Encouraging One AnotherEncouraging one another is so
important whether you're talking about a family, a
person, a ministry or a church. The real question is
what role are we playing, building up or tearing
Our launching pad today is 1 Thessalonians 5:11. It's a
launching pad because it's just one of several verses
in the New Testament where we're commanded to encourage
one another. Paul wrote to that church stating,
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other
up, just as in fact you are now doing." Biblical
encouragement can be examined by five questions.
1. What are we talking about when we talk about
Most people associate encouragement with flattery or
compliments or trite little expressions like: "Oh you
look nice today" or "Have a nice day," or "Take care."
That's not what encouragement is. Those expressions are
fine, nothing wrong with them, but they are not
Encouragement means to put courage in. Isn't that a
great concept? I encourage a fellow human being when I
instill in his or her heart courage to face the world,
that's encouragement. The Greek root word translated
encourage in our New Testament is paracollatos, the
verb form of the noun, paraclete. Paraclete which means
to lay alongside. Jesus said there will be a comforter.
Some translations use the word "encourager" who will
come alongside you for the purpose of building up your
life. (John 14) He was referring, of course, to the
coming of the Holy Spirit, and that is exactly what the
Spirit does. His Spirit lays alongside our Spirit to
Paracollatos is used 109 times in the New Testament.
Most of the time it's translated encourage, sometimes
exhort, sometimes comfort, but put all together you get
the biblical idea of encouragement. One man's
definition says, "Encouragement is the expression to
help someone become a better Christian when life is
rough." That's what encouragement is; that's putting
courage in the heart.
Focus more on affirmation than appreciation. That may
seem like a subtle difference to you, but it's really
pretty major. Appreciation is usually for what somebody
has done, it's performance based. I appreciate you for
what you did, your accomplishments. There's nothing
wrong with appreciation, but affirmation is more
valuable. I appreciate you rather than something you've
done for me. When we affirm, we encourage.
2. Who is responsible for the ministry of
a. Preachers-"We sent
Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in
spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and
encourage you in the faith." (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
b. Teachers-Those who
were teaching went everywhere encouraging the brethren.
(Acts 15) You see encouragement is a vital part of
preaching and teaching. I try never to construct a
lesson by God's guidance without including in it
elements of encouragement even if it's a lesson that
may sting because it may rebuke us for our sin. But at
the same time, we need to be built up to have the
courage to live the way God wants us to live.
pastors, overseers and bishops-Titus 1 is a
chapter that lists a criteria for elders, the kind of
people they need to be. "He must hold firmly to the
trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he
can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those
who oppose it." (Titus 1:9) Elders are to be men who
know the truth, and who handle the truth rightly so
that people are built up. That is extremely important.
I have found invariably that churches that have leaders
whose members do not respect them are discouraged
churches. The converse of that is true; churches that
have leadership they do respect are inevitably
encouraged churches. It is incumbent upon elders to be
d. Those who
are gifted to encourage. Romans 12:5-8 lists
areas of spiritual giftedness. As you go down through
the list, one of those gifts is encouragement. Notice
the gift of encouragement is listed separately from the
gift of teaching. In other words, teachers are
encouragers, but you don't have to be a teacher to be
an encourager. There are some people who have been
gifted and talented by God to be able to share that
buoying spirit in the life of another. One Biblical
example is Barnabas but that was not his real name. His
real name was Joseph of Cyprus, but they named him
Barnabas which means son of encouragement.
We read about Barnabas first in Acts 4, when he went
and sold a field, took all the proceeds, and laid it at
the apostles' feet. Don't you know that put courage in
the apostles' hearts? Then we read in Acts 9 that a
fellow by the name of Saul of Tarsus had been
persecuting the church. He had been converted, but no
one trusted him early on. A fellow by the name of
Bar-na-bas, the son of encouragement, went and stood at
his side and put courage in his heart. Next, Barnabas
goes to help a fledgling Gentile church in Antioch.
