Sunday, June 26, 2016

The "Each Other" Teachings of Jesus: #6. Build-Up Each Other

 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.    1 Thessalonians 5:11(NLT)
Encouragement is sometimes in short supply. 
I once saw a Peanuts[2] comic strip that had Lucy van Pelt reading Charlie Brown the classic riot act after the final loss in a very long season of nothing but losses.  “This is the worst team that has ever existed, Charlie Brown; we never win, and you are the most horrible manager a team could have!” 
With that Lucy turns and storms off.  In the last panel Charlie Brown calls after her, “That’s not very encouraging!”
The late Bishop Paul Martin tells of the time when he "received a new church appointment early in his ministry.  The congregation planned a reception for him on his first Sunday.  During the reception, everyone came around to greet him except for one man who lingered in the rear of the room.  After everyone else had greeted him, this man came forward and simply stood there. 
The future bishop asked him, 'What do you do here?'  The layman said, 'I look for the preacher's weaknesses.'  And he added, 'I'm good at it!  But when I find them, that's where I get beneath him, and then I lift him up."[3]
This defines for me the command of Apostle Paul to encourage; it is the sense of lifting each other.

Encouraging Strengthens People for Tough Times

People need lifting in tough times – times like we face today.  Our text contains one of the each others of the Bible. 
Paul had said to love each other, help each other, be kind to each other, not to judge each other; here he says to strengthen or build-up each other with encouragement.
Paul’s friends at Thessalonica had tough times.  They had questions about their departed loved ones, and how God was going to bring them back for the gathering of the saints at His second coming.  Paul told them not to worry, they were believers, children of light, and God would remember them. 
He also cautioned them to put on their combat gear – faith, love and hope – and stay awake like responsible soldiers.  He then told them that their faith will be strengthened as they remind each other of the fact that God hadn’t saved them to abandon them; they were his!
Tough times call for that kind of fellowship – bright spots in the long, gray road.
Patsy Clairmont tells of “riding my bike down a street when I turned a corner.  An endless, gray pavement that stretched out to meet the drab curb and dingy sidewalk greeted me.  Running alongside the walk was a dusty patch of earth that piled up against a beige wall.  Then, into this colorless picture an absurd addition intruded itself.  Atop the wall and spilling down its side was a vibrant swath of fuchsia flowers[4].
Suddenly the boring became breathtaking.  The dismal became dynamic.  The mundane became magnificent. 
Like a cup of cool water in a desert, a sudden breeze on a stifling night, a rainbow as the storm clouds part, the unexpected appearance of something grand caused my heart to skip a beat.
Isn’t life often like that?  Think about it.  You’re experiencing one of those days when you’re tired of yourself, and then someone steps into your landscape and plants words of encouragement.  The person values you, and you begin to bloom.  Or your work has become a drag, and you think if you have to file one more useless paper, change one more messy diaper, or listen to one more grumbling client, you’re going to scream.  Then you receive a promotion, the baby asks to go potty, and the client becomes your husband.
God tends to use blah settings to display marvels.  We mustn’t give up when we experience a succession of gray days and beige encounters.  Some stunning surprise awaits us around the next bend.”[5]

Encouragers Always Get Encouraged

Paul had spent the better part of his life encouraging and building-up others.  The final couple of years he spent in jail…a dark, foul place with no company.  Talk about needing encouragement! 
This points us to the reality that we will eventually find ourselves on both sides of any equation.  If you’re an encourager, there will come a time (like Paul) when you need encouragement; you’ll need it like you need the next breath. 
And if you’re constantly in need of encouragement, don’t lose sight of the fact that you can also bring encouraging words or even just your presence to others.
Mr. Redden was a part of the church of my childhood; he’s now with the Lord.  One time he was a chaperone for our youth group.  He was very much on the edge of a great spiritual defeat.  I was only about 12 or 13, but Mr. Redden found himself sharing his tough time with me.  I don’t remember a thing he said, or what I told him, but I do remember how he looked at me and thanked me for listening. 
Some months later he tapped me on the shoulder at church and gave me a wink.  Without words he told me the victory was his.  That bit of counseling has encouraged me over the years like little else.  A grown-up taking a teenager seriously, respectfully…WOW!  That was like manna to my soul.
A Freshman English comp professor kept a copy of an essay I turned in; she said it was just in case I became famous for my writings!  I cannot tell you how much that meant to someone who didn’t think his words were worth hearing!
Barnabas was Paul’s friend, and his name actually means son of encouragement.  People were often named in that time according to their most outstanding characteristic.  Barnabas was the encourager, and even his name said so!
Friends, there are always going to be “gray days” in need of fuchsia flowers.  God has provided Barnabas for just such days. 
What would be our name…collectively and individually…if we asked the community to name us? 
Whatever it would be right now, wouldn’t it be wonderful if our community started calling us Barnabas? 
They’d say I know where to find those encouraging, helpful people – they’re down there at that church in Bennett or Seagrove.
The grace we find at this table has the power to change us; He said so!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!


[1] U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] By Mk2010 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[3] Zan W. Holmes, Encountering Jesus (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 54-55.
[4] By Dominicus Johannes Bergsma (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[5] Patsy Clairmont, The Women of Faith Daily Devotional (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 127.

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