A Prayer for Us to Intentionally Encourage Others
By Maggie Meadows Cooper
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thess.5:11
Stephanos, Fortunatus, Achaicus, Tychicus, Barnabus, Timothy, and Onesimus. When you hear these names, what does it make you think of? For many of us, most of these names would not “ring any bells” at all. So who were they? And why were they mentioned in Scripture?
The truth is that these names, these men, are some of the unsung heroes of the early Christian church. Not because of any bold, courageous acts that we know of but because of their everyday acts of faith and kindness. Although their mention is brief, it is powerful, and here’s why: these men were intentionally sent by Paul as encouragers of the early church.
Now, many of you may be thinking that “encourager” doesn’t sound like a very important job, but how very wrong you would be, my sweet friends! An encourager is defined as “one who gives support, confidence, and hope or one who gives support or advice so that another will continue to do something.” Listen to the mentions of these men:
“When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.” Acts 11:22-23
“I am very glad that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus have come here…They have been a wonderful encouragement to me, as they have been to you…” 1 Corinthians 16:17-18
“Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know about me and what I am doing. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about us, and that he may encourage your hearts.” Ephesians 6:21-22 BSB
“...we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through...” 1 Thesselonians 3:2-3
Y’all, life is hard right now. So very hard in so very many ways. Health, finances, relationships…the list goes on and, in truth, is ever-changing. From day to day, we don’t know what “bad news” might be next. It would be easy to crumble… live in fear and set a plan to dig in our heels and brace ourselves…will ourselves…to stand firm in our own strength for whatever tomorrow holds. But y’all, as Believers, we don’t have to do that. And we shouldn’t do that! Because we have a hope that the world and fellow Believers need to be reminded of. daily, hourly, and maybe even minute-by-minute.
That is why Paul mentions these men. Because they were sent with reminders of the Hope that we have, and we should all do the same. For our family, friends, co-workers, and whoever the Lord places in our path, here are four reasons we should encourage others:
1. We need courage to stay true to the Lord. (Acts 11:22-23)
When Barnabas went to Antioch, he found some of the Believers who had been spreading the good news about Jesus to Gentiles, and they were turning to the Lord! But this outreach was not looked upon favorably by all. Just as today, when we share about Jesus, it is not affirmed or applauded by the world. But my sweet friends, we must “remain faithful to the things we have been taught…” (1 Tim.3:14) and encourage others to do the same by reminding them of all that the Lord has done (Ps.105:1). As our roots grow deeper into Him, He will give us the courage and strength for our faith to grow strong in the Truth (Col2:7-9).
2. There is power in standing together with fellow believers in speaking Truth. (1 Cor.16:17-18)
It is true that one person can shine a light. That one person can make a difference in another’s life. But there is strength in numbers. If fear creeps in or doubt begins to lessen your longing to encourage others, call in reinforcements! The Lord gave us each other for a reason! Don’t neglect meeting with other Believers (Heb.10:25) to lift each other up, as friends/”brothers” in Christ are there for times of adversity (Prov.17:17).
3. Sharing how other Believers are growing encourages hearts. (Eph.6:21-22)
If you turn to the news on any given day, you will most likely be faced with stories full of the harsh, negative realities of this world. And if your heart is like mine, it can become discouraged very quickly. Those stories may make you question what the Lord is doing, where He is, and maybe if He even cares. But the answers to those questions are that He is working (John 5:17), He is right here with us (Is.41:10), and His heart breaks for the same things that break ours (Ps.34:18). And so, with the knowledge of this Truth, we need to make an extra effort to lift others up and share what He is doing in the little moments of our own lives and the lives of those we love. Our stories may not make the headlines, but they are still just as important and valuable and worthy of being told…and this world, those in our little worlds, need them to encourage their hearts.
4. We need strong faith to keep from being shaken in times of trouble. (1 Thess.3:2-3)
Y’all, speaking the name of the Lord has power! The ability to share what He is doing has done and will continue to do is a privilege that we have been given. The Psalmist said, “I believed in God, so I spoke” (2 Cor.4:13). If we believe, we must encourage others to strengthen their faith so that when hard times come, they will be able to stay true, stand firm with refreshed spirits, and remember Whose they are. Satan loves nothing more than a defeated soul because in that, He has an opportunity to sneak fear, doubt, and discouragement in. That can then take root to anger, bitterness, resentment, and a host of other feelings that distance us from Truth and allow us to be shaken.
What a gift it is to encourage others! To remind them of their intrinsic worth, the gifts they have been given, and the purposes they have been created for! And even more so, to remind them of a great big God, who loves them, is right there with them, and is worth telling the whole world about.
Thank you for all of the wonderful friends who have been an encouragement to me in my faith. Please give me the courage to encourage others in the same way, intentionally seeking and making the most of the opportunities I’ve been given. Help me to shine Your light and stand firm in challenging circumstances as I point to You as the reason for the hope that I have.
In Your Mighty Name,
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/TinnakornJorruang Video: Stock footage Soundstripe.com & Photo Canva.com
Maggie Meadows Cooper is a wife, mom, educator, author, and blogger with a longing for women to grow a heart for Jesus and others. She is the author of the children’s book “Bumper” and blogs at The Little Moments about what the Lord is teaching her through her children and everyday life. She contributes to Blogs by Christian Women, Devotional Diva, She Disciples, and Connecting Ministries. An educator with an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University (War Eagle!), she has twenty years of experience working with young children. She loves all things chocolate, real Coca-Cola, and lives with her husband, three children, and two rambunctious dogs in Opelika, Alabama.
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Originally published Thursday, 19 October 2023.