October 3, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture—1 Thessalonians 4:17-18
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Church leaders are expected to encourage the people entrusted to their care, and for good reason. But encouragement isn’t a one-way street, with traffic flowing only from leaders to those being led. Rather, we are to be encouragers of each other. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to build up those around us, reminding them of God’s good news, acknowledging their acts of goodness, strengthening them when they feel weak.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
Because of local opposition to their work, the Apostle Paul and his colleagues were not able to spend much time in Thessalonica. They preached the gospel and a modest number of people put their trust in Christ, forming a small church. But Paul and his team soon had to leave their new converts without having had much of a chance to help them grow in their new faith.
From 1 Thessalonians we learn that, all in all, the believers in Thessalonica were doing rather well, especially considering how little instruction they had received. But there were many things they did not understand. For example, the Thessalonians expected Jesus to return very soon. That gave them solid ground for hope. But, when members of the church died, their brothers and sisters feared that they had missed out on Jesus and the coming kingdom. So they grieved, not only because they had lost loved ones, but also because they believed their loved ones were eternally separated from them and from the salvation that is in Jesus.
Beginning with verse 13 in chapter 4, Paul and his co-writers bring a strong word of encouragement to the Thessalonians. Those who die before the return of Christ will not miss out on the coming kingdom. In fact, they will be the first to be raised to meet Christ (4:16). Then, those who are alive at that time will join Christ and those who have died previously (4:17). The good news is that all who have put their faith in Christ will spend eternity with him and with his people.
After sharing this news, Paul and Co. might have said, “Therefore be encouraged by what we have told you.” But, in fact, they didn’t say this. They actually wrote, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (4:18). Certainly, Paul and his colleagues had the opportunity and responsibility of encouraging the people entrusted to their care. But encouragement is not a one-way street. It doesn’t only flow from the leaders to those who are led. Rather, encouragement is a two-way street. It flows in both directions. Actually, it would be more complete to say it flows in all directions, from one Christian to another, to another, and to another, as brothers and sisters in Christ encourage one another with the multifaceted good news of God.
It’s common and sensible for those of us who are part of a church to expect our leaders to encourage us. Pastors, priests, elders, deacons, and others in leadership ought to remind their people of the good news and its implications. We who lead should pay attention to what God is doing in the lives of our people and point it out to them, urging them on in their discipleship. We can recognize and affirm ways God is using them in ministry in the church and the wider world. In these and other ways, we who lead can be a source of encouragement.
But we mustn’t think of encouragement as given exclusively from pastors and other church leaders. We are all called to encourage each other. We can all do the kinds of things I mentioned in the previous paragraph. As we do, our sisters and brothers will be built up. The church will be stronger and healthier.
Have you known people who are especially strong when it comes to encouraging others? What did they do? What motivated them?
Would people say that you are an encouraging person? If so, why is this the case? If not, why not?
What might help you to encourage others more consistently?
Ask the Lord whom you might encourage today. Then, do something. Send an email or call someone on the phone. Text them or make sure to see them at work.
Gracious God, thank you for those who regularly encourage us in our work, our discipleship, our whole lives. Thank you for their attentiveness, their kindness, their generosity.
Help me, Lord, to be an encourager of others. Give me eyes to see the goodness in what others do. Help me to grow in my appreciation and in my expression of that appreciation to others.
I pray also for my church today, that we would learn to encourage one another in our life together. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: An Encouraging Word.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.