(Acts 11) Barnabas appears to have been putting courage
in somebody else. He had the gift of encouragement.
e. The entire
body ultimately has the responsibility. Sure,
not everyone is as gifted as some, but each of us has
the responsibility to encourage. "Therefore encourage
one another and build each other up." (1 Thessalonians
5:11) That's not addressed to preachers, that's
addressed to the entire body. Some parts are better at
it than others. But as with our physical bodies all the
members of the body come to help that body part in
need. The same thing here-the entire spiritual body
encourages those members in need. Frankly, it's not
healthy for an entire church to be dependent upon a few
members to do all the encouraging. You need many, many,
many people building up what a few are constantly
trying to tear down. So we're all in this ministry of
3. When do we encourage?
when assemblies together. "And let us consider
how we may spur one another on toward love and good
deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are
in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one
another-and all the more as you see the Day
approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25) That says very clearly
that the primary reason Christians assemble is to
All my life I've heard and read Hebrews 10:24-25 from
the old King James Bible, "Forsake not the assembly."
I've heard it always in the context you come to church
meaning assemble together. But I seldom heard the next
part which was right there in the same verse "so that
you can be encouraged and so you can encourage."
"What is it that you can do when you assemble that you
can't do at home?" That's a pretty good question
because you can do almost everything at home that you
can do here. Can you pray at home? Sure. Can you
preach? Yes. Can you sing? Sure, you can sing at home.
What about the Lord's Supper? Sure. The Lord's Supper
is taken to shut-ins and to people in the hospitals.
You can do almost any part of what you do at church-you
can give at home. So-what is it that you can do when
assembled together that you can't do at home? You can
encourage each other. You can't do that at home. You
can't do that isolated from other Christians.
Now here is a question: Which would be more wrong? Not
to assemble, or not to do what God says to do when you
assemble? That's a pretty good question. Some
Christians have an idea that you come, sit, listen and
leave. "Whew, that's that, I've got that done for a
week." They miss the command that we're here to
encourage one another. I hope you assemble with a
mindset of where's a brother or sister that I can build
up today. Yes, we can do that when we sing to each
other, and when we pray for each other. But we
primarily do it one-on-one when we look at each other,
love each other, shake hands, hug one another, and when
our conversations go beyond, "Sure is raining outside,
isn't it?" We gather together to build each other up.
We encourage at every assembly.
at every opportunity. It's not just when we
assemble. "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a
sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the
living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as
it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened
by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:12-13) That clearly
says our responsibility to encourage one another is
ever present. We are to encourage one another daily. By
the way, that word has significant implications of what
kind of body relationship we're supposed to have. We're
supposed to encourage one another daily, but some of us
don't even have contact weekly.
Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I'm not
suggesting that this week, everybody call everybody
else. Let me give you the illustration; take the
physical body analogy again. You see, no member of my
body is directly connected to every other member of the
body. My foot is not touching my hand; at least by the
way they are aligned in the body. No cell in my body is
touching every other cell. But, every cell in my body
is touching at least one other cell. Every member of my
body, every appendage, is touching at least one other
part of my body, and that's what we need to do. You
can't be connected to everybody.
Every Christian cannot be personally connected to every
other Christian on a daily basis. That's why it's
everybody's responsibility to encourage daily. You need
to be connected to somebody, and they need to be
connected to you to such a degree that you have
virtually daily contact. We need to have brothers and
sisters in the Lord who love us and know us, spurring
us on every day.
4. Why encourage? <</b>br>
We're talking about really getting into people's lives
and building each other up. Why do we do it?
a. We need to
encourage one another because of the deceitfulness of
sin. (Hebrews 3:13) Never underestimate the
power of Satan and his determination to discourage us
to the point of quitting and turning away from God.
Body members severed from the body die. What were to
happen if my big toe were cut off from my foot? You
know what will happen, it's going to putrefy and decay.
