We’ve been looking at the need for encouragement based on 1 Thessalonians 5. The first ten verses of that chapter provide the reason we need encouragement. The eleventh verse spells out who needs encouragement and who should be giving it. Now we want to look at verses 11-15 for some practical help for how to encourage people.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
To know how to most effectively encourage one another, we must make some presuppositions based on this text:
- People are at different places, with varying needs, requiring tailored responses to help them more effectively let their lights shine.
- We must know people well enough to be able to provide the kind of encouragement they need to spur them on.
Notice that even believers who seem to have it all together need some form of encouragement. These would be the leaders among us, whether in a formal position of leadership or not.
How can we encourage those servants among us?
- “oida” – Attentiveness. You will encourage them by respectfully listening to and cherishing them and what they have to say.
- “hegeomai”, “hyperekperissou”, “en agape” – Affirmation. You will encourage them by showing them great value (hyperekperissou), love (agape), and consideration/regard (hegeomai).
- “eireneuo” – Cooperation. You will encourage them by trying to work with them harmoniously, in peace (eireneuo), rather than against them, not making their job any harder than it needs to be.
Then we have those who obviously and willfully do not have it together. The NIV text refers to them as “those who are idle” but the NASB and KJV seem to more accurately describe these believers as “unruly.” The original word is a military term for those who were disorderly or insubordinate — “not keeping order” (from Vines Expository Dictionary). Idleness certainly could be a symptom especially given that early in 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul stressed the need to “be alert and self-controlled.” Insubordination can be demonstrated passively or actively.
How can we encourage people who are not lining up with God’s ways?
- “noutheteo” – The most loving thing you can do is to admonish or exhort them in the Lord. The original word signifies to “put in mind” (nous – “mind”, tithemi – “to put”). More than seeing admonishment as a verbal lashing, think of it as providing the person with firm reminders … putting them in mind of certain truths so they regain perspective. Remind them of who they are in Christ. Remind them of the resources they have in Him to line up and live in accordance with who they are in Him. They are without excuse. These reminders serve as warnings for those with hardened hearts who will not heed, but encouragement for those who will repent.
While some willfully fail to line up, others struggle because of fears and insecurities. The word “timid” used in 1 Thessalonians 5 comes from “oligos” meaning “small” and “psuche” referring to “the soul” hence depicting someone who is “small-souled.” The desire might be there but they lack the courage or faith to line up.
How can we encourage the faint of heart?
- “paramytheomai” – They need you to work with (para) them, counseling or advising (muthos) them. Unlike the firm reminders given to the willfully unruly, the timid need a gentler motivational approach that sometimes is more consoling.
And, some people will struggle because they are weak (asthenes: “a” – negative; “sthenos” – “strength” … “without strength”). 1 Thessalonians 5 does not give the reason for such a lack of strength. Perhaps this is a new believer. Maybe it is someone who has been through a prolonged traumatic event in his/her life. Or, it could be someone coming out of a backslidden state. In addition, it could be a person who feels beaten down due to spiritual warfare.
How can we encourage those in this state?
- “antecho” – They need extra support. They need someone to hold (“echo”) firm to (“anti” – to, against) them, to pay particular heed to them, to consistently stay in front of them. They need you to be with them each step of the way, not simply providing them with counsel or advice (paramytheomai).
As seen in this passage, people are at different places in their lives needing the right kind of encouragement to meet their needs. The one thing everybody needs regardless of where they are?
- “makrothymeo” – Patience. We are all a work in process. Encouraging people doesn’t always follow a 1-2-3 step path. Sometimes people go backwards before they go forward, or take one step forward and then two steps back. That can get frustrating. Sometimes people aren’t ready to be helped and seemingly disregard our encouragement. That can get discouraging. We can continue to encourage people, regardless, by being long (makros) tempered (thumos), or longsuffering. Rather than give them what we think they might deserve for not making appropriate progress, we extend mercy and grace, just like God has shown us his longsuffering.