Encouraging One Another (1 Thess 5:11) by Eld Sim
– 2nd SAF Meeting on 5 Feb 2017
“Wherefore comfort yourself together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” 1 Thess 5:11
Paul in this passage exhorts us to encourage one other and to build each other up. Comfort (Gk n- parakaleo, v-paraclete) means to call to one’s side, to console, to encourage, to strengthen or to exhort.
Edify (Gk oikodomeo) has the meaning of erecting a building up from the foundation. Literally, be a builder, and seek to construct, to affirm, to build up or to embolden. Interestingly, in John 14:16 The Holy Spirit is sent to be a paraclete (Comforter or Encourager), coming alongside a believer for the purpose of building up one’s spiritual lives.
Encouragement is not flattery, compliments or trite expressions like “Oh, you look nice today.” There is nothing wrong in themselves but they are not biblical encouragement. Biblical encouragement would include the aspects of comforting and edifying as elucidated by Paul. It is coming alongside someone with the aim of building up or strengthening such a one. Briefly defined it is “To instil in someone’s heart the courage to face the frightful situation or threatening world.” To encourage is “To put courage in one.”
Jesus is our model of authentic Christian affirmation. He asked the women caught in adultery “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I, go and sin no more.” He was open to her and gave her the gift of discovering her own self and of receiving the Gospel. Jesus does not condone sin, rather His method of affirmation involves a liberation from sin rather than an acceptance of sin. To try to affirm someone by telling them that it is OK to speak vulgarity, to view pornography or to be involved in illicit sexual activity with the mistaken notion that this will help people become happier, contradicts authentic affirmation as taught by our Lord. Jesus never, ever compromises the moral law to affirm someone.
Examples of affirmation in the Bible. God the Father affirms Jesus at His baptism ( Mt 3:17) and at the Transfiguration (Lk 9:35). Jesus affirms Zaccheus (Lk 19:8), Peter (Jn 21:15-17) and even the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:10-11). Barnabas “Son of encouragement” ministered to Paul who was shun by others in Act 11:25 and John Mark, rejected by Paul in Acts 15:37-39). Many of Paul’s co-workers were commended and “saluted” by him in Rom chapter 16.
Who is responsible for the ministry of encouragement? In short, every Christian should be involved in this ministry – Preachers (1 Thess 3:2), teachers (Acts 15), elders & pastors (Titus 1:9), gifted brethren (Rom 12:5); eg Barnabas (Acts 4 and 11), and entire body of Christ (1 Thess 5:11)
In New Life, we salute the many co-workers for their labour of love in the Lord. My favourite list:
1) Those who serve in the ROF, Ju Eng Home ministry (I like to single out Joseph and Puay Lun for their faithfulness), 2) those serving quietly – in the flower arrangement, PA crew, Library, music ministry, choir, vehicle ministry, Christalite Home (Ernest Sim) and Children’s ministry, 3) Sunday School teachers and helpers 4) Sister Ai Yen, 5) BB & GB ministry, 6) Usherers and finally those unsung ones whom God alone knows.
When do we encourage? (Heb 10:24-25) Firstly, in an assembly. The primary reason Christians assemble is to encourage one another which is a command of the Lord. It is not possible to obey this command in isolation from other Christians but it is possible in an assembly. Secondly, we must encourage one another at every opportunity, even daily (Heb 3:12-13). In the body of Christ, it is not possible to be personally connected to every other Christian on a daily basis or even on regular basis, therefore we need to network with others. It is everybody’s responsibility to encourage daily. You need to be connected to somebody, and they need to be connected to you to such a degree that you have virtually daily contact. We need to have brothers and sisters in the Lord who love us and know us, spurring us on every day.
Why do we encourage one another. Firstly, because of the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13). Body members severed from the body die. What temptation is Satan trying to use on you right now – is it pride, lust, discouragement, fear, uncontrolled anger, doubt, guilt or rebellion? Satan is determined to make us fall into sin. His ultimate goal is to cut you off from Christ’s body and the flow of His life-saving blood. We cannot take our spiritual health for granted. That’s why we need to encourage one another to help overcome the deceitfulness of sin. Secondly, we can defeat Satan’s temptation and deceit, if we encourage one another, give prayer support, meet for regular fellowship, keep His Word and walk the Holy Spirit. A hot coal separated from the burning heap will eventually die out. We need each other’s help and encouragement to defeat Satan. Lastly, this fallen world is filled with suffering, pain, trial and trouble. God has allowed it to stay. Often we are not given the reason why we suffer but one thing God has made clear: He has allowed it to happen so that we will grow through it and understand how badly we need Him. Simultaneously, we also learn how badly we need each other for comfort and support.
There are brethren who desperately need encouragement. But they will only take off the veneer, open up and let you know they need encouraging if they really sense that the ministry of encouragement is taken seriously. We must be genuine in our desire to comfort and edify.
