“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of God because of you?” – 1 Thessalonians 3.9From Dave Atkinson:
Another lockdown and more sadness, isolation, pressure and frustration. The need to be cheered up with good news is as vital now as anytime and so we are very thankful that the Coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out at pace. We need to be encouraged to keep going.
I often thank God that, among the many blessings as Christians, he gives us a family. It is a great encouragement to know that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus; and that provides endless opportunities to support and encourage each other as we follow him.
Often those encouragements come in the form of feedback from individuals, grateful for something specific that we’ve said or done. At other times, we are encouraged to hear that those giving the feedback have themselves been encouraged. Whatever the reason, it is a great encouragement to be encouraged!
In his letter to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul’s description of encouragement goes further than appreciation, confidence building, support giving or persuasion to keep going for instance. He talks of “all the joy we have in the presence of God because of you.” What is particularly interesting here is that the reasons for the joy he experiences go beyond the sort of “one to one” encouragement that I mentioned above.
Paul and Silas had established the church in Thessalonica but, because of intense opposition, had to leave after only a short period (see Acts 17). Paul was concerned that, being such new Christians and having received such a short time of teaching, the Thessalonians would succumb to that same opposition and persecution. So Timothy had been sent to encourage them in their faith. However, the news brought back by Timothy was that, by God’s grace, the new church was thriving and standing firm in the faith. This good, surprising, assuring and encouraging news gave Paul great joy.
This made me think. “One to one” encouragement is always welcome and we should, “therefore encourage one another”, as Paul says in chapter 5.11 of the same letter. But Paul’s words are also a reminder that we can find the joy of encouragement by looking outwards to the work Jesus is doing to further his kingdom and strengthen his followers.
The joy of people attending our Christianity and Discipleship Explored courses. The joy that Covid has not stopped us worshipping Jesus, and that we are able to continue our ministry among children and young people despite challenging circumstances. The joy of the many new (as yet unknown) faces following our livestreams. The joy of seeing a man in hospital with Covid praying the Lord’s Prayer. The joy of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, persecuted for their faith, but standing firm for Jesus.
Why not spend a bit of time thanking God for these and other encouragements?