Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
HomeAll The NewsIN MY OWN WORDS: Give Them Hope!

IN MY OWN WORDS: Give Them Hope!

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11 ESV).

Try to put yourself in Paul’s shoes when you read this letter he wrote to the people in Thessalonica. He had visited this city during his missionary journeys and had established a small community of believers there. Thessalonica was a business hub and was very diverse in population. It faced all the problems that a growing city with a clash of cultures and backgrounds would face. They were well-versed in Greek philosophy. Polytheism, pagan temples, idol worship and cults were prevalent throughout the city. Religious festivals were a significant part of the local culture. Mix in a significant Jewish population and you have an area primed and ready for a new Christian church, right? Not so much.

The culture of Thessalonica doesn’t sound much better than the world in which believers are living today. It is, indeed, a challenge to live for Jesus in this confused and divided culture we face today. One of the greatest gifts the church can offer people today is summed up in one word — hope. We are truly living in a hopeless generation. People are looking to anything and everything to give them a little hope. Knowing this to be true brings me to ask the uncomfortable question: Are people in our churches living with hope in their hearts?

We know that the Bible gives us instruction on how we should teach and preach. This same Paul who is offering hope to the people of Thessalonica also teaches his student, Timothy, in II Tim. 3:16-17 (NIV): “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We certainly want all of God’s Word to be presented in power and truth; we want God’s Word to do its sanctifying work. But even in that corrective presentation of Scripture, we must leave people with hope, not hope in themselves or that things will “work out,” but hope in Christ.

One of my greatest and most enlightening discoveries in ministry was when I realized folks weren’t coming to church to hear me preach or sing. They were coming to get a little hope. If they didn’t find it at our church, they were going to leave there and look for it somewhere else. Yes, they needed instruction and reproof, but there was also an equal need for hope, too — not a watered-down gospel, but a gospel that gave hope as well as reproof. There should be a balance, and it takes wisdom from the Spirit and study to strike that balance.

Paul offered this small sub-culture of believers encouragement, practical advice, comfort and hope. They were small in number, and all they had was one another. They needed hope, and Paul’s heart was guided by the Holy Spirit to offer it to them. He later concluded his letter to them by saying, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (I Thess. 5:23-24 ESV).

As American evangelist and author, Zig Ziglar, once said, “Offer people a little hope and you’ll always have someone to preach to.” Thank you, Zig. That’s wisdom, right there.