The old devil knows that if he can just get a child of
God isolated and cut off from circulation, then he will
get spiritual gangrene, and he will die.
What temptation is Satan trying to use on you right
now? Is he trying to use pride, lust, just old
discouragement, fear, uncontrolled anger, doubt, guilt
or rebellion? What's he trying to work on you with?
Whatever the temptation, his ultimate goal is to pull
you away. He is trying to cut you off from Christ's
body and the flow of His life-saving blood. The other
members of His body are clutching on to you saying,
"No, no, don't go. You need to stay, because you've got
to be part of the body, and you are important." That's
We make a grave mistake when we assume that everybody's
spiritual health can be taken for granted. Nobody's
spiritual health can be. That's why we need to
encourage one another to help overcome the
deceitfulness of sin.
b. The reality
of trials and troubles. It's no surprise to you
that this world is just filled with suffering, pain,
trial and trouble. That's here because we live in a
fallen world, but God has allowed it to stay. That
gives some people some problems. We can't get off
talking about the theology of why there is suffering
and pain in our world, but one thing God has made
clear. "I've even allowed it to happen so that you will
grow through it and understand how badly you need me."
But the other part of that is we also learn from our
trials and troubles how badly we need each other.
Not very many of us have our lives as neatly ordered as
our apparel. There are people who desperately need
encouragement. But they'll only take off the veneer,
open up and let you know they need encouraging if they
really sense that the ministry of encouragement is
taken seriously. We need to encourage brothers and
sisters because Satan is trying to pick us off one by
5. How do we encourage?
It's not simply by little trite expressions or
flattery. How do you really encourage one another as
long as it's called today?
a. We remind
each other of God's promise. For one example,
Paul is writing to a discouraged church. The whole
church is worried because they are expecting Jesus to
come back any minute. Some of their relatives have
already died. They're all sad and saying, "Oh no,
they've missed Jesus' coming. They died before He came
back." So in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul states these
magnificent promises about the coming of Jesus. He
said, "Don't worry about the dead; they are the ones
who will rise first. Therefore, encourage one another
with these words." See, whenever we gather, if someone
is vulnerable enough to share with you, don't use trite
statements or preach to him, but remind him of God's
promises. He has promised to always be with us, hear
every prayer we utter, take away our sins if we confess
them and lay them before Him, give us strength in time
of need, and never allow us to have more put on us that
we're able to bear. Those are magnificent promises and
when reminded of them you will have the courage to go
genuine forgiveness. Paul, when writing to the
church in Corinth, said there was a brother who was in
some really deliberate and awful sin but he repented
and some of them were holding him at arm's length. "Now
instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that
he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." (2
Corinthians 2:7) The word comfort is that same Greek
word, paracollatos that could just as easily be
rendered encourage. See, forgiveness has to be visibly
extended in order to be received.
I love the story of the fellow who went to the
counselor because his marriage was having trouble. The
counselor said, "What's the problem?" He said, "Every
time we have a fight, my wife gets historical." The
counselor said, "You mean hysterical." He said, "No, I
mean historical. She brings up every bad thing I've
ever done." Now I hope you can't relate to that in your
marriage, but some people can. You must forgive to be
Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross,
was a gracious lady, and on one occasion was reminded
by a friend of hers of what someone had said about her
that was so awful, so slanderous. Miss Barton said, "I
don't know what you're talking about." The friend said,
"Oh come on, the papers covered it, and everybody was
talking about it." She went on three or four minutes.
Finally, Clara Barton interrupted and said, "Oh, oh, oh
that. I distinctly remember forgetting that." You know
we don't really forget, but we can make a conscious
choice to not let it affect the way we treat that
person or anyone related to it.
Sometimes and in some places, people repent of their
sins, but they're made to feel like second-class
Christians. You know that's not right. If you do that
to someone else, you're not only not encouraging them,
you're discouraging them.
