“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
While sitting at my computer on a Saturday afternoon, I received an unexpected text from a friend.
In her message, she said the universally dreaded words no one wants to hear: “I have cancer.”
I was shocked to read those words from her. She was a mother of two, a devoted wife and successful in her career.
It seemed so unfair. I wanted to rewind to just a few months ago when we casually chatted about family. Unfortunately, her words and her present journey were irreversible.
Before I finished reading her text, I purposed in my heart to offer some type of encouragement. I was prepared to plan a visit, bring a meal or text a few kind (but inadequate) words, given her circumstance. As I scrolled through her lengthy message, I was soon blindsided by the encouragement she offered to me.
We hadn’t spoken in months, and she was undergoing chemotherapy. Yet her focus was on me. Unbeknownst to her, she shared the very words I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear them. Rather than responding immediately, I just sat and sobbed, tremendously impacted by the love of God I saw in her. She offered selfless, thoughtful and kind encouragement to me despite her medical condition.
This is the type of exhortation Paul, Silas and Timothy describe in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” In Acts 16 and 17, we learn that Paul, together with his fellow laborers, wrote this letter to the people of Thessalonica after having been flogged, thrown into prison in Macedonia and forced out of Thessalonica.
At a time when Paul could have been discouraged by persecution and nursing his emotional and physical wounds, he was instead concerned for the Thessalonian believers. He modeled the personal and heartfelt encouragement he wanted them to offer others.
The believers were admonished to couple this encouragement with building one another up. The Greek word used here for “building” means “to build a house.” This single act of using our words to encourage and edify fellow believers is likened to building a structure: the universal church.
This type of purposeful encouragement is vital for a believer’s faith, both individually and collectively. For the believers in Thessalonica, this was especially true because they were a new church facing persecution from nonbelieving Jews.
A commitment to encourage others like this challenges us all to selflessly lift the countenance of someone else — no matter what we might be facing ourselves. As we offer soul-deep encouragement to others, we can trust that God, in His sovereignty, will encourage us.
This is the principle described in Proverbs 11:25, “… whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (NIV). I saw this time-tested truth in my friend’s text message and in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers. Through their noble examples, we are inspired to selflessly offer encouragement to others in the same way.
Dear God, please help me to offer heartfelt encouragement to others no matter what I may be facing. Help me to trust that as I refresh others, I will be refreshed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Romans 15:5, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
How have you been encouraged by others? Who might God want you to encourage, and how could you encourage them? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
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