How do we encourage one another? We need to encourage one another as long as it’s called today? Firstly we remind each other of God’s promises (1 Thess 4:13-18). Paul states these magnificent promises about the resurrection hope of saints and the coming of Jesus to encourage the sorrowful and confused Thessalonians. When encouraging someone, we should avoid using trite statements or preaching, but remind him of God’s promises — to always be with us, hear every prayers, take away our sins if we confess them, supply strength in time of need, and never allow us to bear what is beyond us. These reminders will give the person courage to go on. Secondly. granting genuine forgiveness to one another. In 2 Cor 2:7, Paul noted that a repentant brother was kept at arm’s length by some Corinthians. He chided them “Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Here we learn that forgiveness has to be visibly extended in order to be received. We should not make the repentant feel like second class Christians. Lastly, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb12:1) This verse reminds us that there is a great cloud of witnesses including Abel, Noah, David, and many others, who are cheering us to “press on” in our spiritual race. What an encouragement to know that we are not alone. Let us, therefore, run this spiritual race confidently with one another and finish it triumphantly, always looking unto Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb 1:2).
In summary, we are obeying God’s commandment when we encourage one another regularly and in assembly. We do so with humility and love, mutually giving and receiving the grace and promises of God. When we affirm one another we do not condone sin, we defeat Satan’s temptation and deceit, receive genuine forgiveness & recovery of personhood in Christ. Together, in our spiritual race, we cheer each other to finish it triumphantly in Christ. Amen.
Q1. Why is it important to have a culture of encouragement in our relationship in New Life?
- Just like members in a family encourage one another, the church being the body of Christ where members are brothers and sisters in a “larger” family, all the more members in New Life should encourage one another.
- Lack of encouragement over long period will lead to discouragements and disappointments.
- Bear testimony. It is a good testimony for the Lord, as when visitors to our church sense of belonging, care, warmth and love amongst members, they will be more inclined to visit our church again.
- Setting examples. By cultivating a culture of encouragement, we are setting a good example for our youths. When faced with problems, our young people can rely on the older members of our church for counsel and advice instead of turning to outside sources, which eventually may lead to them leaving church.
- It is a command from the Lord to uplift and mutually encourage one another, because we all face trials and tribulations at one time or another.
- Building relationship. To help build relationships to enable openness, which is the preamble for bonding and encouragements.
- To foil Satan’s plan in tempting & deceiving believers to lose their faith.
- To edify. We edify one another through encouragement and strengthen our faith in God.
Comments on why there is lack of encouragement:
- Men less inclined. It is more difficult for men to share, especially emotional matter and so they are less open in encouraging each other. Another group observed that men tend to leave after the church service, and the issue is “How to encourage them to stay behind for fellowship?”
- Judging others. Sharing in prayer meeting and then being judged instead of encouraged or helped. Must create a “safe” environment.
- Some just needed financial help without intention to divulge details, so it is difficult to encourage henceforth without deeper engagement.
- Personal problems. Some left because of pride, bitterness or disagreements, and so there is no opportunity to encourage, help or reconcile.
- Personality issue. Some personality tends to be quiet and so pray for ability and opportunity to open up.
Q2. How can we encourage or affirm each other in New Life? Give some concrete examples.
- Be proactive. Learn to be open to share, so that others will be able to encourage or help. Be proactive in approaching others, especially newcomers.
- Build relationship. Attend SAF meeting as an example to build relationship first, and sharing will be much easier. It is important to build relationship first. Do not stay in isolation and attending NBC is another avenue of encouragement that is not visible to many.
- Be intentional. Encouragement must be intentional and needed initiative to follow up and do. One needed to be affirmed and encouraged, then only can affirm and encourage others. Affirm one another’s importance in the church, regardless of one’s wealth & occupational position, we can all participate in menial task like operation clean up & visitation to the less privileged.
- Be present. It may not take a lot of action to encourage someone, for example, just being present to support in an event will encourage the organizers and fellow attendees.
- Planned visitation is another example of encouragement, and not just cyclical or ad hoc basis.
- Practical actions such as: 1. One sister was down with chicken pox and was visited by a member who cooked food for her. 2. A member gave two sisters with knee pain bottles of rose hips. 3. A member recommended one sister with high cholesterol a health supplement. 4. One sister visited another who was hospitalized to minister to her. 5. Showing care, concern & affection with handshake, a pat on the back, a smile or hug in the Church or in public.
- Sharing & prayers. Sharing spiritual experiences and pray for others, follow through and follow-up, and share how the Lord has answered prayers to our problems.
- Personal testimony. Sharing own trials, life experiences and testimonies in order to encourage and advise others on how to overcome.
- Buddy system. Pray to God for opportunity and build a buddy relationship with one person first.
- Keep in touch. Build connection to help each other, start from home. We should try to text one another, e.g. One brother was very encourages when he receives a text message from a deacon asking about him when he did not see him in church.
- Listen, not gossip. Listen genuinely and put others first. Arrange for a meal together. We must not spread gossips.
- Exercise gift. Discover another’s gift/ abilities/ strength & encourage him to use it to serve God in church. Can encourage someone to join the choir or teach in Sunday school.
- Genuine love & concern. Forgiving the weaker/ offending brother & show genuine love by inviting him to your home or fellowship group.
- Not judgmental. We should not ‘shut down’ someone, e.g. someone was told that he struggles with his needs because he does not have enough faith in God.
- Directory. We need to have a directory of members to facilitate contact with each other.
- Be sensitive to other’s need. Some felt it’s okay not to connect with everyone; as there are just some people that do not have chemistry together. However, another sister felt sympathetic for an unpopular colleague and reached out to her, despite having challenging relationship with her. So we agreed that we should seek God’s will on whom we can reach out to.