Summary: A book sermon from 1 Thessalonians, introducing a series through the book. To show how the ministry of deliberate encouragement is necessary to the vitality of the Body
Introduction: There’s a lot of discouragement out there. Not too long ago, Hayden Planetarium in New York City issued an invitation to anyone interested in applying to be a part of the crew on the first journey to another planet. 18,000 people applied. The applications were given to a panel of psychologists to be examined. They determined that the vast majority of those who applied did it because they were so discouraged with their lives here and hoped they could find a new life somewhere else -- discouraged enough that they would leave the planet.
There are a lot of people just looking for some encouragement. Over the next 7 weeks, we’re going to be looking for it and learning all about in Paul’s 1st letter to the Church in Thessalonica. It’s a letter about this ministry of refreshing we call encouragement.
How that word is used gives us some different angles on encouragement:
1. Sometimes encouragement is an arm around you to hold you up:
Ill - Farmer saw his friend’s tractor bogged down in the mud. He walked out to talk to him. "I’ll go get my tractor and see if I can’t get yours pulled out.” “But what if you get stuck too?” “Then I’ll come sit in the mud with you.”
[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
2. Sometimes it’s a kick in the seat of the pants:
quote - Ella Wheeler Wilcox – “A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.”
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
Ill - People go to college for a variety of reasons, but Bob Kuechenberg, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, may have given the best reason yet in an interview with Newsweek: "My father and uncle were human cannonballs in carnivals. My father told me, 'Go to college or be a cannonball.' Then one day my uncle came out of the cannon, missed the net and hit the Ferris wheel. I decided to go to college." (I doubt they would ever find a man of his caliber anywhere else!)
From time to time, we just need some good “2X4-to-the-nose” kind of encouragement to do right.
3. Sometimes it’s teaching and reminding:
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
(Now, if you read that letter, it basically is instructions. But that’s how encouragement works!)
People who get up and share the word of God are simply cheerleading you to right living.
4. Sometimes it’s a breath of fresh air or a pat on the back:
Joke - Mary was having a tough day. She stretched herself out on the couch to do a bit of what she thought to be well deserved complaining and self pitying. She moaned to her mom and brother, who was over playing the Nintendo, "Nobody loves me the whole world hates me!" Her brother said, "That's not true, Mary. Some people don't even know you.”
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Encouragement is all a part of the big picture when you’re in this family called the Church and when you’re in a part of that family called CCC. We need to learn this ministry of refreshing each other!
The church in Thessalonica did. I notice, they weren’t doing anything notably wrong. But Paul took some pains to teach them about the ministry of encouragement in this letter we call I Thessalonians.
The basic purpose of this letter is probably found in a few words, in
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing
That’s what they were doing. That’s what Paul was doing by writing to them. That’s what they were supposed to keep doing. That’s what I’m going to suggest we ought to be doing too!
There are lots of people who need encouragement.
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
Why? Because Paul was encouraged by them.