"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week 10: Encourage One Another, Part 2

This week's command was First Thessalonians 5:11--"encourage one another and build each other up." I've been reading and listening to Paul's first letter to the church of the Thessalonians. It was a letter of encouragement from Paul (and his helpers Silas and Timothy) to the people of that church, and it serves as a road map to those of us who would follow the command to "encourage one another." The letter:

  • emphasizes the blessings of God
  • acknowledges the difficulties and suffering of the church
  • commends the church's faithful endurance through hardship
  • reminds the people of the church of Paul's own deep love and concern for them
  • commends the church for its service
  • exhorts the church to be confident in the goodness and sovereignty of God
What I find most striking about the letter is Paul's great passion and affection for the people of the church. I often think of Paul as the great evangelist and theologian. This is Paul the gentle and compassionate pastor, and this letter sounds like a love letter. "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers." 1:2. "[W]e were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her children." 2:7. "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives, because you had become so dear to us." 2:8. "[W]hen we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of intense longing we made every effort to see you." 2:17. "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." 3:12.

I don't write letters (or e-mails) to people in the church that express such depth of affection and concern. Heck, I don't often talk to my wife like that---see Week Eight! It's not that I don't love people in the church. I do love and admire many people in the church. I just don't feel comfortable expressing it, and, as a result, I most often just keep my feelings to myself. To the extent that my discomfort is a by-product of my own junk, I need to get over it. To the extent that I'm a reflection of our culture, I think our culture is wrong. This is one area in which the church is called to be counter-cultural. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35.

This week was about me encouraging others on a daily basis and about me getting out of my comfort zone and expressing how I feel. During the week, I was struck by two things. First, once I made the commitment to encourage others on a daily basis and entered each day with the expectation that God would nudge me to encourage others, it was amazing how many people I saw that needed a word of encouragement. Second, this is one of those commands that requires very little effort by us, but God can use our obedience in a powerful way.

UPDATE: My dad has returned home from the hospital and is doing very well compared to his condition just a few weeks ago. Thank you all very much for your prayers and encouragement. Buddy, my dad's dog, has also returned home. This was rather disappointing for my boys, who had grown very fond of Buddy. I think we may be getting a dog of our own in the not too distant future.


  1. I know that, I for one, was encouraged by your encouragement. Thanks, Nathan!

  2. I tend to be a task-oriented person and don't always take the time to tell someone how much I appreciate them. I really notice when others do, though; and I appreciate that gift to the Body of Christ. I know for some, especially, words of affirmation are a primary love language. So, it is very important for me to step outside my comfort zone and pay more attention to encouraging others in their walk. Thanks for the reminder!