A word of praise and encouragement can help us deal with the difficulties and challenges of life. This is especially true for Christians as we struggle to live right and please God. You see we not only face the common hardships of all people, but the added ones brought on by our faith (1 Peter 4:12-14). I would also say that it’s not easy to overcome life’s trials and our own insecurities.
The New Testament writers understood this point and so they often encouraged their readers. They did not just tell Christians what to do and not do, or warn them about failure, but they also expressed confidence in them to do right (Heb. 6:1-9). Perhaps it should be enough to know that I can succeed, but it also helps when others express faith in me. Don’t you feel good and emboldened when people say “you can do it”?
Even when there were problems in the church or among Christians, Paul made sure his writings included a healthy dose of “I know you can do it”. Consider the words of the apostle in 2 Thess. 3:4 – “And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.” From his writings in 1 and 2 Thessalonians we know that troubles existed in this church. Even though Paul expressed concern about the dangers, he wanted them to know that he believed in them.
Gospel preachers should understand this part of their work and do what it takes to encourage the brethren. This is the reason Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2). Christians were going through persecution and he wanted Timothy to remind them that they could overcome.
Preachers can also get so caught up in right and wrong or the failures of some that they leave the wrong impression in their teaching. I’m not suggesting doctrine is unimportant or that we should minimize Bible authority. Nor am I saying right and wrong don’t matter, because they do. We must correct those in sin and stand firm for gospel teaching. However, we should never leave people feeling as if there is no hope or berate them to a point where they give up. Whatever we need to say to admonish should include words of encouragement to do right.
The Lord understood the difficulties of faithful service and so He gave us the local church for support. Members of a congregation need to help each other by using kindness and tender words. The truth is everyone in the church has a role to encourage (Rom. 15:14). We should help each other get to heaven, not tear each other down.
Nothing is more shameful than when we “bite and devour one another” instead of loving each other (Gal. 5:14-15). We see this kind of conduct routinely in the world, but Christians can and must rise above this selfish and destructive behavior. How can the love of God be in our hearts and at the same time we treat one another poorly? It’s just not possible for us to love God and then turn around and mistreat others. I’m confident we can do better than this.
The nature of Christianity demands we become Christ-like in our dealings with people. That means we put others before our self and want only the best for them (Phil. 2:1-8). We should also treat others the way we want them to treat us (Matt. 7:12). Since I’m tempted and tried I should understand another’s struggles and hardships (Heb. 4:14). This character just doesn’t leave any room for pettiness or gossip and backbiting (2 Cor. 12:20-21).
The Bible also tells us to think about and develop wholesome qualities. Read the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8. Are you more likely to be kind or ugly when thinking about these? The next time you’re tempted to say something hurtful focus on these qualities and you may surprise yourself.
As the elect of God we will work on and build up those traits which bring us together (Col. 3:12-15). What Paul says here paints a more beautiful picture of what life can be than the ones’ we often paint by our conduct. There’s just no downside to “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.”
I know that most of us learn to retaliate when mistreated or that we want to throw the first punch before someone else has an opportunity to do so, but we can do better (Rom. 12:17-21). Anger and hostility serve no good purpose. By giving in to vengeance we neither resolve the problem nor do we find lasting peace. I want to encourage you to follow the example of Christ on this matter (1 Peter 2:21-24).
The bottom line is we need encouragement and we should all do our part in encouraging others. So I want to begin with myself. I need to do a good job of supporting you. And I want you to know that I need your support and encouragement as well.
– Terry Starling