The really cool thing about having the gift of encouragements (or exhortation) is that while encouraging others in the full spiritual exercise of the gift (in other words, not in my own ability), I am also encouraged. Often, in fact most of the time, I only hear the words for the first time as they are coming out of my mouth. Sometimes, if it is a word only for that person, I won’t remember what I said. And even that is encouraging. Sometimes that person will tell me: “Remember when you told me . . . ? It was just what I needed to hear.” It’s encouraging because I know that it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul writes: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Then he goes on to show what encouragement looks like:
5:11 – Build each other up: tell others the qualities that you genuinely appreciate about them.
5:12 – Respect those who are over you: cooperate with your co-workers in Christ, especially those in leadership.
5:13 – Hold leaders in highest regard: don’t participate in gossip about them, and don’t criticize them. In fact, take a moment to tell your leaders how much you appreciate them.
5:13 – Live in peace: deliberately seek to live in harmony with others. Be willing to agree to disagree whenever necessary.
5:14 – Warn the idle: invite them to join you in a project. Sometimes people don’t offer to help because they think that others are more capable or don’t need their help.
5:14 – Encourage the timid: Remind them of who they are in Christ. Remind them of God’s great promises to them.
5:14 – Help the weak: Show love to them and pray for and with them. Take a walk in their shoes and consider what they are going through.
5:14 – Be patient with everyone: Remember that everyone is on their own spiritual walk, and these people (the idle, the timid, and the weak) need encouragement and patient discipling in order to grow.
5:15 – Don’t pay back wrong for wrong: You may be as right and as righteous as you think you are, and the person who wronged you might be as evil and wrong as can be. But only your reaction to this person will establish your righteousness. As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44).
5:16 – Be joyful: Put aside all negative thinking. No matter what happens, no matter what seems to go wrong, remember that God is in control. With God on your side, everything will come out for the best, no matter what it looks like right now. God is on your side!
5:17 – Pray continually: Prayer doesn’t just occur in your room and on your knees, though that should be a part of your lifestyle. Practice the presence of God throughout the day. If your thoughts stray from Him to something you shouldn’t be thinking about, bring those thoughts into captivity. Practice breath prayers throughout the day—breath out negativity and impure thoughts; breath in the Holy Spirit’s presence. Memorize a Bible verse and whisper it to yourself throughout the day.
5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances: God is in control and He is on your side, so thank Him. If something has happened that you can’t thank God for, then thank Him for being in control and for being on your side. Find something in your situation to thank Him for.
5:19 – Do not put out the Spirit’s fire: When the Holy Spirit prompts you to do or say something, cooperate and do it. By cooperating with the Holy Spirit, He will work more and more in your life.
5:20 – Do not treat prophecies with contempt: You may not understand all prophecy, in fact, it is unlikely that you will understand all prophecy. And . . .
5:21 – Test everything and hold onto the good: Whether you understand the prophecy or not, test it. The test is God’s Word. Prophecy that contradicts God’s Word is false prophecy. God will never contradict the Bible. Even if you don’t understand a prophecy, if it stands the test of God’s Word, then hold onto it and watch to see it fulfilled.
5:22 – Avoid every kind of evil: Don’t go into a situation that you know will tempt you. When you are tempted, resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
5:23 – Depend on God to sanctify you through and through, and keep you blameless: You can’t do any of these things in your own strength, especially this last one, so depend on God, and He will help you. When you can’t do something (anything), God will do it for you and through you. He doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called. Or as my friend, Pastor Chris, says: “If your ministry doesn’t scare you, then it’s not from God.”
So, encourage and be encouraged! God is good!