Explore the Bible Study: Waiting

10:12 PM

Have you ever observed how hourly employees use their extra time when they finish their work but still have time left in the workday? Waiting for the end of the workday when the main work has been completed can be a productive time, or it can be one of the most abused times for a business. Consider how this might apply to what believers should be doing as they wait for Christ to return. The Explore the Bible study: Waiting focuses on Paul's encouragement to continue to be a productive believer as one waits for Christ's return.

Previously, Paul told the church at Thessalonica that Christ had not returned but would return one day. While they were waiting for Christ to return, they were to be productive as believers.  They were to actively live in obedience to God’s commands and grow in their faith. Sadly, there were some who were abusing this period of waiting. In the final verses of 2 Thessalonians, Paul gives instructions as to how they should live as they wait. He contrasts this with those who were abusing the time they had been given before Christ's return.

Contrasting Productive Believers Versus UnProductive Believers - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

Paul used the word "command" in this passage to emphasize the importance of what he was about to say. He also referred to the believers as his brothers and sisters to emphasize their relationship with him and with Christ. Considering the context of previous chapters regarding Paul’s emphasis on the return of Christ, it could be assumed that some believers had quit growing in their faith, resulting in problems.


  • Verse 6, Idle. – This Greek word for idle indicates a habit or lifestyle. In addition to laziness, it also includes the idea of creating chaos or disorder.

  • Verse 6, Does not live according to Paul’s teachings (God’s Word). – These idle and lazy individuals had professed Christ but were not willing to invest in their faith by learning and living the teachings of Paul (God’s Word).

  • Verse 10, Not willing to work. – These idle believers had become so satisfied with where they were in their growth and were so convinced that Christ would return soon, that it led them to become lazy Christians.

We often use this verse to describe those who aren’t willing to work in our society, which is certainly an application. Believers should be the best workers possible in the workforce because their work habits should be a gospel witness. Why are work habits of Christians a gospel witness?

This passage could also apply to how people work or serve in the church as well. What are some ways in which you have observed believers not coming to church to serve (work) but only coming to get something? 

  • Verse 11, Not busy but busybodies. – Not only would idle people drain resources that could be used for effective ministry, but they also could create tensions that would threaten the congregation’s unity and the impact of the gospel in the community.

Have you ever heard the term “arm-chair quarterback”? What does it mean? Being a busybody is like being an arm-chair quarterback. You share your opinions and complaints and stir up trouble, but aren’t in the “game.” Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: When you are serving, working, and involved with the church, you are less likely to be a busybody? How do busybodies hurt the church's witness?

  • Verse 6, Keep away from those who are idle. – Paul will emphasize this again in verse 15.

  • Verse 7, Imitate Paul and his companions. – These were young Christians living in a difficult context. They needed godly role models to show them how to practice their faith each day. Paul encouraged them to remember his example, as well as the examples of Timothy and Silas. They had worked hard for the gospel and even outside of their ministry as they raised their own support. Between their ministry work and their secular work, they put in long hours to avoid being a burden. This work ethic was important to Paul because it eliminated any accusation that he was ministering for money. 

How does working hard to provide for yourself financially help you demonstrate a growing faith in Christ? How does it communicate your faith to a lost world? How does it help encourage other believers? 

Is your work-ethic in the workplace and serving-ethic in the church something you would encourage others to imitate?

  • Verse 12, Exhort those who are idle to work quietly and provide for themselves. – Paul wanted these believers to lovingly show the offenders the seriousness of their sin and guide them toward restoration. They were to exhort the idle to work quietly. He was emphasizing a productive life. Instead of instigating chaos, the idle, busybody believers should settle down and demonstrate the satisfaction and contentment that comes from honest labor.

  • Verse 13, Don’t grow weary in doing good. – Sharing the gospel and making disciples in a Gentile community was no easy task. It required hard work and perseverance. As such, it might have been tempting to slack off, especially when seeing how the idle people were exploiting those who were working and becoming busybodies in the church and in the community.

Do you ever wonder if all you are doing to work hard, grow in your faith, serve the church, share Christ, and make a difference in this world is worth it? Why is it important to remember that we are doing good?

  • Verse 14, Identify and distance yourself from unproductive believers. – Essentially, Paul told his readers to stay away from those who were not striving to be productive believers.

How do you feel about Paul’s instruction? Does this sound rude or cold? Why is this wise instruction?

  • Verse 15, Treat rebellious, idle, unproductive believers as family and not enemies. – Since the connection with Christ is never lost, the eternal bond between Christians is never lost. Paul underscored that these were not heretics trying to destroy the church. They were family members who needed restoration, love, and healing. Paul’s goal was restoration. He pointed out that such an action should make the idlers feel ashamed. 

How does treating someone as a family member and not an enemy, change how we view them when we observe ungodly behavior?

Am I Productive or Unproductive?

As you wait for Christ’s return you might be tempted to give up or to idle your faith since you already have the promise of eternal life. But you should never quit growing in your faith and in your service unto the Lord. You are here for a purpose and Christ expects your best work all the way until the day you breath your last breath this side of Heaven or until the day He returns. You have a job to do and your work day is not yet complete!

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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