Theme: Positive Christianity
By James L. (Jamie) Sloan
“Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASV). The brethren at Thessalonica excelled in showing real love and active concern for one another (cf. 4:9-10). We need in our own day to place a higher premium on the simple and even feeble efforts to express love for those with whom we share a common faith. We must go out of our way to compliment those who have made a genuine effort to express that faith in either a public or private way; and we can show hospitality or be a source of strength to those who undergo trials of that faith.
I am optimistic that many children of God in our day are becoming more aware of the relationship that
“encourage one another” has to “build up one another.” The practical and the interpersonal should not take a back seat to the didactic and the doctrinal. Man is a social being — “it is not good for man to be alone.” Therefore, he who helps to strengthen one’s heart and shore up one’s will is fully as valuable as he who enlightens one’s mind. However, we tend to an unequal emphasis. Hazlett confessed: “In looking back, it sometimes appears to me as if I had in a manner slept out my life in a dream or shadow on the side of the hill of knowledge, where I have fed on books, on thoughts, on pictures, and only heard in half-murmurs the trampling of busy feet, or the noise of the throng below.”
Practical Steps For Helping Christians To Encourage Others
1. We need to realize how important the Word of God is in building up others within the body of Christ. Familiarize yourself with scripture and then take it to others. Whether publicly or privately, formally or informally, teaching is one means of encouraging. Paul dealt with grief over deceased brethren by teaching the bereaved just what will happen when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and concluded with the words; “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The words of Acts 20:32 are also appropriate; “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.’ Just as you gather your list of scriptures on such themes as the plan of salvation and the New Testament church, why not make a list of passages that will comfort the bereaved, strengthen the sick, give heart and hope to the discouraged, give relief to the worried, etc.?
2. You can believe (have confidence) in others, and communicate that trust unto them. Pessimism and optimism tend to be self-fulfilling, Expectation is a powerful force in a human life, affecting one’s performance or prompting one’s failure. The writer of the book of Hebrews paints a bleak picture of the possible apostasy of the Jewish Christians, and is painfully blunt regarding their failures (cf. 5:11-14), and warns of the consequences (2:7-8). However, he follows with a powerful expression of hope and confidence in 2:9; “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.” We all need for our brethren to express confidence in us.One of the greatest ways you can help others is with a word of cheer and hope. Each of us needs someone of whom we can say, “I can do it if he/she thinks I can.” Husbands and wives need each others trust—assurance that their companion believes in them. Parents tend to cause their children to fail by their low expectations of them, and their hyper-critical and negative attitude of distrust. They may just play out the disappointing role that we have prophesied for them. So, real growth can occur in our lives when someone says, “I believe in you.” The great soprano, Leontyne Price, was once a maid for a Mississippi family. The members of the family she served saw her singing ability, encouraged her, and predicted that she had the makings of a star. She has since confessed that their hope and belief in her became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is so important that we maintain our positive outlook and believe in the potential that is in every child of God.
3. ”A new commandment I give to you, that you also love one another,even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Basic to our meaningful relationship to each other is love, It is the “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31; 3:13). Eleven times we are told to love one another in the Epistles alone. I think an important statement is found for us in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” We can identify with being a part of a family. Paul’s point is clear. We are to be just as devoted to each other as are the members of a close-knit family. That kind of care and concern for others who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ will do so much to encourage all who come under its influence, whether weak or strong.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE JANUARY, 1984