Saturday, October 11, 2008

Encouragement, we all need it

I don't know about you, but nothing picks me up like a word of encouragement from someone else. I can be feeling overwhelmed at work, at home, in church, then suddenly a friend will write a wonderful note or say a kind word of encouragement that just simply washes away all those negative feelings I was having. It's amazing what kind words can do.

You probably know that the command to encourage others is found throughout the Bible and when we look at 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 we see where Paul gives many examples of how we can encourage others. As I read these verses I'm reminded of the impact we have on others when we build them up, when we hold them up when they're weak, or when we simply lend a helping hand or a word of encouragement to help restore their faith and give them the confidence to press on. Let's look at a few of the ways that we can practice this wonderful word of encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another..."
I think back just a few weeks ago to the Olympics. As I watched the marathon race, I saw the pain and agony in the runners faces as they approached the finish line. They were a mile out from the finish line and many were limping along barely able to continue running but when they finally got inside the stadium and heard the cheers of the crowd that were watching the race, I was amazed at the renewed strength and energy they had during this last moment in the race. As Christians were to encourage one another. A word of encouragement can give someone just the strength they need to continue on to the finish line. It can be the difference between finishing well or collapsing along the way. We all need encouragement every day, and we need to offer support to others every day through kind words or actions. As Paul says... "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another..."

