Since this month’s study is mostly an in-depth look at 1 Thessalonians, you will get the most out of it if you take the time first to read the book. If possible, the best way to do this is to read it in one sitting (fortunately, this is a small book and won’t take much time). If you do not mind writing in your Bible, you might want to underline all uses of the words encourage, comfort, exhort, urge, and maybe beseech or appeal depending on your translation. You should find 9-13 usages. Almost every time you see these words, they stem from our root word for encourage (parakaleson). The only exceptions I could find are in the four passages noted below when Paul is using a string of similar words, each possibly to stress a different aspect of the meaning. The exceptions (using NIV) are:
2:12 – “… encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” In this passage, the first word is our word with its broad range of meaning. The second, comforting, is a more specific word used in relation to tragedy or grief. And the third, urging, is also more specific and more insistant (some translations might have “charging you” or “pleading with you”).
4:1 – “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” Paul is asking them to remember and live out what they had been taught about how to live in a way that pleases God. He asks first with a general word for asking, then uses our word (rendered “urge” here) to denote more urgency and be more commanding. By asking twice, Paul is being emphatic. He further stresses the importance of what he’s asking by adding “in the Lord” to his request.
5:12 – Neither of the two usages in this verse are from our root word.
5:14 – “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” The urging that Paul is doing is our root word. The other words are more specific depending on the task he’s telling us to do. Warning the idle (or unruly) has a harsher connotation. Encouraging the timid (or fainthearted) is the same word used in 2:12 which implies help for those who may be losing heart due to grief or tragedy. Helping the weak would involve being devoted to or “holding up” those who, for various reasons, cannot stand in their own strength at the moment (in this case, most likely because of weak faith or weak morals, but could also mean physically weak or ill). They need someone to walk closely beside them so they do not fall. And of course, all of us appreciate when others are patient with us.
According to 1:6 and 2:14-16 what kind of tragedy were the Thessalonians experiencing?
Grief for those who have died is addressed in 4:13-18. What does Paul say we can use to comfort/encourage one another under these circumstances?
According to 3:7-8, why were Paul and his co-workers encouraged?
How does this relate to Proverbs 11:25?
After reading the note in the devotional regarding 1 Thessalonians 2:6 and reading the verse in your Bible, spend some time praying that your heart and motivations for helping people will stay pure.
Is there someone in your life who requires an extra amount of patience from you? Pray for them and for your patience to be strengthened.
Notice that in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 Timothy was sent specifically to encourage the Thessalonians. We studied last month the fact that the Holy Spirit was sent to be our comforter/encourager. Read 2 Corinthians1:3-4. It says God is the God of all comfort (and yes, that is the same root word as encourager). It goes on to say that we should comfort others in the same way that we have been comforted. What experiences have you had in which God was your comforter and encourager?
Take time to thank God for the comfort He has provided you.
Do you know anyone who might now be in the same kind of situations you have experienced? Might God be sending you to comfort them?
This devotion and the study guide are full of types of people who need encouragement (the grieving, the idle, the fainthearted, the weak/sick, those who are lacking in their faith or knowledge, those who you’d like to see “bloom,” someone you’d really like to “shower,” etc.). Go back through the devotion and the study guide and write down any names of people who come to mind as you think on the various kinds of needs.
Read 1 Thessalonians 3:12. Think of some people who “work hard among you.” How might you “show respect” for those people?
Eugene Peterson renders the key verse for this ministry (Heb. 10:24) as: “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging …” (The Message). I thought that described our goal very well. Can you think of any way(s) to be “inventive” or creative with your ministry of encouragement, to do something different than you’ve done so far? If so, make note so you don’t forget.
Here are some suggestions as to how you might “inventively” encourage in the next month:
- Can you pick just one or two people and really “shower” them with encouragement? I mean, REALLY POUR IT ON! Maybe you can think of someone who has not quite yet “bloomed” in their faith, or someone who’s a little “wilted” right now. Besides sending cards and such, could you spend some time with them?
- How about having a “May Flowers Campaign”? At my former church, we put a collection jar (we decorated a flower pot for this) in the foyer for those who wanted to contribute to purchasing some flowers to give out towards the end of May. We personally delivered the flowers to our shut-ins, but you could also just pass some out at church, or order some boquets for delivery.
- Perhaps you could plan an appreciation dinner for a person or group that “works hard among you.” Or plan an event that speaks to some need you’ve noticed in your congregation (bring in a grief counselor, have a mom’s day out, start a car repair ministry for those who cannot afford a mechanic).
- As a follow-up to last month’s study wrap-up post, here’s another idea for those with family in the military – phone cards!
What do you specifically want to do in response to this month’s devotion?
You can find the answers to this Bible study here.