Thessalonians 5: 11
Last week I had the opportunity to go to the track at PNG
High School and watch the first graders run the mile. I got there a little
early and found my seat among the other parents and grandparents all there to watch
these little boys and girls run four laps around the track.
All of the children gathered on the field, stretched, were
divided into different groups, and made sure their shoes were tied tight. The
groups ran and the parents cheered. Rylan ran in the first group and when he
was done he came and sat by me as we replayed every step and every turn in his
race. After the scare we had this spring I felt so blessed just to be able to
see him run. The fact that he would have beaten me in the race by several
minutes was kind of lost in the moment.
When the fifth and final race started Rylan got up and
joined the rest of his group. I thought they were going to head back to the
bus, but what they did made my heart grow a little. You see there is a little
girl in the first grade that broke her leg at the beginning of the year. The
break was so bad that she had to have surgery, and was in a wheel chair for
several months. It was big news when she graduated to crutches, and even bigger
news the day that she walked through the front door of the school. Eight months later that little girl stood at
the starting line, ready to run her mile.
From the very first sound of the whistle to start the race,
her friends and fellow students cheered for that little girl to run. You could
tell that she was not ready to run so far, after the first turn she started to
walk and the students continued to cheer. As the other students, who were a lap
ahead, began to pass her she began to cry. That’s when the students in the
stands began to clap and cheer even louder. Her dad joined her in her run and
held her hand as they ran together. And when she was the last person on the
track the students, now joined by the parents who were watching this whole
event unfold, began to cheer and call her name. With tears running down her
face she crossed the finish line in the waiting arms of her mom. The stadium
erupted in cheers and applause for a young girl who eight months earlier was
confined to a wheel chair finished had her race.
Encouragement makes us want to continue when we want to
quit, makes us want to run when we want to stop, and carry the load when we
want to put it down. Encouragement makes us want to be better than we are,
makes us want to be what we were created to be. It was not a mistake that when
the Apostle Paul began the difficult work of taking Christ to the Gentile world
that God made sure his traveling companion was Barnabas, the son of
encouragement. God understood the difficult nature of Paul’s trip and He knew
how badly Paul was going to need to be encouraged to keep doing the work.
As we continue to look at our One Another Passages I want to draw your attention to three
passages that are vital for the life of this church. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another
and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 But exhort (encourage) one
another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be
hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
One more, Hebrews 10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but
encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
You know what it means to be an encourager? It means to do
and say things that make other people want to be better, stronger, and endure. Last
week we ended our time together with this thought. Every time you walk into a
room your attitude says one of two things. "Here I am!" or
"There you are." I hope this past week that people heard you saying,
"There you are," as you greeted them in love.
Today I wanted to start with that very same though. Every
encounter you have with people either builds them up or tears them down. You
either inspire them to be better, or you provoke them to give up trying. Their
encounter with you leaves them blessed or burdened. So how can we who are the
children of God learn to be people-builders instead of people-wreckers?
It's pretty hard to overstate how important it is to be an
encourager. The Greek word for encouragement is found 109 times in the New
Testament. All through the Bible, the role of the encourager is celebrated.
Did you know that encouragement is listed as one of the
gifts of the Spirit in Romans 12:8? As a matter of fact, on two occasions the
Apostle Paul sent a man named Tychicus to different churches for the soul
purpose of encouraging them. In Colossians 4:8 and Ephesians 6:22 Paul say I have sent him to you for
this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your
hearts. Tychicus was sent because he had the gift of encouragement. And we
also see that Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica for the purpose of encouraging
the Christians there.
The passage we read a moment ago in Hebrews 3:13 says that
one of the ways we avoid being hardened by sin is through the encouragement of
others. Encouragement inspires us to be better people. It softens our hearts.
It lifts our spirits. It draws us closer to God. So how can we fulfill this
important command? I want to make three suggestions to you today about how we
can encourage one another, and I’ll start with the one that's hardest for me.
Be easy to please.
We tend to be tough on others and easy on ourselves. Few
things are more discouraging to people that living with someone who can't be
pleased. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one
another in love. Encouragement has to do with us having humility,
gentleness, and patience with one another.
Trista and I went to a marriage seminar where a speaker told
this story on himself. He and the family were gathered in the den to watch a
football game. His wife asked the kids, "Does anyone want a sandwich?"
She took their orders and went to the kitchen to prepare them. The thing that
bugged the husband was that she hadn't taken his order. In a few minutes she
came back with sandwiches and drinks for the kids and one for herself.
The more he thought about it the more annoyed he became. So
finally he turned to her and asked, "Why didn't you even offer to prepare
a sandwich for me?"
She said, "Because I didn't feel like being
"What do you mean?" he asked.
She said, "Every time I make a sandwich for you
something isn't right. The bread is stale, the lettuce isn't crisp, there's too
much of this or too little of that. I just didn't feel like being criticized
Here was a guy who was in search of the perfect sandwich,
and there is nothing wrong with that.
The problem came that in the process of that search he had alienated his
wife. Every encounter she had with him tore her down instead of building her
up. He didn't lift her, he lowered her.