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 "...Recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you and esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake..."
This verse probably refers to leaders in the church such as elders, deacons, and Pastors. One of the greatest ways we can help the church, is to support our leaders, To encourage them and lift them up in high regard for their work's sake. Imagine the toil of serving through the church and how frustrating that could be. These leaders are called to serve yet time and time again they feel like the runner in the marathon race and they 're not anywhere near the end of the race yet, but feel like quitting, the pains too great, they're weak, they begin to wonder if they should even be in this race? Where do they get their strength? From God of course, but He can use us to encourage them. When we say... thank you, when we tell them we appreciate them for what they do, then they have reason to be encouraged. Tell them how you have been helped by their leadership and teaching. Let them know their ministry in your life has made a difference. Remember our leaders need our love and support.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 "... Be at Peace among yourselves."
Especially in the church but also at home, at work, and everywhere we go, we need to look for ways to get along with others. The spirit within us seeks peace and harmony with others. One of the best ways to encourage someone is to get along and not fight or argue. We can agree to disagree without resorting to being disrespectful towards one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 "... Comfort the fainthearted..." "Uphold the weak..." "Be patient with all."
Many of us grow weary in our service. Sometimes we even think we just can't keep up the work, were tired and weak. We can fall into the trap of believing that we're not able to go anymore. Maybe we feel overwhelmed. We might feel like a failure in our weakness. It's times like these when we need to experience comfort from a friend. As Christians we can remind others about the promises that God has for them in scripture. We need to lift them up and give them some support and one way we can do this is to be patient with them. We don't know what they're going through, only God does. They just need a friend, someone to remind them that they can do this and I'm here with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone."
Revenge can be a very destructive thing. Have you ever seen what happens when someone takes revenge on another person. usually the revenge comes after evil or wrong doing has been done. Were just not going to take it are we? So what do we do? We pay them back with the same evil or wrong doing to get even. "Turn the other cheek" not this time baby... you've gone to far. Paul says that we should never repay evil with evil but rather we should pursue what is good both for ourselves and for all. Revenge just tears us apart. We can't rebuild relationships and begin again if were planning our next act of vengeance. If your feeling this way, seek the Lords council. Talk to a friend about your feelings, but know that Jesus wants you to do good to those that hurt you. It's a way for them to see the love of Christ and this type of behavior goes against the way of the world. It's one of the best forms of encouragement because it's unexpected and undeserved. So the next time you're thinking about getting even, do good instead and allow God to touch their heart... and yours.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 "Rejoice always"
Sounds simple enough doesn't it, but oh so hard to practice sometimes. Especially during difficult trials and circumstances. I can't tell you how encouraged I've become by watching another brother or sister in Christ experience joy and have peace during the turmoils of their life. We can be such a wonderful encouragement to others when they see in us the joy that only the Lord can provide when we go through tough times. We send the message that we know that God is always with us and He's in control. That's why we can rejoice always.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing"
God is always with us, we need to talk to him. We need to pray for others as well. There is nothing more encouraging for another Christian than to know that they are being prayed for by others. We understand that God hears and answers our prayers. Sometimes the only comfort we can offer to another is prayer. We don't know what to say to help them, we don't really understand their hurt or pain, but we trust that God does and we can always offer up prayers of support. I remember the day I had my four wheeler accident in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I didn't return home and my wife knew that something was terribly wrong. She ran to the neighbors house and asked the boys to start searching for me on their motorcycles because the last time she had seen me was earlier that morning as I rode my four wheeler up the side of the mountain. She feared the worst. The next thing she did was call a few of her friends and asked them to start prayer chains. Churches were called and members all over were praying for me. We had only been visiting churches, we hadn't become members yet, but churches all over were praying for us because our friends belonged to several different churches and they made those calls and asked everyone to pray for me. Because of my injuries I was unable to move so I lay there all day in the cold wet snow. I was found right about dusk suffering from hypothermia. I had my accident around 11:00AM and it was around 30 degrees and was snowing. I know I would not have made it through the night, and I know that those prayers offered up for me saved my life and I definitely know it was the only Hope my wife felt she had in a situation where she felt so out of control. Thank God for those prayers. Let's never cease praying. We must talk to God about everything and through those prayers we'll see God work.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Give Thanks"
We need to make a list of all the things we're thankful for, then give thanks to God for each one. It's too easy to only see the bad, and miss out on the good. There's a song... "Count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done." When we count our blessings I'm sure we'll see those people that God has put in our path that have encouraged and blessed us along life's journey. Let them know how you feel about them, this can encourage them and motivate them to keep on being the wonderful person they already are. Most importantly... thank God for them as well. It's amazing how people with the love of Christ inside of them are able to show acts of God's love through their kindness and actions. Thank God for those people. Let's give thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 "Do not quench the Spirit."
If you want to be an encourager you need to realize that our actions can and do quench the Spirit of God in ourselves and in others. Any time we do not cooperate with the Spirit we quench it. Disobedience will quench the Spirit and can harm our daily walk with he Lord. The next time the Spirit prompts you to say a kind word, share the gospel, or to simply go to church when you thought about staying home, follow through and fuel the fire of the Spirit within you. No warmth comes from a fire that has had water doused on it. It's the same with us as Christians. For us to be a light in a dark world or the warm of comfort to others during those cold storms of life, we must not quench the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from every kind of evil"
We must always be on the lookout for situations that draw us into temptation and when we recognize those situations, we should run the other way. We can not encourage others as God would want us to, when we're falling deeper and deeper in sin because we did not abstain from evil. It's difficult to allow the fruit of the Spirit to shine through us to others when we've played with sin. Evil can harm our testimony and our witness. Let's seek God's help to overcome and avoid those situations where evil reigns.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We realize that the Christian life is to be lived not in our own strength but through God's power. We know we can't be encouraging to others except through God's love and power. In our own weakness we're selfish, but through God's love we offer up sacrifice for others, we encourage one another in God's love and we allow the Spirit of God to shine through us and give hope to others that are lost, or struggling in their walk of faith.

The Thessalonian church was young and they needed help and encouragement. Both the persecution they faced and the temptations of their sinful culture were problems for these new Christians (just as it is for us today). Paul wrote to strengthen their faith and build up their resistance to this persecution and temptation. We too have a responsibility to help new believers and encourage those already walking in faith with the Lord. These verses simply help us to be better equipped to help our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can use these verses as a "encouragement checklist" so to speak. So ask yourself, "How are you doing?" My prayer is that you will experience the fullness of God's love upon you and you'll be the encourager that God wants you to be. Encouragement... we all need it!

God bless you in your service.

1 comment:

The Crouch's said...

Steve - You definitely "encourage" those that read your devotions. Your posts are always uplifting and very enjoyable. Thanks for taking the time so share your views.
The Crouch's in McMinnville