Beyond race relations: Encourage one another

1 Thessalonians 5--11

The blog post for July 24, 2016 continues the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in an area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first three principles, and today we will talk about the fourth:

Encourage one another:

Among the signs of the times in the last days before Christ returns is the reference to “wars and rumors of wars” where “nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” The word “nation” is translated from the Greek word “ethnos”—from which we get terms, such as “ethnic” and “ethnicity.” Clearly, we find the world is rampant with ethnic conflicts, both internationally as well as intra-nationally. Some of the clashes that we are witnessing in America are really conflicts among cultural groups: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans and other ethnic groups. In the midst of rising conflicts of this nature, as believers we recognize from these indicators that the return of Christ is near, and we offer words of comfort and assurance, as “we encourage one another.”

Derived from the expression translated “to come along beside of” or “to comfort together,” or “to mutually encourage,” the phrase “encourage one another” is used throughout the New Testament, especially in the Church Epistles written by Paul. We find these words in Romans 1:12 (AMP):

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

In a situation where Paul could not be present, he sent Timothy to encourage the believers of Thessalonica in their faith:

1 Thessalonians 3:2 (AMP):

And so we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in [spreading] the good news of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you [exhorting, comforting, and establishing you] in regard to your faith,

In a literal sense the expression means to “pour courage into each other.” Before one can give something to someone else, that individual must have received what the person gives to another. As believers, we receive from God the encouragement that we need so that we can then encourage and comfort others in their time of need. This is precisely the message of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Amplified Bible (AMP):

Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must].

A source of boundless encouragement and comfort in the midst of our perilous times is the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this the focal point of the letters written to the Thessalonian believers. Chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians describes the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gathering together of those who have died in Christ along with those believers who are alive, offering these encouraging words:

1 Thessalonians 4:18:

18 Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words [concerning our reunion with believers who have died].

The words of encouragement continue in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

For God has not destined us to [incur His] wrath [that is, He did not select us to condemn us], but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Ch1rist, 10 who died [willingly] for us, so that whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (dead) [at Christ’s appearing], we will live together with Him [sharing eternal life]. 11 Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.

We close our comments with a passage from Hebrews 10:23-25 that offers this hopeful advice as to how and why and when we should be “encouraging one another”:

23 Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; 24 and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, 25 not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

These words and other related scriptures remind believers:

To call alongside of and to call to be near,

In the midst of fiery trials that seek to beset us,

Comfort each other and edify one another.

“Encourage one another”, as this musical reminder tells us

 

 

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