“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 ESV).
I’ve heard many preachers go on and on about how God is an angry and vengeful God. They preach “hell fire and brimstone”, hoping perhaps to scare people into faith or holiness. This method has its merits. “…Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23 ESV emphasis mine). “…For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29 ESV). But, while God is just, He is also merciful.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). I’m reminded of the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard found in Matthew 20. A landowner hires laborers first thing in the morning to work in his vineyard. He went out again and hired more workers at the third, sixth, and ninth hours. Finally, an hour before quitting time, the man hires more laborers. Each laborer, regardless of the amount of time he spent in the vineyard, received the same wage. God continues to plead with the lost so that all might come to faith and repentance.
Our text is a reminder, not of our sins, but of God’s mercy. He is not sitting around waiting for more to come to faith just to squash us like bugs. We no longer have to face judgment regarding our status as “saved” or “lost”. Instead we are encouraged to live, no longer for ourselves, but for Him. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).
There’s an old saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” I’m convinced that if we learn to focus on living for Him we will never have to worry about struggling with sin. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11 ESV).
Verse 11 of our text says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Paul also tells us, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). Our “spiritual house” can’t be built on a foundation of judgment. We do not mature through a critical spirit. We are built up through our faith and our good works! This message was considered important enough to be repeated several times in the New Testament. We find it again in Hebrews: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24 ESV).
Let us do our best to build on a foundation of edification, for when we encourage we flourish!