“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, NIV).
I had the privilege of attending the Rochester High School per- formance of The Wizard of Oz. All of the hard work and long hours put in by everyone involved paid off as the audiences were treated to an enjoyable production of this long-lasting classic. I was reminded the evening that I attended the performance how often literature that becomes classic mirrors Bible lessons. The Wizard of Oz fits this observation. As each of Dorothy’s traveling companions are introduced, the audience learns something about their unique characteristics and their needs. Facing the challenges set before them, each member of the team uses his or her unique characteristic and talent to rescue the others and help them all reach their goal. Through- out their journey, they encourage one another.
This is an illustration of lesson after lesson preserved for us in the greatest work of literature of all time – the Bible. The word “encourage” means “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.” Christians are on a journey together. Upon accepting His merciful gift of salvation, He seals our pardon. Our journey then becomes one of submitting our lives to His will and dis- covering the ministries He has prepared for us. Because of our humanity, we still face challenges of uncertainty and, at times, discouragement. This is where genuine Christian fellowship makes its appearance and makes the difference.
Life creates multiple situations when we need to receive encouragement and situations when we need to give encouragement. One of the strengths of Christian fellowship is that through our common bond in Christ, we stand ready and willing to deploy every spiritual gift and personal experience we have been given in order to “encourage one another.”
In the devotional “Cheering Each Other On,” David McCasland writes: “A mile from the finish line of the London Marathon, thousands of onlookers holding signs lined the route. When spectators spotted a family member or friend coming into view, they shouted the person’s name, waved, and yelled encouragement: ‘Just a little farther! Keep going! You’re almost there.’ After running 25 miles, many competi- tors were barely walking and ready to quit. It was amazing to watch exhausted runners brighten and pick up the pace when they saw someone they knew or heard their name called out. Encouragement! We all need it, especially in our walk of faith. The book of Hebrews tells us to keep urging each other on. ‘Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of our- selves together… but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24-25)… As we ‘see the Day approaching,’ let’s keep cheering each other on in the faith… Even if you have nothing else to give, you can give encouragement” (Our Daily Bread, April 13, 2008. Used by permission.).
As we proceed through the rest of the year, ask yourself, “Who can I encourage today?” Whether in the church or community, genuine encouragement is always in season.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
In the Bond of Christian Fellowship,