Sipping the cold drinks and feeling the Spring breeze was refreshing. Two old friends sitting outside at the small town Sonic. A few months preceding our conversation my friend had experienced the death of his wife of more than 50 years. He shared that through many years of ministry he had stood among hundreds of families and expressed the hope found in 1 Thessalonians 4. I will never forget the look in his eyes as he said with confident assurance, “Terry, all those things I told them work!”

F.B. Meyer outlines the comforting words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 this way:

  1. Those who die in Christ are with Him.
  2. Those who die in Christ will come with Him.
  3. Those who die in Christ shall be forever reunited with us who wait for Him and them.

These are words of comfort to those experiencing grief at the graveside of a loved one. They are valuable when we hear them coming from someone preaching a funeral message. They strengthen us when others reach out to us when someone close to us dies.

But we should not limit words of comfort to such times, nor hear them only from preachers.

The Bible calls for continual, mutual comforting, not occasional sermons from a solo preacher. The phrase “comfort one another with these words” in verse 18 carries the construction of a command that is to be habitually carried out. This comforting is to be a long-term commitment to one another and a life habit of those who follow Christ. Our comforting is a mutual ongoing ministry to and from one another.

If we rarely spend time with one another during the week and if the format we employ in weekend worship services focus on those standing on a platform speaking to us, how can this mutual comforting take place? If our small group or simple church gatherings are characterized by one person doing all the talking, where is the mutual aspect of speaking to one another?

In addition to comfort offered at the time of a death, we find encouragement through regular times of gathering together. When we meet together we mutually share words of comfort whenever we remind ourselves of the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

That day, at an outdoor table at a Sonic, two Christian friends met together. I offered comfort to my friend. He brought hope and encouragement to me. We both went away strengthened and comforted because we practiced this one another passage.

Words of hope are not to be confined only to the words of pastors. They are to be mutually spoken to one another. Our simple churches, small groups and cell groups are great places for this to happen.

Look for ways this week to give and find encouragement and comfort.

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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