1 & 2 Thessaloniansby Sim Kay Tee
Today's headlines are testament to the chaotic world we live in. In the days ahead, we can expect to experience even greater difficulty and danger, for this sin-cursed world has been destined by God for destruction and re-creation (see 2 Peter 3:7, 10-13).
As Christians, we have the blessed hope of the imminent return of our Lord Jesus. We are destined for everlasting life with Jesus in a new heaven and earth, as described in Revelation 21-22.
However, we are not told exactly when it will happen. Paul did not teach about Jesus' return for us to argue and disagree over details concerning the end times. Rather, he taught it so that we might comfort and strengthen one another with the hope of our Lord's return (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11).
What we know about Jesus' second coming is that it will be sudden and unexpected. Until then, we must learn how to live in a world ravaged by sin and evil, pain and suffering, death and disease. Thus, Paul tells the Thessalonian believers to ″encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing″ (5:11).
The Greek word for ″encourage″ is parakaleo. Encouragement means coming alongside someone to give him the strength and courage to get up and get going again. It is like jump-starting a car whose battery is flat: you need to drive another car beside it to use its battery to charge the stalled car.
To encourage is also to give someone a nudge in the right direction. It is like giving a much-needed push to a toddler sitting on a stationary swing to get it moving.
In the Gospel of John, parakletos is used to refer to the Holy Spirit, who comes alongside us to be our ″advocate″ (John 14:16, 26). Parakletos is someone who helps, enables, or comforts another. It is difficult to find an equivalent to this Greek word in English, so it is translated in several different ways-as ″Helper″, ″Counsellor″, ″Comforter″, ″Companion″, or ″Friend″. These are indeed apt descriptions of a person who comes alongside us.
There will always be people who are feeling discouraged. You may become discouraged at some point in your life too. This is why Paul instructs us to ″encourage one another and build each other up″ (1 Thessalonians 5:11). His call echoes another biblical exhortation found in the book of Hebrews, addressed to believers discouraged by suffering and persecution, to ″encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today', so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness . . . and all the more as you see the Day approaching″ (Hebrews 3:13; 10:25).
Who can you encourage today?
In what ways can your church, small group, or believing friends do more to show one another mutual love and encouragement?