God never intended for any of us to live the Christian life alone. Though there may be times where we need to stand up alone for Christ, we still have a Christian community to fall back on to find strength and encouragement.
Community is defined as a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals; a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
One of the reasons for Christian community is for us to grow in spiritual maturity. We know that maturity takes time, but have we ever thought that spiritual maturity includes our spiritual brothers and sisters? We are commanded in the New Testament: love one another, forgive each other, regard each other more highly than yourselves, teach and correct each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and bear one another’s burdens.
Christian community is to be encouraging. Being in a community gives us the chance to be around other people at different stages in their spiritual walk, and to bear their burdens alongside them. Christian community is also a place where everyone has a chance to teach and learn. It creates the environment where we can be a friend, where we can teach others, and also where we can learn from others. What Christian community boils down to is lifting each other up, encouraging one another, learning from one another, and being the friend each one of us needs.
Throughout his entire ministry, Paul had one important concern on his mind and heart: to do all the good he could whenever he could to build up the body of Christ, all for the glory of God. Even in Philippians chapter 1, when Paul was in prison, he made it known that it was for the cause of Christ. He found much joy in knowing that his imprisonment had caused fellow believers in the church to become confident and “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil.1:14).
Through Paul’s exemplary life and courage to fight for the truth, it encouraged others to become much more confident and bold in the Lord. He also provided believers with biblical and practical guidelines for developing a functioning church where Christians build up and edify one another. God’s plan is for each of us to do our part so that the church can grow in love and spiritual maturity.
There are many examples in the Bible that show us how to encourage fellow believers through God’s word. Paul says in Ephesians, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). In Titus 1:9, Paul talks about holding firmly to the “trustworthy message” so he can “instruct in sound doctrine.” In 2 Timothy 4:2, Timothy was encouraged to “preach the word” so that he could reprove, rebuke, and encourage.
So, as we encourage one another, what are some benefits for both the encouraged and the encourager?
Being encouraged by fellow believers really has endless benefits. It gives hope, helps one to work harder to finish a task, helps one to increase their self-esteem, appreciate who they are in Christ and how they are gifted, helps develop healthy relationships with others, builds one another up in the faith, and increases their courage. Ultimately, it contributes to the health of the church and helps it to function effectively as a body.
Biblical encouragement is a responsibility and call for all, and a spiritual gift given by Christ for some. For the one who gives encouragement, it should cause them much joy to see that their encouragement has caused another to become more confident and bold in proclaiming Jesus Christ, possibly even rekindling a fire that has lost its flame. Encouragement provides help and hope in our hearts through the Word, prayer, an exemplary life, praise, and preaching. Encouragement is always for the end goal that we might grow in faith, love, wisdom and good deeds.
As we carry on our lives and continue to come in contact and interact with others, there are two things that can happen: we can build that person up, or we can tear them down. Which will it be?
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25)