We urge you, brothers and sisters, . . . encourage the disheartened. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
First responders show dedication and courage daily by being on the front lines when disasters occur. In the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001 when thousands of people were killed or injured, more than four hundred emergency workers also lost their lives. In honor of first responders, the US Senate designated September 12 as the National Day of Encouragement.
While it may seem unique that a government would declare a national day of encouragement, the apostle Paul certainly thought this was needed for the growth of a church. He commended the young church in Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia, to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Although they were going through persecution, Paul encouraged the believers to “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (v. 15). He knew that as humans, they would be prone to despair, selfishness, and conflict. But he also knew they would not be able to uplift one another without God’s help and strength.
Things are no different today. We all need to be uplifted, and we need to do the same for those around us. Yet we can’t do it in our own strength. That’s why Paul’s encouragement that “the one who calls you [Jesus] is faithful, and he will do it” is so reassuring (v. 24). With His help, we can encourage one another every day.
How can a word of encouragement keep despair away? Who can you encourage today?
Jesus, thank You for the encouragement You give me each day. Show me who I need to encourage as well.
Today’s passage is drawn from Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica in Macedonia. Thessalonica was an important city strategically located on the Ignatian Way, an important Roman highway. It was also situated on the Aegean Sea, which added to its status as a city of commerce. Acts 17:1–9 describes Paul’s ministry there. For three Sabbaths, he taught about Jesus in the city’s synagogue. As a result, some Jews, many Greeks, and several women turned to Jesus (v. 4). However, others started a riot, and Paul and his coworker Silas had to flee the city (vv. 5–10). Paul begins 1 Thessalonians with affirmation and prayer, and throughout we see his concern for these new believers.