1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (NASB95)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
There are times when the Lord sends us a friend to encourage us at just the right moment… and it’s like the clouds part, the rainbow appears, the sun shines and the birds start singing. God knows how our emotions affect us. We don’t live by our emotions, but they surely are a part of our daily life. God knows that there are times when we need someone to listen, comfort and lift us up in fellowship.
I recently experienced this blessing myself. There is a certain circumstance in my life that periodically intensifies and causes me great stress, and admittedly, sometimes great anxiety. The past few weeks this circumstance has flared up. The Lord, in His goodness and mercy, brought a friend to me who has experienced the same situation. He spent several hours of his time listening, encouraging and just walking with me through the fire. He knows who he is, and let me offer my gratefulness to him once more.
As Christians, we are commanded to encourage one another. The word “encourage” in this verse (1Thess 5.11) has many facets:
- Encourage – to fill with courage or new zeal; to lift up the low in spirit or despondent; to give strength and hope to overcome and endure
- Exhort – to make urgent appeal; to give advice; to strongly urge or advise
- Comfort – to give strength and hope; to give cheer; to ease grief or trouble
- Lift up – to raise up; to stand up when fallen; to raise to a higher standard; to bring up from lowness
- Build up – to restore brokenness; to add new hope or zeal; to provide additional good
Does anyone out there besides me need these things?
We have two basic ideas going on here: to strengthen and remind each other of the truth we already know; and to lift the spirits and bring new hope to those who are hurting.
Strengthen and Remind
We encourage each other by systematically and consistently reminding each other of the great truths we already know. We talk about, discuss, and share our thoughts on salvation, heaven, hope and God’s goodness. When we are discouraged and hurting, being reminded of what is true according to God can quickly lift us. Some of these truths might be:
- God loves you and knows all about what it is going on (Matt 6.26)
- God’s mercy and faithfulness are new every morning (Lam 3)
- The trials of this life aren’t comparable to what awaits us in Heaven (Rom 8.18)
- God rewards those who faithfully endure (Luke 19.17)
There are literally hundreds of Bible truths and promises that you can use to encourage another Believer. But there’s always one little hitch to that:
You can’t encourage someone with Bible truth,
if you don’t know what the Bible says.
You can’t know what the Bible says if it gathers dust
while your entertainment center gets worn out.
How many opportunities to encourage and lift up another do we miss, ignore, or simply not realize because we are lazy about learning God’s Word? How many times have we found a verse AFTER the fact that would have been a great comfort to someone in the past?
Don’t get me wrong. We can’t know the entire Bible instantly, or even remember everything we read in it… but that does not excuse the rampant Bible laziness that suffocates the Church today. We are a people who are poorly equipped to be comfort and encourage those around us. It’s easier to watch Dr. Phil or Oprah, or listen to Dr. Laura than it is to study God’s word. It’s easier to throw out the latest psychology buzz words, fresh off Dateline or the Barbara Walters Special than it is to meditate on Scripture.
2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (NKJV)
We need to return to understanding and practicing that God’s word is practical, sufficient and profitable for ALL things about living a Godly life. ALL THINGS. When we remind each other these things, we bring the hurting…
Comfort and Hope
Primarily, our comfort and hope comes from reminding each other of God’s truth. We are comforted when we are reminded that God will right all wrongs, and reward faithfulness. We become hopeful when we are reminded that God knows everything about our life and that He cares. We are comforted when we are reminded that God will never give us anything we can’t handle and that He is with us every step. We have hope because we know that this life is but a blink of time and then we will be with God for all eternity.
God made us emotional creatures. We have very real and powerful feelings that affect us physically and spiritually. So along with reminding each other of God’s great truths, we do some other things that give comfort and hope such as:
How powerful is the simple act of listening? This one act alone is a powerful testimony that you care. Many times a hurting person just needs someone to stop and truly hear them. In our day of ultra-activity, we don’t have time for each other anymore. And WOE to the person who needs a little extra attention. That person is quickly identified as “too needy”, a burdensome person to be avoided lest you have to sit and listen to them over and over.
