“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (I Thess. 5: 11). The times we are living in right now are difficult. The last two to three years have been one of the most difficult seasons I can remember. So many are struggling, and depression is becoming more and more of a challenge. Antidepressants are now the most widely prescribed drug in the US, according to Therapy Culture. Pastors and leaders are not immune to the clutches of disappointment, discouragement and depression. Yet, Paul, in light of the Day of the Lord coming, said “encourage and build each other up.”
The world we live in today has produced a complete lack of trust, conspiracies galore and polarizing viewpoints. Every word spoken is scrutinized, every decision you make is challenged, and even your motives are questioned if you dare to disagree. Remember, the real enemy is Satan and we are called to be different by encouraging one another and seeking to build one another up. Let’s challenge ourselves to not allow the grippy, negative, always complaining culture around us to infiltrate our church families. “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).
Encourage someone! God placed us in a church family, not to tear one another down but rather to build one another up. Who do you need to encourage today? Who do you need to say “thank you” to? Who comes to mind that you need to call or text and express your appreciation for what they mean to you? Everyone needs encouragement now and then, and our church families should be the best examples of Godly encouragement. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
Jesus was continually encouraging and challenging His disciples in their faith journey. He spoke the truth and did not back off the reality of the situation, but He encouraged them. He did not tell them that everything was going to work out how they wanted or that there would never be difficulty and tribulation. There was no promise that it would always be smooth sailing, but He did say in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Even in the midst of tribulation, God’s peace is available.
To encourage means to pour courage into. Who do you need to pour courage into today? Who do you know that is struggling? All of us could use a little building up right now, to be reminded that we are not alone and that God is still in control. This is the importance of community and being connected to a church family spiritually, relationally, emotionally, intellectually and physically. We need to see one another, spend time with one another, encourage one another and build one another up. Fight the temptation to focus on yourself and begin by focusing on others who need encouragement.
During challenging seasons, the goal is not to keep up with the times, but rather to keep up with Jesus. How do we do that? According to I Thess. 5:8, we put on the armor of faith first. We approach the uncertainty of the times and the future faith-based rather than fear-based. Find encouragement in God’s Word where, over and over when His people faced insurmountable odds, they were told, “Do not be discouraged! Do not be afraid!” What was happening? Courage was being poured into them by trusting in the Lord instead of how things appeared to be. Fear is real, but never forget that God is able.
I Thessalonians 5:8 also says to put love on our chests. Outrage is not a strategy and, while what you are standing for is right, you may not be standing for it in the right way. These are some of the most difficult times to navigate culturally. The real challenge forging ahead will be navigating these difficult times by showing compassion without compromising convictions and standing for Biblical convictions without compromising compassion. Encourage one another by showing the same grace you desire when you are the one who has sinned. We all need grace and let’s encourage one another with that truth.
Then Paul told the church in Thessalonica to put on a helmet of the hope of salvation. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and that means we must distinguish between our present state and our future fate. Our future fate is not determined by the times we live in, the culture we are enduring or the difficulties of our situation. Do not forget that God enjoys working through the critical mass of two or three. He does some of His best work in the worst places and during the most difficult times. Be encouraged by Rom. 5:8: “But God proved His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The challenge is for us to encourage one another and build one another up. I don’t know about you, but I could use a little building up right now. You do not go through the battles unscathed. They weigh on you, pull you down and impact you spiritually, emotionally and even physically. Maybe we need to begin by repenting of our bad attitudes and seeking the mind of Christ. The first work of grace is the first word of grace — repent. It begins with a change of heart that leads to a change of behavior. To repent means that you adopt God’s viewpoint over your own. Even your attitude. Encourage someone today with these words!