Immediately following a list of people of great faith
the Hebrews writer states "Therefore, since we are
surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us
throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so
easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the
race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1) That great
cloud of witnesses includes Abel, Noah, David, Jephtah,
and many others, but it includes all those that are
living, too. Let's cheer one another on in that
Several years ago, Peter Uberoth was in town. Do you
remember the name, Peter Uberoth? He was major league's
baseball commissioner for a while, and he also headed
up the 1984 Olympics that were held in Los Angeles.
When he was speaking in Nashville, Uberoth asked, "Do
you want me to tell you about the greatest athlete I've
ever seen?" Now when you think about a man who has had
as much exposure in sports as Uberoth, and he says
that, every ear perked up. He said in the '84 Olympics,
they had a 20,000 kilometers torch run serpetining all
the way through the country. And each participant, if
he met the criteria, would run for one kilometer. He
would light his little torch from the previous runner,
go one kilometer and light the next one. He had to pay
$3,000 for the privilege of doing that. Every bit of
the $3,000 went to charity.
Uberoth said, near the end, everybody was getting
discouraged. It looked like costs might go over, you
know the deadlines. He said, to motivate their forces
in Los Angeles, what they would do is gather all their
workers early in the morning and show news clips of the
torch run the day before. It was just encouraging to
see everybody cheering. Uberoth said we were in the
office about 10:00 o'clock, late one night, and in
comes a volunteer holding a videotape. He said there
were only a handful of us there, ready to go home, beat
to death, just tired. The volunteer said, "You've got
to see this." He said, "Well, what is it?" "It's a
videotape of the torch run." He said, "We'll see it in
the morning." The volunteer said, "No, you've got to
see it now." When they stuck it in, it was a little
piece of amateur video.
It showed a narrow little road in New Mexico, and there
were people lining each side about five deep. Along
comes a runner running with a torch. Then as the runner
stops and leans over to light the torch, you can't see
the next recipient, it's obviously somebody short. A
big burly policeman on a motorcycle is blocking the
view. It takes a couple of minutes because apparently
the torch is having a hard time being lit and the
policeman is looking at his watch and he's obviously
frustrated because they're running behind schedule.
Finally, the torch is lit and then you see the top of a
little blond head starting to move forward.
It's a little girl who is nine and suddenly the video
catches her face and there's this bright, beaming,
beautiful smile. But a second later, you notice one
other thing, she is severely crippled. She can barely
put one foot in front of the other. She is barely
going. The crowds are beginning to cheer. Uberoth found
out later her name was Amy and she had been practicing
for one solid year, and the best she had ever gone was
half a kilometer. The plan was for her to hand the
torch off to an alternate at the half kilometer mark.
It had to be a slight uphill grade. If it was level,
she would have fallen over. They picked a special part
of the road. She had worked a year with bake sales,
raising the $3,000 for her half kilometer. When she got
to the half-kilometer mark suddenly there was rolled
out a huge banner a block long with little pictures all
over it and in gigantic letters, "RUN AMY RUN!" Her
whole elementary school class was holding the banner
and her whole school filled the entire block.
At that moment, she had already transferred the torch
to the alternate; she saw that banner and she took it
back. She edged forward again until she got to the end
of the block and now absolutely exhausted, she started
to turn it again and to turn it over, and at that point
the whole school dropped the banner and ran out behind
her swelling the street like a scene from "Rocky." They
began to chant, "Run Amy Run." And she made it to the
end of that kilometer and handed the torch. And the
next fellow was off like a shot.
The closing scene of that amateur video showed her
mother holding up little Amy. But then it turned to
that burly policeman, who moments before had been
looking at his watch, and his visor was up and with a
handkerchief he was wiping the tears off his face.
See that's really what life is all about. We run as
hard as we can carrying the torch of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we want to quit and drop it; sometimes we
don't want to go on. But we're here to say to one
another, run Steve run. Run Mary run. Don't give up.
Lesson #1310 April 27, 1997