Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
During quail season in Georgia, an Atlanta journalist met an old farmer hunting with an ancient pointer at his side. Twice the dog ran rheumatically ahead and pointed. Twice his master fired into the open air. When the journalist saw no birds rise, he asked the farmer for an explanation. "Shucks," grinned the old man, "I knew there weren't no birds in that grass. Spot's nose ain't what it used to be but him and me have had some wonderful times together. He's still doing the best he can -- and it'd be mighty mean of me to call him a liar at this stage of the game!" Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, pp. 15-16
We all struggle with the vicissitudes of life and need to be encouraged periodically. Discouragement is an emotional response to the challenges that overwhelm our gifts and abilities. It is the soul asking for reinforcement when it feels the onslaught of life’s slings and arrows. Discouragement is a place we may be forced to visit but we should not stay there too long because of the damages it can cause to our sense of being.
The Bible has numerous verses about encouragement. Our Father in heaven knows we need to be encouraged. He gave us the Holy Spirit to encourage us when the devil tries to deceive and confuse us. The Church of Jesus Christ is an institution of encouragement. It is created as a living organism where believers can be affirmed and encouraged throughout their spiritual journey.
In today’s text, Paul exhorts the saints in the church at Thessalonica to encourage each other. Christians need to do more of that for one another. Too many people have forsaken the faith and are being led astray by the cunningness of the devil. We need to encourage other brothers and sisters to stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Married couples should be encouraged to remain faithful to their marital vows. The divorce rate is as high among Christians as it is among non-Christians. Young people should be encouraged to pursue their dreams and set high expectations for their future.
My rule of thumb is ten encouraging words before any criticism. It’s easy to criticize others. But criticism seldom leads to improvement. As stated by William Arthur Ward, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
I still remember the people who encouraged me when I was in elementary school, High School, college, and graduate school. I consider these people to be angels sent by God to help me become the man that I am today. A word of encouragement can transform a life and help one to find their purpose.
The farmer in today’s illustration kept firing his shotgun into the air so his faithful dog can run after a bird that did not exist. All to encourage his faithful dog and give the dog a sense of purpose. Perhaps there is someone in your life who may not be operating as commendably as they should. Before you start criticizing or dismissing that individual, may I recommend you try creative ways to encourage the individual even if they fall short of your expectations. Can I also remind you to encourage yourself? We are never as good as our praisers say we are, or as bad as our critics think we are. Be encouraged!
Questions for Personal Reflection
How can you be a source of encouragement to those who are struggling in your circle?
How do you get encouraged?
Prayer- Most Holy God, please strengthen and encourage those who are struggling to make it day by day for a variety of reasons. I particularly pray for your Holy Spirit to encourage those who are homeless, hopeless, helpless, and lonely. Please help them to feel the comfort of your presence and send angels to remind them they are loved.