REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of June 27, 2021
Encourage Others: 1 Thess. 5:11
We are in Week 21 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we’ll look at Rules 4.39-40: Encourage Others. In 1 Thess. 5:11, God’s Word instructs us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
If the following sounds familiar, there’s a reason—we’ve talked about it before. So much of what we are called to do as followers of Christ revolves around us reflecting the character of God through actions that also remind of what God has done and is doing for us. The same applies to these rules that call us to encourage others. The word that is translated “encourage” in this passage is the Greek verb parakaleo, which literally means to call to one’s side and which carries with it the connotation of consoling or strengthening another. But how does this reflect the character of God? The answer is found in John 15:26. In this passage, Jesus is giving his final instructions and encouragement to his disciples before he is betrayed and crucified. Knowing the challenges they were about to face, Jesus encourages them by letting them know that they will not be alone. Jesus and the Father were about to introduce the disciples to the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. The term Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit in this context is sometimes translated Advocate and sometimes translated Helper, but in the Greek, it is parakletos. That’s right, it is the noun form of the same word found in 1 Thess. 5:11. In John, parakletos carries with it the connotation of one who pleads another’s cause, counsel for the defense, or consoler. It denotes one who is actively engaged for the benefit of another.
Thus, when we are instructed to encourage one another, Scripture isn’t speaking of mere platitudes. This is more than a pat on the back and saying, “This, too, shall pass.” No, we are called to so much more. This is an active, action-engaged encouragement. As the Holy Spirit actively works to transform us into what God always meant us to be, we, in turn, are to work to transform the lives of others. As we comfort, we are participating in the work of the Comforter. As we console, we are participating in the work of the Consoler. As we advocate, we are mirroring the work of the One who advocates for us before the throne of God. The encouragement we are called to encompasses all those things, and it requires both words and actions.
Sometimes, encouragement is simply speaking a heartfelt word of affirmation. Sometimes, it is simply sitting in silence and being near one who is grieving (remember, the Greek word literally means to call to one’s side). But many times, true encouragement requires us to invest ourselves in the life of another, and because of that, it may require us to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced. It is in those moments that we truly reflect the character of the God who laid aside all his rights and condescended to us so that we might experience eternal comfort and consolation. More than that, we reflect the character of Christ, who at this very moment, pleads our case to the Father.
- Has there ever been a time when someone really encouraged you? What was it they did that was so encouraging?
- Sometimes encouraging actions aren’t done directly to the one being encouraged. What might be an example of this? Has there ever been a time when you were encouraged by what someone else did for another?
- Sometimes when we are trying to encourage others, we are the ones who are actually encouraged. Has this ever played out in your life?
- Are you open to being used by the Holy Spirit to encourage others? Why or why not? What are some concrete actions you can take to encourage others?