Written by Ps Dev Menon
Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11
The command to encourage each other is found almost exclusively in Paul’s letters to the Christians at Thessalonica. That’s not surprising. The Thessalonians, as we heard over the last few months, were going through extremely difficult times, facing immense long-term persecution from all sides.
The word encouragement can also be translated as ‘comfort’. Give consolation to one another. And so we learn that when things are hard, the thing that we as Christians truly need is this encouragement or comfort – it should be the emphasis or dominant activity of the church in any season of trial.
And that’s what many of us are trying to do right? The Pastors, Elders, AG leaders and lots of individual church members are making the effort to contact every brother and sister in Zion Bishan as far as possible – to see how everyone is doing: to ensure that basic needs such as groceries and finances are being taken care of; to talk to those who are struggling and suffering – to empathise and give a listening ear. Many are increasing their frequency of online meet-ups, not just for regular AG Bible studies, but to chat and pray after each Sunday service, some even eat meals together over Zoom (especially with those who are living on their own). Many are sharing encouraging messages via social media (have you heard of #tambahminyaktuesday?) or ordering food-treats to surprise friends at their doors. Whatever little we can do to bring some sunshine or cheer to all of us who are downcast and dreary – let’s do it!
However, the word encourage can also be translated as ‘exhort’. This encouragement is not just an exercise in cheering people up, but an intentional action to keep people persevering in the Lord, focusing on God and doing the work of the kingdom. The comfort that we give must be centred in the sure and certain coming of Christ (which was repeated in every chapter).
Jesus is coming again! So: (1) don’t despair, your suffering will surely end; (2) work hard, don’t be idle; don’t give in to the darkness (3) judgment is coming – vengeance upon the wicked and vindication for the saints.
While every act to brighten someone’s day is a great idea, we as the church, must also ensure that our encouraging words and deeds are gospel focused – to keep one another fixated on that glorious Day of the Lord, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to renew the earth, restore His church and judge the living and the dead.
Until then my brothers and sisters – let us #tambahminyak, press on in the Lord! (PS: If you want to hear how some members are handling the crisis, check out: www.zionbishan.org.sg/tambahminyak)