For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other as indeed you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:9-12
I loved to read as a young boy. Mom and Dad must have been generous with my allowance because I was always able to mail order lots of books in elementary school. I loved Sherlock Holmes and Alford Hitchcock mysteries as well as childhood dramas like “Black Storm” and “Fury” – stories of boys or girls and their horses. But I was thinking today of the book which told the story of a boy in middle school or high school who struggled with self confidence and self-esteem. I do not recall the title of the book, but I do remember the story line that made an impression on me. The boy that struggled with his own esteem determined to encourage the other “better boys” on the swim team in a diving competition. Before and after each dive he would shout words of encouragement, “You are doing great!” “Good dive!” “You really nailed that one!” “You can do it!” His enthusiastic and encouraging positive spirit was infectious. Soon the other boys were joining in and cheering each other on. The team did quite well in the dive competition. Surprisingly, the boy with the low self-confidence came in first place! He won! In leading the team as “chief encourager” he performed better himself! Instead of focusing on what he thought he could not do, he celebrated and encouraged the team. Instead of letting jealousy or envy take over his thinking, he took the high road of affirmation.
“Encourage one another and build up each other,” says the apostle Paul. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Throughout society we witness divisions, hurtful words, malicious gossip, disagreements, and anger. Unfortunately, we too often see that the same attitudes and behavior patterns of society have invaded the church! Rather than affirming the faith that should bind us together, we focus on what is wrong with the other. In another place Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:43).
Years ago, Dewitt Jones produced a video entitled “Celebrate What’s Right in the World.” I would encourage you to find and watch at least excerpts of the video! Celebrate what is right in the world and in one another. Encourage one another, even those we think are our enemy. Nurture grace for the other. When has criticism and blame of another helped improve our character or even helped us win an argument or transform society? Jesus expects more of us. People of faith are not destined for wrath, as the scripture says but for salvation and Life for which Christ died. So, let us be gentle and encourage one another and build each other up.
Wouldn’t it be great is people could once again look at the Church of Jesus Christ and say, “My how they love one another.” It can begin with me as I seek to be more encouraging. It can begin with you as you build up with encouragement those around you. Encouraging others will ultimately lead to building yourself up as well. Find someone to encourage today!
Gracious God, we can sure be hard on ourselves and hard on others. Help us to take on your encouraging and graceful spirit in our relationships with others, whether within the church or out in our communities. Help us reflect your love that was shown to us in Christ. Amen.