I’m going to put you in an environment where you can teach two hours.  How’s that?”

So when we talk about feeding the sheep, I mean most churches when you look at how they’re designed and how they design the worship service, they’re not really set up to teach much because of the amount of time given to teaching.  You can tell how much a church values teaching from the word based on how much of its worship service is allocated towards teaching.

So most congregations unfortunately have fallen sway to modern psychological theory, marketing theory, which says people’s attention spans are very short and you’re going to lose people.  Well, let me let you in on a great secret.  People will develop an appetite for what you feed them.  If you feed them over and over again, 20 minutes, 3 points in a poem, that’s what they’re going to get used to and going to expect.

If you actually get into the full counsel of God’s Word, the breadth of God’s Word, as well as the depth of God’s Word, and you’re dealing no longer with subjects related to milk, but you’re dealing with subjects related to meat, people will develop an appetite for that type of teaching.

So when I came here to Sugar Land Bible Church, the current leadership at the time, not so much the elders, but the folks on the stage doing the music, most of which are not here anymore, they had this sort of airtight schedule about how long the pastor was allowed to teach, and they had in there 35 minutes.  And so once they called me here as the elder, I started to bust the clock.  And I extended the teaching service down to 12:30.

Now, you would have thought that I had just called for World War III, doing something like that, because the people at the time were not used to that style of teaching.  Now, I’ve been here over 10 years.  I started here in 2010.  It’s now what, 2023.  In a recent sermon, I ended it at about 45 minutes, and people’s phones started to light up.  What’s wrong with Andy?  Why did he end it so quick?  When I first came here and extended the teaching service, everybody’s phones was lighting up.  What is wrong with Andy?  Because what has happened over time, and I obviously credit God completely for it, but people will actually start to develop an appetite for what you’re feeding them regularly.  So a pastor need not submit to a man-made kind of agenda.

Response to Those Who Diligently Labor Among You and Give Instruction:  Esteem Them Highly in Love and Live In Peace With One Another (1 Thess 5:13)

So you should honor these ministers because of their work, and then let’s just cap it off here.  At the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:13 it says, “Live in peace with one another.”  Now a lot of people look at that and say, “Peace amongst God’s people.”  That’s really not what it’s talking about because he’s dealing with leadership and sheep.  Shepherds, sheep.

If you highly esteem God-ordained leaders, and God-ordained leaders are basically doing what God wants them to do, then there should not be this constant hostility between the shepherds and the sheep.  There should be harmony.  We should be on the same page.

The truth of the matter is if someone is very, very disgruntled here, you try to work with the person, but at the end of the day, if it’s some kind of philosophical issue, we have a saying that we like to use around here, “The exits are clearly marked.  The door swings both ways.”  I mean, if someone is dissatisfied with our style of ministry, do you know how many dozens and dozens of churches you could go to just in this area?

So we do that because, not to be mean to the person, but we want people that are coming here to actually be at peace with the leadership, to feel right about it.  And if someone really doesn’t feel right about it, at the end of the day, then the Lord bless you.  Maybe the Lord has something else for you.  But there are lots of other places a person can go to get a different kind of style of ministry.  We’re not really interested in constantly accommodating our style of ministry based on the preferences of whoever comes in the door.

We’re interested in doing what the Lord has called us to do.  If you’re on board with it, praise the Lord.  If you’re not on board with it, we would just kindly say perhaps there’s another place that God has for you.  I’m assuming you guys are on board with it or you probably wouldn’t be here this morning.  I noticed nobody just violently got up and left as I was talking.  Now they did that a couple times when I first came here, but not you guys.  You guys have been here too long.

So some fascinating verses, would you not agree?  And we will pick it up right there in Verse 14 next time.  Father, we’re grateful for these little words at the end of an epistle that just give us so much insight on how to function in a church and what You expect of a church.  Help us to walk these truths out this week.  Bless us as we partake of the Lord’s table together and teach some things out of Genesis 30.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  we ask these things in Jesus’ name, God’s people said amen.

[1] “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. 1995. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

[2] “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”” (Matthew 12:46–50)

[3] An autocratic ruler with little political credibility, but with self-delusions of grandeur. (

[4] Wait for the Lord (Ps 27:14, Ps 130:5-6, Ps 37:7, Ps 62:5, Ps 39:7, Ps 33:20 , Ps 25:21 and many more)

[5] “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12–13)