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“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” - 1 Thess. 1:2-3  

Whenever I read through Paul’s writings, I can’t help but feel that this man had the spiritual gift of encouragement.  Even if a church was battling heresy and division, stuck in old patterns of thinking and behaving, or outright denying proper gospel teaching, Paul almost always begins his letters with gratitude.  

“We always thank God for all of you.”  

I recently heard a bible teacher and speaker—Jen Wilkin—state that she wishes that she was more encouraging.  She admitted that encouragement is something that she had to develop, a skill that she needed to hone over time.   

Jen highlighted that those who have the gift of encouragement are the best people to have in your life—because really, who doesn’t like to receive encouragement?  

The way that Paul encourages the Thessalonian church is first-and-foremost by telling them how often they are on his mind.  He remembers how devoted they are, how hard they work to minister to one another, how often they have needed to face opposition and yet have endured.  

Paul is proud of this community and simply delights in them.  He beams from ear-to-ear whenever he thinks of them.  He recalls memories of certain believers and marvels at how far they’ve developed in their faith.  

And his encouragement actually stems from gratitude.  Paul’s delight comes from a keen awareness that God is holding this community together. 

He knows that the work produced by this community is only by faith; that all of their efforts are prompted by love; that they’ve been able to endure through trials by hope.  

Faith, love, and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Leslie Newbiggen once said, “It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community.”  

It's a bit absurd when you really think about it.  Jesus purposefully chose to leave his ‘legacy’ behind—not in a book or law—but through the community of believers who would follow His way, a ‘way’ that is fueled by gratitude and encouragement. 

Because just as gratitude guides us into encouragement, so encouragement—in turn—deepens our gratitude.  

How might we then be called to encourage one another in a thankful way that is inspired by faith, hope, and love in our Lord Jesus Christ?  How might our encouragement to one another spur us on towards good works and hope-inspired labour?  

When was the last time you offered a word of encouragement to a brother or sister in Christ because you wanted them to be deepened in faith?  Or told someone that you were praying for them?  Or told them how thankful you are for them?   

Does gratitude fill our hearts for one another as it did for Paul?  

I want to encourage you today to exercise the spiritual discipline of encouragement.  Be Paul to someone else.  Lift someone up to the Lord in prayer.  Thank God for them.  Shoot a text message to someone you haven’t seen in a while—someone the Spirit brings to mind—and offer a word of encouragement.

Encourage one another in the faith, and do not be shy to receive encouragement yourself.  God knows, we all need it.  The Lord is doing a good work in and through you, and part of working out your salvation is receiving His good gifts through others who love you.  

And may we be built, more and more, by the power of Spirit-driven encouragement in Christ.

Prayer:  Father, I know that every good and perfect gift comes from you.  Grant me the gift of encouragement, that I may offer affirming words to others and be a witness to the way that You delight in us.  May all my own efforts and labour come from a place of faith, love, and hope in You.  In Christ, Amen.