Hello. Today’s passage comes from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5.
In the first few verses of this chapter we heard how Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica. Such was the love that Paul had for this new church, he couldn’t merely send letters anymore. He says to Timothy, I can manage here on my own, someone needs to go to Thessalonica and it can’t be me so I’ll have to release you to go. Paul sends Timothy to build up this new church we’ve been hearing all about. In Paul’s words, to strengthen and encourage them in their faith.
Paul hits on a simple and important truth here. He recognises that life is hard, that it can wear down even the strongest of individuals. He points out that we’re all tempted to turn away from God, sometimes in particular areas of our lives, sometimes totally. He knows that we all need to be strengthened and encouraged regularly. For the Church in Thessalonica and for us today that happens in two different ways. We are built up as a community following Jesus by the blood of the lamb and the testimony of the saints. The eternal and the everyday. The blood of the lamb, the reminder that Jesus is enough, that He loves us and offers us grace. This strengthening happens by meeting together as a church and being reminded of these great truths. By singing them out together, by seeing those around us choose to worship God and by seeing the collective worship of Christ’s Church become more than just the songs of individuals. We are strengthened by gathering and worshipping. The word Paul uses for strengthen means to stand firm. We cannot do that alone, apart from God’s Church – we weren’t designed to! We were designed to be in community.
Strengthened and encouraged. The eternal and the everyday. In the context of this passage to encourage means to comfort and console when someone needs comforting, to cheer someone when they are down, but also to animate and to urge when they need a bit of a prod. To encourage is to invite someone into the fullness of all they could be in God’s Kingdom. This comes through sharing stories of where we have seen God move both in the past and where we can see Him at work now. I’m part of a great small group here at STC. We’ve always prayed for each other but recently we’ve seen loads of answers to those prayers. Well, God has always answered our prayers, maybe we’ve just got a little better at spotting and sharing those answers. We’ve seen crazy things like a lost cat being found over a year after it went missing. An engagement ring was found, jobs were offered after numerous closed doors and so on. The thing about these testimonies was that every time a thanksgiving for answered prayer was shared, faith was raised, people were encouraged and became more open and willing to share prayer requests. This led to more testimony and us recognising God at work more and more.
There are two questions to take away from all this. Where can we stand with others and offer encouragement today? Where can we allow people to stand with us? The second question may seem a little strange as we often think of allowing others to help encourage and strengthen us as admitting we need help. This is scary as it goes against the grain for many of us. But the reminder for us here is that the Jesus way is the way of community, of openness. Where can we offer and be open to receiving encouragement today?
Thank you Father that you call us to live in community with those around us, offering encouragement and recognising where we need to hear that in our own lives as well. Show us today who we can draw alongside and point in your direction. Amen.
READING: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labours might have been in vain.