1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.
Have you ever noticed how one word of encouragement can keep you going even in the toughest of circumstances?
Recently someone gave me a compliment in passing. I do not think she considered what she said as something important. It was just a random thought that she expressed and probably never thought about again. Yet for me, the words were life giving. I replayed them over and over in my mind like a gerbil exercising on his wheel. I figured that maybe I was doing okay despite previous doubts of my capability.
The Apostle Paul was an expert at encouragement. As you read his letters to the churches you can almost feel the love he had for the believers and his desire to strengthen them in difficult times. Though he couldn’t always be with them, his written words served as motivators for those who truly listened and gave courage to face the next ordeal when it came.
Paul and Silas arrived in the city of Thessalonica after having suffered deeply for their preaching in Philippi. Still covered with scars from beatings and imprisonment, they entered the synagogue and Paul reasoned with the Jews for three Sabbaths from the Scriptures to show them that Jesus was the Christ. Some of them were persuaded and came to believe, but others became jealous and persecution began. Things became so bad that the believers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night.
Some time later Paul heard about some questions and problems that the Thessalonian believers were having. In response he wrote the letter of 1 Thessalonians to encourage them, to instruct them, and to comfort them.
Imagining myself to be one of these new believers who had only had about three weeks worth of training before their teacher was forced to escape, I imagined what Paul’s opening words must have meant to them. As they faced continued persecution, his letter served to strengthen their resolve and bolster their faith.
Paul assured them of his thankfulness and his prayers for them. He praised them for their work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. He reminded them how the message had come to them in the power of the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. He encouraged them that their example was making a difference in other peoples’ lives rippling throughout the surrounding regions with ever widening waves of influence. And he informed them of the good reputation they were having amongst others who travelled through their city.
As the letter was read throughout the circle of Thessalonians believers, I can only imagine that hearers of the apostle’s words thought of them again and again. When the going got tough, they remembered that Paul was praying for them. And the simple reminders must have served to prove that their struggles were not wasted. God was using them and giving them the strength they needed to endure.
We all need words like this once in a while. Life can be tough, but a few well-timed encouragements can do wonders.
Don’t hold back when you think of something positive to say. Remember to speak the words you are thinking to each other. You may never understand the courage you have given to someone who is struggling. And one day you may also be the recipient of some powerful words of encouragement .