Yours in Christ: Pastoral Letters from Resurrection, State College

Encourage One Another

Dear Resurrection,

This is the first in a series of letters I’m planning to write and send weekly to our church family this year. Each letter will be a bite-sized reflection (about the length of a Tabletalk devotional) on some aspect of Christian faith and living. This year, I plan to cycle through four big subject areas (Christian Community, Christian History, Christian Spirituality, and Christian Doctrine), with a new particular theme each month. To start with, our theme for January is going to be “One Anothering, Part 1: Investing in One Another,” looking at four of the New Testament’s many “one another” instructions for living together in the church.

At the end of one year and the beginning of another, many people take a close look at their personal finances. You look back over the past year and think, where did we do well, where did we overspend, where did we give? Are we on track towards reaching our financial goals?

And here’s a big one: do I need to make any changes to my investments? Am I investing the right amount in places that are likely to give me a good return in the long run?

As you think about adjustments you’d like to make in 2021, don’t just think about how to invest your money better for retirement. Why not ask the question, “How can I invest myself—my time, my energy, my gifts—more effectively in the kingdom of God?”

Let’s start with something very simple: 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

When I look at Resurrection, I see this command in action all over the place—people helping and comforting and praying for each other. This was especially true last year, as all of us walked together through some very discouraging days. Encouragement is a real strength for Resurrection. It’s also an area where all of us can grow. That makes it a good place to begin.

The Greek word for “encourage” is “parakaleo.” It’s closely related to the name parakletos that Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7 (translated “Helper” in the ESV). The para- part of the word suggests the meaning “beside.” When you encourage someone, you are coming alongside that person to impart spiritual strength, spiritual courage, which you have received from Christ through the Holy Spirit in the first place.

The Greek word for “build up” is “oikodomeo.” It’s where we get our word “edify,” which literally means “build.” The imagery is of a person building a house, carefully using your God-given resources, skills, and opportunities to reinforce the spiritual structure of another person’s heart with the help and strength that comes from Christ.

Grace-Based Action Point

Conduct a new-year review of your personal “investment” in God’s people. Ask yourself:

    1. What is a specific way I encouraged someone at church in the past year? Is this a regular and intentional part of my Christian life?
    2. How did someone encourage me in the past year? How might I do the same in the year to come?
    3. Who do I know needs encouragement? (How would I know?) And what is one specific action I can take this week to encourage someone who needs it?

Remember, Christ is the great encourager and builder of the church. As you draw your spiritual resources from Him, He will give you opportunities to encourage others. Resolve this year, by His grace alone, to invest yourself in this: “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Simmons