God answered a prayer for me last week and revealed some new commandments (guidelines for Christians) that Paul penned so very long ago (see last week’s blog if you missed it). He had me live out the first two out this past week. He often does this when I’m teaching or studying His word. It isn’t always easy, but certainly gives me a deeper understanding and stronger faith that I’m so very grateful for. As I typed this out last week, my stomach was turning and in knots, my head swimming and my heart a bit heavy. No, not from a stomach bug, but from a very important family decision that had been boiling up for a month.
Therefore (1) encourage one another and (2) build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to (3) respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and (4) to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (5) Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, (6) admonish the idle, (7) encourage the fainthearted, (8) help the weak, (9) be patient with them all. (10) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but (11) always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (12) Rejoice always, (13) pray without ceasing, (14) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (15) Do not quench the Spirit. (16) Do not despise prophecies, (17) but test everything; (18) hold fast what is good. (19) Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, (20) pray for us. (21) Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to (22) have this letter read to all the brothers. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-25
This week I was looking at Paul’s first and second commandment 1 – encourage one another and 2 – build each other up. I always have the opportunity to encourage and build others up. Some may say it’s because of my role as Christian author/speaker, but I have been this way since birth. It’s is truly how God made me. Long before God placed any of this ministry in my lap, my husband would say to me, after a complete stranger would tell me their deepest secrets or struggle in the check-out line of Food Lion, that I must have an invisible sign around my neck everyone else could see saying, “Please tell me your story, I’ll listen”. That said, it’s very natural for me listen, encourage and build others up, but very difficult for me to reach out sometimes and be the vulnerable one who lets her guard down and shares my struggle.
This week God allowed me to live out the experience of RECEIVING encouragement and being built up. I’m still a little shell-shocked as it all happened so fast. As God would have it, as this critical moment came to a head in our family, I had dinner scheduled with a dear Christian friend, breakfast with two people who have adopted me as family and who love my children like nieces and nephews, an afternoon play date with a fellow mom with a Christian heart the size of Texas and dinner with another friend who always offers kind and wise advice (don’t let her cute blond hair fool you). As I shared with them, took EVERY opportunity to love, listen, encourage and remind me of who I am. I’m not kidding. There is no question that God had that 24 hours of my life scheduled with all those people back to back for a reason. First, He knew I would need to live out what I am studying in His word to make it real and known to me, but mostly, He knew that I would need to be surrounded by those who love me so they could remind me who was in charge, all would work out, who I am in Him and that His hand was in every detail. Simply put God knew I would need a little encouragement and building up! Boy, was He right!
And what a difference it made in my heart, my mind and my soul. We are never alone and as my wise friend Kim said, “We were never made to carry all this alone.” Christ is always with us and He sends other believers alongside us to put His feelings and love into words. God made sure my schedule was full of amazing, loving, Christian friends for an entire 24 hour period at the peak of this situation with our daughter*, but what if those believers didn’t take the time to encourage and build up while I was with them. I can imagine God would have been disappointed and worked it out another way, but it would have taken me longer to see the positives and to get out of the pit. We have to act! As Christians, we can’t stop at “do not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20). We have to take it past that, and take every opportunity to encourage others in their walk, faith and lives. We have to build them up, not with pride, but with confidence in who they are and who God says they are.
I think God is asking us, “What will you do now that you know and believe I sent my son to die for you? What will you do now that you believe my son died to cover every sin in your life?” This list Paul gives the Thessalonians, I believe, is the answer to that. Well, next week we move on to 3 – respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you and 4 – to esteem them very highly in live because of their work. Looking forward with anxious excitement to see how God drives this one home. 😉
*So we don’t seem to mysterious, I’ll tell you. Our daughter was working through the idea of going back into public school and joining her friends in their first year of middle school. This was a very emotional and big decision for our family after a great year of homeschooling, but one we encouraged her to work through and take on. God often answers prayers in ways we never imagined. This has been one of those times and I’m so grateful for those who helped me remain in Him and remember who loves her more than I do!