Encourage One Another
The Bible speaks quite a bit about end times events as Christians look forward to the day when the Lord Jesus will come for His church and then to establish His millennial reign. The Bible also tells us that we do not know when that time is. So, the natural thing that happens when something big happens is to wonder if the end is near. Certainly, it is nearer than it was before, but we still do not know when that is because that is information that God holds closely to Himself.
One of the passages that speaks of this time is found in 1 Thessalonians 5, verses 1-11. I’ll include the verses for context, but not really comment on them other than to address how it is that we are to live right now.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. “(1) Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. (2) For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (3) While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (4) But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (5) For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. (6) So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. (8) But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (9) For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (11) Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–11, ESV)
These are ominous words as they point to this future event whose timing we don’t know. In these words, we also see two categories of people. There are those who live oblivious to the things outside of what they can see, sense or even fear. They respond to things as they come in whatever way seems reasonable to them. This passage speaks of a time when things will crash as if a thief broke into their home and disrupted their entire life. In a present context, that thief may be a life-threatening virus, a cancer, loss of ability or source of work or what have you. It catches them off guard and they are not prepared, and their responses vary as I suspect we have all been a part of.
Then there are those whose hope is not in their daily circumstance, but in a God who is holding them firmly in whatever their circumstance might be. These same life events aren’t any lighter or less impacting. Disease and death still happen, and lives are disrupted in so many ways. But in these events, they know that there is hope. There is hope for the present knowing that God encloses them before and behind and that He will never let loose of them. And there is hope in knowing that even this, as good as it might get or as dark as it might seem, is not the end.
Verse 8 in this passage says that we all belong to this day. We are living through the same things. The question is, “How are we doing at it?”
Verses 9 and 10 tell us how God has provided our ultimate help. This is why we just celebrated Easter. Jesus came to pay the price for our sins and to rescue us from the wrath that would result because of them. He not only came to provide that, but He also came that we might have life even now. Because of Him we’ve been drawn into a relationship with God where He calls us children and we have become immersed in the hope of knowing that our God has us firmly wrapped in His hands and that He has everything under control.
He’s got us when we are awake (or alive) today, and He’s got us when we die (or fall asleep) and enter His presence. He’s got us and He’s got the entirety of everything we face. It is out of this reality that we then have verse 11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.”
When we know there is help, we have reason to be encouraged and to encourage. And, as we encourage, we build into each other. As we walk through these days and this season seems to drag on, focus on the hope, the help and build into the lives of those who God has in your path.
Paul went on to write in the next two verses. “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, ESV) Taking this out of the context of those serving in the church, the encouragement here is to look to those around you who are giving of themselves for our welfare to remember and encourage them. We’ll see an example of this Sunday in Philippians 2:19-30 in the streaming of the Grass Valley service on Facebook.
Beyond this, live peaceably with one another. James wrote these wonderful words: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)