“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

In an earlier work, I spent years teaching, counseling, urging, associating with, and encouraging people seeking recovery. They came from all levels and involvements in life. All they had in common was a desire to recover.

This weekend I was in the mall late Saturday afternoon. I did not see one person I knew in the hour I was there. Nor did I identify with anyone in the sea of humanity flowing by me. I had the same feeling I had in the past when in a culture I did not know.

My point: if you asked people in either situation to name the top five sources of encouragement in our society, the church would not appear in their lists. I know so in my first example. I have specific memories of encouraging tearful people to come into a church building to a group meeting. Why were they crying? In their minds, church buildings were places they associated with pain, not for help with their struggles.

I confess at times I wearied of hearing about the thoughtless things Christians did or said in “the name of Christ.” I also find it troubling to read of Jesus spending time with people who lost hope. Helping struggling people is always complex. Yet, God cares about those we are often tempted to “write off.”

It is difficult to be a godly person in this society. Because of persecution? No! There is little persecution here. In this society (1) it is easy to be self-centered; (2) it is easy to substitute society’s emphasis for God’s values; and (3) it is easy to do both. In spite of all the New Testament’s examples of sufferings and hardships, it is easy to conclude that “going to church” will result in having a “good life” (as defined by the individual).

The church in Thessalonica had significant problems. (1) They misunderstood Christian suffering (3:3). (2) They needed to grow in love for each other (3:12; 4:9, 10). (3) Some were sexually immoral (4:3). (4) They needed to improve in their treatment of unbelievers (4:12). (5) They misunderstood the meaning of death (4:13). (6) They misunderstood when the end would come (5:1-11). (7) They did not respect spiritual leaders as they should (5:12, 13).

The interesting thing was Paul’s solution. It was not “sweep house and rid yourself of troublemakers.” Paul’s solution: “encourage the struggling.”

All of us have moments and situations of discouragement. God never gives up on us. Please may we not give up on each other. When we struggle, we do not need added discouragement. We need encouragement! May we as God’s people be known for our ability to encourage others! May the weak look to you for strength (Romans 15:1).

Thank all of you who are involved with things like the Hope Chest, CURE, tutoring, youth work, college work, mission efforts, the sick, visitors, and the timid. Investments in people are eternal. May we all arrive in heaven because of each other, not in spite of each other. May your holy manners be many people’s spiritual strength!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 17 May 2007

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