We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV
Wisps of soft white cotton rolled across the road, blown by the fall breeze. The bank of scruffy weeds along the shoulder was a barricade, stockpiling the stray bolls. From a distance, it looked like a small snow drift. Cotton harvest had just ended in central Louisiana, leaving soft, fluffy reminders blown along the roadway.
I certainly never realized seeing cotton bolls strewn along the highway would bring back so many memories. Mama used to tell us stories of the cotton fields and how she worked them as a young girl. My mama was the daughter of a sharecropper in Mississippi. One of her chores was to help pick the cotton bolls during harvest. We joked about her being a cotton-pickin’ cotton picker! But it was hard, hard work – something Mama said she would never do again, if she could help it.
Mama’s daddy had an old mule he would use to help plow up the fields for planting. So many times that old mule would just STOP in the middle of a row. No more plowing. He wouldn’t budge an inch. I suppose he was tired, and decided he would just wait out in the field for someone to unhitch him and take him home to the barn.
In today’s scripture, Paul was addressing the believers in Thessalonica. They were suffering persecution, and wrongly assumed God’s judgement had begun. The result of this incorrect teaching was that many of the believers stopped working, and decided to just sit and wait for Christ’s return. Stubborn as a mule, you might say…
Haven’t we all been at this point occasionally? So discouraged and tired we just want to quit? Too overwhelmed to move forward? But then a breath of fresh air will blow in. Unexpectedly, a friend will thank us or give a kind word of encouragement.
Paul had planted and established this church. He’s thrilled with their spiritual growth, but knew they needed a dose of encouragement. Like a proud parent, he loves on them, inspiring them to action.
I’m so very proud of you! And I’m thankful for you. Your faith is flourishing and growing in leaps and bounds, and you have such a sincere love for one another. I see your love increasing each and every day! What an example you are to other churches. I tell them about you all the time!
Don’t we all need a little morale-boosting from time to time? Isn’t it uplifting when others come along side us, see our struggles and give us a much needed pat on the back?
Following Paul’s example, we ought to always thank God for the people He places in our lives. But we need to also thank them. In this day and age of lightening speed and short, cryptic text messages, it’s time to stop and let others know how much we appreciate them. Paul didn’t just send empty compliments to the people of this church. He was specific in telling them why he was thankful for them: He saw their faith flourishing, and their love for one another growing ever greater.
Let’s do the same. Why don’t we look beyond our phone and to-do list, and see those around us. Let’s offer a word of thanks to them, acknowledging exactly why we are thankful for them.
• I appreciate you so much. I know I can always count on you to lift me in prayer.
• I’m so proud of you! You’ve worked so hard. Don’t give up!
• I love how you share your insights during class. Your thoughts always encourage met dig deeper into God’s Word.
Who knows what someone might be silently suffering through? Who know what trials they may be facing day in and day out. Oh, what one small word of encouragement can do to lift a person’s spirits!
Waiting expectantly for Christ’s return shouldn’t be passive. While we wait, we can actively pour into others, cheering them, boosting their morale and supporting them. It’s building up the body of Christ, not tearing it down. It’s showing the love of Jesus to a hurt and dying world. It’s imitating Christ and glorifying God. And it could be the catalyst that spurs someone to action!
Who can you thank and encourage today?
Oh, Lord, how thankful I am for the friends and family you have placed in my life. Father, open my eyes to see and be thankful for those around me. Give me Your words to encourage them and build them up. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.