“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
–1 Thessalonians 5:11
Maybe you are more familiar with a different translation of this Bible verse, as Steve Green sang it: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
This Bible verse is a gem that can be lost in the shadow of the grand and noble Colossians 3:23–24: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
Both texts are equally important for the Christian. Knowing that we work unto the Lord keeps our work in proper perspective. Working for the praise of men will always leave us empty and disappointed. Only working for the Lord will bring true joy and fulfillment in life, walking in the good works that He has prepared for us to do.
Yet, “We work unto the Lord” has often been the justification for refusing to give fellow Christians any kind of recognition, thanks, or encouragement for their service. Giving and receiving encouragement and speaking well of and to each other is vital for Christians, preserving our resolve and joy as we journey together on the difficult, narrow path to heaven. As Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” And that is why we need to remember Colossians 3:23 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11. We work unto the Lord, but we still need each others for encouragement.
We live in a time when the sin of gossip has exploded into a devastating forest fire, ravaging anything it encounters. The sins of the tongue – gossip, slander, and backbiting – used to be twisted retellings of happenings that we or another witnessed firsthand. Now with the press of a button, we can see intimate details of others’ lives. We are peering in not only on family and friends but also on complete strangers. How much of our social media use is a cycle of gazing and judging and sharing and slandering? People can so easily become fixated on negativity and depravity, craving more and more until eventually they are consumed by this idolatry. Too often we never hear the good about a person or a situation or a church. We only hear the bad. Can you imagine how Satan must love to hear God’s people verbally rip each other apart?
Listen to the strong language used in the Heidelberg Catechism, which gives both the negative and positive aspects of the ninth commandment:
Lord’s Day 43
Q. 112. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. That I bear false witness against no man, nor falsify any man’s words; that I be no backbiter, nor slanderer; that I do not judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly or unheard; but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit as the proper works of the devil, unless I would bring down upon me the heavy wrath of God; likewise, that in judgment and all other dealings I love the truth, speak it uprightly, and confess it; also that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbor.
We need to live 1 Thessalonians 5:11! Let’s make it a point to be kind and to build each other up, starting today. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Stop destructive stories from spreading. Protect the reputation and welfare of your neighbor. Do not give a slanderer an audience!
Could one of your primary Spirit-given gifts be loving others by encouraging them? Give encouragement a try, along with other spiritual gifts and disciplines (for example: intercession and witnessing). What comes naturally to you, and what are you comfortable doing? Start there; exercise those gifts in Christ’s church for the benefit of her members as you mature and fully learn your place and function among God’s people.
Do not wait until you are older. Young people are not simply “the future church” or “the future of the church.” Young people and young adults are part of Christ’s church now and have an important place as her living members (Lord’s Day 21), whether they be baptized or communicant members. Scripture makes this very clear. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). God uses young believers – even children – to accomplish His purposes. Remember Miriam and Moses and Samuel and David and Joash and Naaman’s wife’s maid and Daniel and his three friends. Remember Mary and John and Titus and Timothy. Remember Jesus in the temple at 12 years old.
Encouragement does not need to be elaborate. Often a simple “thank you” is all that it takes to encourage someone to continue in their good works unto the Lord.
“Pastor, thank you for that challenging sermon.”
“Teacher, thank you for not moving on until I understood the lesson.”
“Parents, thank you for not allowing me to go to that party.”
“Friend, thanks for standing up for me when I was being ridiculed.”
“Sibling, thanks for always being there for me.”
The people whom God has placed in our lives might be secretly struggling. Church committee members might be running themselves into the ground in service for others and for God’s kingdom and wondering if their labor even matters. Volunteers might only receive criticism and question why they bother to put forth such effort. Mothers might be wrestling with feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and burnout. The elderly might feel entirely useless. A simple word or note of encouragement might make all the difference to keep them living and working faithfully, joyfully, and selflessly unto the Lord.
We can take this a step further. Let’s remember to thank God for the people in our lives (1 Thess. 1:2). In your prayers, speak specific details about a person and his needs, and then tell him that you are doing this. It’s easy to say, “I’ll be praying for you,” and to pray, “Father, be with this person.” But our relationships will grow so much closer if we take the time to carefully observe our brothers’ and sisters’ particular needs, bring them before the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, and praise and thank God for them.
“Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.”
Encourage one another, and build each other up!
by Erika Kiel