Friday morning was a terrible day in the Houston, TX area as another school shooting occurred in the high school in Santa Fe, TX. I was looking at my notes from last week’s sermon of the EnCourage series that I would like to share with you today.
The church in Thessalonica was largely Gentile and had experienced persecution since they were founded. Paul wrote to encourage and strengthen them in their faith. “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (1 Thess 3:2).
Timothy was sent to reinforce the Word they already heard (strengthen them by setting the Word firm in their hearts). And he was sent to encourage them. The Greek word for “encourage” is Parakaleo, which means to call someone to walk with you, thereby giving to them some of your own courage. They stayed strengthened in their faith by staying in God’s Word, which as Pastor James McDonald says, “is God’s will for your life”. And because they stayed in His Word, their faith was strengthened in difficult times.
The Thessalonians had already faced persecution, and were prepared to face further trials. “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.” (1 Thess 3:2-3) Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We are told in James 1:2-4 to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” How can we find joy in the trials? We rely on our faith that God is ultimately in control, and He can do incredible things in our lives and others during a trial. We stand strong in our faith by continuing to trust in Him!
Just like the Thessalonians, we, too, are destined for trials. While we don’t know what those trials will look like specifically, we have been told that they are coming. To stand strong, we need to stay in the Word and in prayer; and we must recognize that trials are coming and that we need fellow believers surrounding us (vv 6-9). And even more importantly, we need to BE the encouragers to walk with others, to stand beside them, and to keep them in our hearts and prayers: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” (vv 12-13)