People need other people.
The world is full of lonely people.
Your church is full of lonely, hurting people.
I guarantee it.
That’s a shame. People need the comfort, companionship and love of other people. If you were to view our society objectively today, you might conclude that people need entertainment and activity; or people need drugs and alcohol; or people need distraction, or people need prosperity. We rely on the church to have every imaginable “program” in place to free us up from having to take time for other people.
It’s sad that we don’t have time right now for the very same people that we will spend all eternity with.
How comforting it is to have someone who understands what you are going through; someone who can relate to your circumstances and can identify with the discouragement you are feeling. This is so much more effective and uplifting than just offering tired old clichés and platitudes.
In light of that, you and I have a responsibility to use our experiences, and how God walked us through the valley, to help others in the similar situations. Have you dealt with cancer or sickness? Find others who are going through it and encourage them. Have you been through divorce or adultery? Look around, there are probably a dozen in every church who are in some stage of that nightmare.
Dealt with a rebellious child? Death in the family? Loss of a job? Drug or alcohol addiction? Pornography? What situation has God seen you through? What comfort did you receive from the Lord, or from others? Take your experience and use it to provide understanding and encouragement to others. Otherwise, you are wasting your experience and neglecting those who might be comforted by it.
Put your self in the other person’s shoes and try to feel what they are feeling. Empathy is the effort to be sensitive towards another’s hurts, to take part in the emotions of the situation so that you can relate to the person more closely. It’s more than just feeling sorry for someone. Its hurting with them, taking part in their sorrow, helping to bear the burden of the pain for them.
To have compassion is to have a sympathy towards another person’s distress, coupled with the desire to want to do something to alleviate it. It’s one thing to “feel sorry” for someone; it’s another to actually want to help them through it. Sympathy is easy… just feel sorry for someone. Compassion is the real deal… actually taking your time and effort to help.
It is no accident that compassion is the most
frequently mentioned emotion of Jesus in Scripture.
Okay, how many of you are guilty, like me, of this: “I’ll sure pray for you about that”…. and then you never do. How AWFUL!!! To offer to pray for someone with no intention of doing it, is to use prayer as a selfish way of APPEARING to care, when you really don’t. It makes you look good; it makes you appear to care; it gets you off the hook many times from actually DOING SOMETHING for the other person…. but it shamefully gives the other person a false sense of comfort when you offer prayer and never follow through.
Now I’m NOT trying to say that praying is equal to “doing nothing”, of course not. But how many times is prayer offered (with no real intention of follow-through) in what is really a good way to get out of doing anything further for the person? How shameful to use one of God’s greatest gifts (prayer) as a selfish way to make us look good, and avoid getting involved.
Don’t offer to pray for someone unless you mean it!
It is insincere, selfish and insulting to God. I’m embarrassed for my pessimism, but very often people write me, or tell me, “I’ll pray for you” and often times I don’t believe for a minute that they really mean it. Now when someone takes time to discuss “who, what & when” they will pray…. that’s a different matter.
When you offer to pray, ask SPECIFICALLY how you can pray for them. Tell them when you will pray, how often you will pray, and for how long into the future you will pray. Then check on them occasionally and find out how you can modify your prayer effort for them.
We need encouragement. It is our nature. We live in a sin-cursed world full of hurts, sorrow, disapppointment, pain and trouble. God comforts us. We comfort each other. We are family. We will be together for all eternity. It’s okay to start acting like it NOW.
Lord God, thank You that You are always ready to offer us perfect encouragement. Help us to find someone today and encourage them during a tough time in their life. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: When is the last time you took your time, energy and attention to encourage someone? When was the last time someone did that for you?
Application: If you want to receive encouragement, give it. Find someone today who is hurting, and take time to listen to them. Comfort them, encourage them and lift them up with God’s Word. See if that very act alone doesn’t give YOU encouragement.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?