Encourage and build up

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

I have been thinking quite a bit about my words and the way people communicate with each other recently. As the Lord impresses upon me how I should communicate, I see my failures. I see how I need to be better. A better listener, a better hearer and a better communicator. I say these things with a caveat that I need to do them with a filter of grace.

All around me I have become more aware of how others communicate. What they say, their tone and maybe even what is their message. It seems that many will start conversations and possibly ask a question of the other but all the while, they really don’t care or are not interested in what the other has to say. Their expression and tones and even mannerisms point more to, “I am not listening to you. I don’t really care what you have to say. I want to start talking again.” So while a person is talking, they are not listening. They are focused on what they will say next. The other person could say they won a trip to Mars and are leaving tomorrow, yet the initiator is talking about them again.

Another example is when someone starts talking about normal everyday life, like food or a movie, the other person will start bringing attention to themselves and show that they have had that food or done this or have gone here. Not in a way to build common ground, but more of a way to point attention to them. This may not be clear so here is a crude example:

Person 1: “We started going to Store X to get our meat and…”
Person 2: … (interrupting) “Oh yeah, we go there all the time to get this and that. They have the best sweets.”
Person 1: “Uh, yeah they do… We really like their cookies.”
Person 2: “Yeah, their cookies are ok, but the brownies are better. We like to go there once a week.”

So, this may be a crude and bad example, but I am trying to show in a conversation, instead of person 2 asking person 1 about the store or what they like, person 2 interrupts and talks about themselves. What they like. What they go for. Person 1 is left with not really being able to discuss what they wanted to because (1) they were interrupted and (2) the other person is talking about their own self.

We have all been and probably are currently in situations, whether it is at work or family or even at church, where we gossip about people. We talk with a co-worker about how this person does their job and how it is never right. We put them down in front of others, whether they are there or not there. We do it so casually. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally but in the end it is all hurtful. But it is amazing how much we complain and then complain about others. I am not saying we shouldn’t be open and vulnerable and talk about how someone hurt us or how something is going, but that should be done in a way that doesn’t involve half your co-workers and in a gossipy manner.

I know the Thessalonians weren’t perfect, but it is amazing to me that Paul (who was never afraid to tell someone they are doing something they shouldn’t, but did it all out of love) can write to them and tell them to do something, yet also affirm them in the fact that he knows they are already doing it. It is amazing that they were building each other up and encouraging one another. They knew they had to stick together. They knew they had to build each other up. In the face of adversity and new brothers and sisters coming to Christ, they strived to encourage one another in faith. They strived to build each other up and care for one another in all the varieties of life. They wanted to be there for their fellow man. To help them in ways that the other needed. They wanted to share life with the other. They weren’t so concerned with self, but the needs of the other. That is an amazing concept. They had needs and complaints. They had struggles, but they willingly laid down self to help others. To encourage others with these rough times. They were heaven minded in this way.

There is a song that is currently playing by Hawk Nelson called Words which I think is a beautiful description of just how impactful our words can be. They can make us feel like a prisoner and a criminal. They can bring us down and through all that pain again, or remind us that we are free. They can make us feel like a king. They can extinguish any hope we have and put out our fire or they can stoke that fire and be a great spark to start it. Our words can be noise or they can speak love.

As I think about it, I don’t know if I can say it any better than what is written in this song. In fact this is my prayer for us. Please read the words of this song. Pray it as well. Pray that your words will be life. That they will speak truth. That they will encourage and build up each other, Christian and non-Christian. Words can speak out against your fears and oh how we long to hear God’s voice and His comforting words. We thank God for the beautiful, Divine and perfect words God gave us in His inspired Word. May our words be life. May we speak God’s grace.

The next time an occasion comes up to gossip or bring someone down, remember how powerful your words can be. Maybe you are having a bad day and it is just miserable, but instead of trying to bring someone else down, try speaking encouragement. Try building them up. Listen to them. Start a conversation and listen. And listen with grace. Hear their hurt, pain, joy. You don’t have to solve their problem, just be there for them. Let your listening and speaking feed them instead of looking to feed yourself. I struggle all the time. I am absolutely horrible at this, but I am in it with you. God help us all!

They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king
They’ve lifted my heart to places I’ve never been
They’ve dragged me down back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart
Or put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t want to say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
God, your voice is the only thing we need to hear

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts
Or put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t want to say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don’t want to say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I want to speak Your love
Not just another noise
I want to be Your life
I want to be Your voice