(Hebrews 10:19–25; 1 Thessalonians 5: 11–22)
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I am convinced we can’t live without encouragement and accountability — at least not live well. Some people have an image of a spiritually mature Christian off on a mountaintop just me and my Bible alone with God. That might be a nice place to visit — but that’s not where God wants us to live. God uses many people in our lives to help us grow in our relationship with him and our effectiveness for him!
Along with spending time with God through his word and prayer, Christian fellowship is critically important for us to grow and be effective in our walk with God. Encouragement and accountability are two key ingredients of fellowship. We need both of those on a regular basis AND I’m convinced that God longs to use us to provide these in someone else’s life as well.
Before we look at 1 Thessalonians 5:11–21, let’s briefly look at Hebrews 10:22–25
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
So we see one of the purposes of meeting together as a church is to encourage one another.
The Greek word used is parakaleo, the word that was used to refer to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The writer to the Hebrews uses the same word in verse 25. We’ll also see the word in our second passage. You may not understand the Greek word. Fortunately, there are people who dedicate their lives to studying the biblical languages so they can translate for us. The word they chose to use is ENCOURAGE. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines encourage as To impart the mental or moral strength to venture, withstand and persevere in the face of danger, fear and difficulty.
Many of the New Testament believers were facing serious persecution. They needed encouragement and so do we for our daily realities.
Interestingly Hebrews 10:22–25 gives us two commands BUT before it gives us a third command, we are told to stop and think first before rushing into action. We are told to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11–22, the Apostle Paul gives some very practical suggestions on HOW to encourage one another.
360 Degree Encouragement
The passage opens with the command to keep up the good work of encouraging one another.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
We are told to encourage leaders, peers, and even ourselves.
Encourage Your Leaders
12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
Encourage Your Peers
14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Encourage Your Self
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.
I have always been intrigued by the wording in verse 14. Three different people or categories are mentioned. To the casual observer, externally all three may look the same. When you look at them you don’t see anything! Just like a Veggie Tales song, these are the Christians who don’t do anythin’!
When we take the time to look a bit closer, we’ll see that each person has a unique struggle and needs a particular strategy to get unstuck.
Warn the Idle
The word translated “idle” (ataktous) refers to someone or something that is out of order. In an active sense, such a person is unruly or insubordinate. In a passive sense, these people are not doing what they should and are therefore lazy or idle. They need a warning or wake-up call.
Encourage the Timid
These were people who had become discouraged, perhaps depressed. They may have felt this way because of difficult circumstances, or because they despaired of living up to the high standards of the Christian faith. These people needed to be helped, not warned. They needed to hear, “You can do it.”
Help the Weak
This word, help, has the idea of holding on to someone or supporting someone up close.
Can I suggest the imagery of helping someone who just sprained an ankle? They can still walk but only on one leg. They need someone or something to lean on to make up for the other leg.
Be Patient with Everyone
Anything worthwhile takes time. Whatever the situation may call for, remember to be patient with everyone!
Real encouragers are focused on building up someone else. Some people are content to just run in with a quick-fix solution that makes them feel like they’ve done something but doesn’t actually improve the situation. Please do not settle for that. People need real encouragement.
So, what about you? Lift up your eyes from your screen (when you finish my article of course). Who around you needs encouragement this day? Is anyone idle and needs a wake-up call? As my father-in-law would say, “C’mon guy!”. Is anyone timid and needs to be reminded of the resources within or available to them? Or perhaps they simply need to be reminded that someone believes in them and wants them to succeed. Is anyone motivated and trying but just needs a little help?
Prayerfully ask God to guide you to the who and how for your encouragement efforts today. Without violating any confidences or trust, please let me know how it goes.