1 Thessalonians 4:9-11
But as touching brotherly love you need not that I write to you: for you yourselves are taught of God to love one another.…
I. — TO BE. Not merely exist, to breathe as a blacksmith's bellows, to vegetate, or lead an animal life. This is not to be a man. What is meant is that we have been put here to live the higher life of man — to be a Christian. This is the most useful kind of work. Let no one complain that they have few opportunities of working for God; for we may all strive to do what He desires; and the best way of doing good to man is to be good. The noblest workers bequeath to us nothing so great as the image of themselves.
II. TO DO. It has been cynically remarked that no one is necessary, and that when we cease to exist we shall not be missed. But though God needs the help of none, He is good enough to allow us to be workers with Him in making the world better. The weakest and humblest in his daffy course can, if he will, make a heaven round about him. Kind words, sympathizing attentions, watchfulness against wounding people's feelings, cost very little; but they are priceless in their value. We shall none of us pass this way again; and soon it will be too late to do anything. Religion is not thoughts about or addresses to God. They are the means to urge us to work for God in the natural outgoings of our life, which, blotting out the distinction between things sacred and things secular, should make both one, all work religion and all life worship. The business of the week is quite as religious as the devotions of Sunday, if done to God.
III. TO DO WITHOUT. A true Christian schools himself to sit loose to the things of this world. If he have them, well and good; if not, he can do without them. He does not attempt to make this world his home. He is a stranger and pilgrim passing on to the house not made with hands. In these times of depression many persons are forced to learn the lesson of doing without. If these would learn of Christ He would teach them that the loss of these superfluities was a gain, and they, like Paul, would "know how to be abased and how to abound." A man is a slave until he has learned how to do without. It is fine discipline to give up for a week, a month, or year some harmless luxury which is becoming too much of a necessity. The better we have learned this lesson the easier will it be for us.
IV. TO DIE. "We brought nothing into this world," etc. Well for those who can say with Paul, "I die daily;" i.e., I am ready to die every day I live. "For more than forty years," said Havelock, "I have so ruled my life that when death came I might face it without fear." The way to prepare to die is to prepare to live. Nothing but a good life here can fit us to have a better one hereafter. "Turn to God one day before you die," said a Jewish teacher. "How can I know the day before my death?" "You cannot, therefore, turn to Him now." John Wesley was once asked, "Suppose you knew that you were to die at twelve o'clock tomorrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?" "Just as I intend to spend it now. I should preach this night at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning. After that I should ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the society in the evening. I should then repair to friend Martin's house, who expects to entertain me, converse and pray with the family as usual, retire to bed at ten o'clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father and wake up in glory."
(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.