1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I feel as if we really struggle to get this one right.

On one hand, it seems we’re often practice finding (and pointing out to one another) the things that aren’t going as well as we’d like, the things other people aren’t very good at, or just simply get wrong – either in what they do or in what they think. We can be pretty critical; sometimes we call it being “challenging”, but all in all, it often can create an awfully negative atmosphere, don’t you think?

Or we lean in the other direction, in our world of trophies for participation, being politically correct, and building self-esteem at all costs; we end up offering an overabundance of praise: “Give me a Y! Give me an O! Give me a U! Yeah, You!” We tell our kids “You’re the best!” That was amazing!” All day, every day, for everything – no matter how small or inconsequential.

As I pondered this verse, I started wondering if this is what God means.
So, I looked up the definition of the word “encourage”…

According to Merriam-Webster, encourage means “to inspire with courage, spirit or hope”.
To inspire?

With courage? With spirit? With hope?

It seems to me then, that it’s possible that encouraging others doesn’t have a lot to do with saying or doing the kinds of things we normally think of as encouraging. Perhaps it has a great deal more to do with how I live my own life; the example I set simply by how I manage everyday stuff, the challenges and possibilities that come my way on any ordinary day. Because, of course, my kids are watching… and maybe so are other people’s kids? And maybe even some grown-ups?

So, if I can live with a bit more courage, and a bit more Spirit, and a bit more hope – and so do those who read this, can we make a difference? I think that’s what God was trying to tell us through these words that were written so long ago, but still carry meaning for us today.

As we enter this season of Advent, of preparing for Christ, I’ll be working on building others up, by paying attention to how I live… anyone with me?

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