Now I'll be honest with you here. Most of you only see me at
my best. On Sundays I'm doing the right things, saying the right words, I'm
being kind to older ladies, tender with little children, and generally just a
very patient, loving guy unless your phone goes off in the middle of my sermon.
But my close friends and my family know how I really am. I
am not always humble and gentle. I'm not always patient. I tend to walk around
with a hand full of tools.
A tape measure to make sure everyone measures up.
I sometimes use the hammer of criticism to pound you into
The sand paper of negative words to smooth out what I
consider to be the rough edges.
The level of unrealistic expectations.
Too much of that and people don't feel very lifted. They
don't feel very blessed. They don't feel encouraged. So I'm going to work on
being easier to live with. And I believe that some of you need to do the same.
We’ll all admit that we don't like spending time with people
who are hard to please. It doesn't make us want to be better people. It makes
us want to find someone else to spend time with. So the first thing we have got
to learn to be an encourager is be easy to please. Accept people’s best and be
grateful for their effort.
The second suggestion really is like the first. Don't constantly criticize.
You know in reality we are not the brightest people. You
would think after you criticize someone the third time for the same thing, it would
be pretty clear that they aren't going to respond to that approach. But we keep
on doing what we've always done, and in the process both you and they wind up frustrated.
Why don’t we try a different approach? Rather than trying to
discourage negative behavior why don’t we try encouraging positive behavior?
People blossom under affirmation. They wilt under discouragement.
Listen to what Paul writes in
Ephesians 4:29 Let no
corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building
up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. I
know that when someone disappoints me or makes me angry, the first thing I want
to do is to criticize their behavior. We all want to react to their words or
actions in an emotional way. We want to show them where they were wrong. To
point out how they aren't measuring up.
Have you ever stopped to think how effective that approach
really is? Usually, not very. But we do it anyway. We criticize. Then, when
they don't respond, we criticize some more. We say to ourselves, "You’re
not as smart as I gave you credit for. I just criticized you, and you didn’t
even have enough brains to respond. So I guess I'll have to do it again, louder
this time, with more intensity and more emotionally loaded words."
It's like trying to fix a dent in a fender by hitting it
with a hammer. The dent just keeps getting deeper, but we feel better. There is
a place for criticism. But nine times out of ten, people know they were wrong.
So instead of pointing out the obvious, instead of hammering away at what's
already dented, why not try building them up.
While I was at Faulkner University I was feeling pretty
invincible and I had been up to some sort of mischief. It wasn’t that bad
because I don't even remember what it was now. At that time, Wendell Winkler
was the chair of the Bible department and you knew pretty soon after you stepped
foot on the campus where Brother Winkler though the Bible majors were supposed
to stand. He was pretty much revered and feared by every one of us. He just had
this presence, like when Moses came off the Mount Sinai.
A little bird told him what I was up to and he asked me to
stay after class for a few minutes one day. He put his arm around me, and I
felt very far away. I just knew that he
was going to open his mouth and out would come lightening bolts from heaven.
Instead, he said, "Jeremy, I've been hearing some things about you. I find
them hard to believe. That's just not who you are. You can do better, and I
expect you to." And you know what? I did.
Last week, I told you about a greeting I received in 1991.
Today, I'm telling you about a word of encouragement I received in 1993. Words,
offered in love, inspired by the Spirit, aimed at the heart make a lasting
impact. Now, I want you to do something to put this into practice. We're
working on becoming a warmer, friendlier church. Let's also work on becoming a
more encouraging church.
Today I want you to spend a few minutes thinking about
someone who needs your encouragement. Someone whom you can inspire to be a
better person. I want you to write them a note. You can hand deliver it today,
or take it home and mail it. Let me give you a few suggestions to help get you
Tell others that
you appreciate their hard work
Thank them for their service
Encourage them in their struggle
Remember how they blessed you once
Tell them of your prayers for them
Identify something positive about them
Name their admirable qualities
If we will all do that today I know that hundreds of people
will be blessed because you took the time to encourage them. Now let me give
you one more way to encourage people.
Encourage by your
Words are indispensable and they are powerful. But a living,
breathing example of encouragement is hard to ignore. Paul told the Corinthians
to follow his example as he followed Christ. Behavior is contagious.
You either spread the spiritual virus of discouragement or
you share the spiritual fragrance of encouragement. You either make people
spiritually sick, or you bless them. I know you cherish your relationships, your
friends, and your family. But honestly how you are affecting them? Do you make
them want to be better people? Or do they care less about God when they are
No one ever goes to their eternal destiny alone. You always
take someone with you. You'll either take them to heaven or you'll take them to
hell. The next time you are with the people you love I want you to remember
that. Where are you taking them?
So this morning as we close, let me encourage you to come to
know my Savior. Let me introduce you to my Messiah who understands where you
are today, and will accept you, and love you, and help you become the person
you so desperately want to be.
Questions To Consider
Why is being easy
to please important to encouraging others?
How do you like to
Do you find it
difficult to encourage others?
encouragement so important to the work of the church?
encouragement stir someone up to holiness?
Give me five ways
that you can encourage others?
vital in the life of the church. What practical applications can you find for
each of the Bible verses below?
1 Thessalonians 3:2
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the
gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,
4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact
you are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 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 10:25 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.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is