Recently, I experienced a season of being fainthearted. I was discouraged, and I wasn’t certain that there was hope. Webster’s defines fainthearted as “lacking courage or resolution”. In other words, being fainthearted means feeling a strong sense of discouragement, even being tempted with despair.
That was me. I was experiencing spiritual warfare whereby I was being tempted to quit trusting that God is sovereign, in control, and that Romans 8:28 was holding true not only for me, but for His church. Romans 8:28 says, “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). I was tempted to doubt that.
Yes (wait, was there a question?). Yes. Even pastors are tempted to despair and can become fainthearted. And I succumbed. I was fainthearted in the midst of looking at students in the face and preaching to them of the importance of trusting and believing Romans 8:28. And there were a few close brothers and sisters in Christ who knew. Instead of chastisement, instead of calling into question whether or not I should be pastoring, instead of condemning, these brothers and sisters (knowingly or not, but I like to think knowingly) encouraged me.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 says this, “and we urge you, brothers, encourage the fainthearted, be patient with them…” (ESV). My dear brothers and sisters in Christ encouraged me. They encouraged me by telling me that they were proud of me, that they appreciated me, and so forth. But most of all, and most importantly, they encouraged me with Jesus.
It’s these conversations within the body of Christ that are meant to be, from God, a grace to those who hear. The full verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “and we urge you, brothers, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (ESV). This verse is a verse of grace for the church.
Often, we hear people say that “it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people”. Which, yes, is true. But what they mean is this, “therefore, I ought to not say a word to them and just sit back and do nothing”. In that same vein, in order to be consistent, these same people would have to say that “it is the Holy Spirit’s job to encourage people, so I ought to not say a word to them and just sit back and do nothing”.
Man. I am so glad these brothers and sisters understand that the means that the Holy Spirit uses to convict and to encourage are the words of truth that we speak to each other. Along those lines, I want to give three ways that our words of truth are meant to be a grace of God to the church.
1. Admonish the unruly
What other types of words ought we to say to the unruly person living in sin? Ought we to encourage the liar, “keep on, buddy, you’re doing great!”? No! That would absurd. The appropriate words of truth that believers are to speak to these are words of admonishment.
Yes, words of admonishment ought to be done with graciousness, love, humility, and gentleness. But, none the less, they need to be said to the unruly.
2. Encourage the fainthearted
These are types of words of truth that were spoken to me recently. Generally, these types of words are shown at times of grief and celebration, but rarely are we so spiritually connected with one another that we recognize that sometimes people are simply fainthearted.
What other words would we speak to the fainthearted? Words of admonishment? Could you imagine? “You are in despair, but shame on you!” Again, how absurd! The appropriate words of truth believers are to speak to these are words of encouragement
3. Help the weak
This category begins with words of truth, and I call these words of action. Of course, they mean nothing if not put into practice. So, for instance, if a sister in Christ is weak and is in need of a ramp built on the front of her house to get down off of her porch, the words of action become a physical help to her. “I will build you a ramp to help you.”
But notice I said words of action. That means we don’t just tell people we will help them, but we actually help them. These people do not only need words of encouragement, and they certainly do not need words of admonishment. These people need help.
The rest of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says “be patient with them all” (ESV). When we experience unruly people, or fainthearted people, or weak people, we are exhorted to be patient with them. We are the church, and we are called to faithfulness to the Lord and faithfulness to one another. When the church is the church, the Lord honors and blesses the people. I have been blessed by the church being the church.