January 16th

Encouragement in Faith

1So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. 6But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.  1 Thessalonians 3 NIV 

The above chapter from 1 Thessalonians addresses how being connected with other committed Christians can strengthen our faith.  When Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage them in their faith so that they would stand firm during the opposition and persecution they were experiencing.  Paul and his associates were in turn encouraged in their faith to when they heard that the Thessalonians were continuing to serve God.  The good news helped them have joy even during their own distress and persecution.  Paul went on to say how he was praying that he could see them again and “supply what was lacking” in their faith.  

In our own walk with Christ, we ought to be connected and communicating with other Christians just as Paul and Timothy were in touch with the Thessalonian Christians.  One of the devil’s tactics is to try to isolate us from other Christians.  He does this in order to weaken our faith.  Since the “shield of faith” is the armor that extinguishes all of the enemy’s fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16), it makes sense that the devil seeks to cut off the sources that would strengthen our faith.  Another problem is that our fallen nature often causes us to retreat from fellowship with others due to past emotional wounds. 

Some of the common ways that we can be separated include root of rejection, taking offense, doctrinal disputes, bitterness/unforgiveness, pride, criticism, shame and fear of judgment.  If you have allowed something to separate you from other Christians at church, a prayer group or some other group, I encourage you to ask God to help you go back to the root cause of the separation and deal with it as Jesus would do.  

After you have dealt with the root cause, then return to fellowship with Christians either by returning to the group you left or by finding a new group of believers who is following the Lord.  Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV says: 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Being in company with committed believers will bring you encouragement in your faith and also give you the opportunity to encourage them in their faith.  

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus, thank you for calling us to be united in one body of believers in your name.  If I have allowed myself or caused others to be separated from the body of Christ, please forgive me.  Please lead me in the steps to repair the breach.  Please show me what I can do to strengthen my connections with other Christians and encourage them in their faith.  Thank you that I don’t have to walk alone in my devotion to you.  I praise you, Jesus, now and forever, Amen.”