What a precious gift encouragement is. I can remember moments when the right word at the right time was instrumental in breathing fresh perspective, courage, and hope into challenging seasons in my life – even if I wasn’t necessarily deserving of that encouraging word.
I love how Philippians 4:5 is paraphrased in The Message: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”
That’s quite a charge, isn’t it?
But what if we are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye with someone at the moment? What if we do not feel like getting along with someone and moving forward past a hurt or difference of opinion?
In Philippians 4:1-5, Paul exhorts the body of believers (and us) with the answer in a very Paul-like fashion, essentially saying: “Girls, it’s time to let go of the differences and get along! Jesus is coming soon. Let people see that you can rise above differences and get back to the Kingdom work you’ve been called to do.”
The reason we need to learn how to be of one accord with each other is so we can be fully effective in sharing the gospel of Christ with the world around us. People are watching us, and they’re looking to see if what we say we believe really holds up in our actions.
I’m sure it looks silly (and even hypocritical) to people who observe Christians being so quick to argue, criticize, take sides, make fun of, or even label fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as heretics, all the while claiming to walk in the love of God. How can we expect anyone to be drawn to be part of a community of believers like that?
It weakens our effectiveness, which is why Paul wanted us to remember how powerful it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity (Psalm 133:1). We can’t afford to allow disagreements or arguments to permanently divide us.
It doesn’t mean we excuse sin, or become a doormat to others, or withhold biblical correction in the right time and way. But ultimately, when we remember we are of the same spirit in Jesus Christ, it should make us want to work to stop battling with each other and recognize the real enemy – the devil – who is at work to discourage the work of God in our lives.
Let’s not look at one another as competition, or a problem, or even as “that-crazy-person-over-there,” but as part of the same team, even with the differences we have.
Let’s be people who understand that when we enlarge, make room for, encourage, and speak to the gift and call on each other’s lives, the company of women (and men!) on the earth is able to function and flourish the way God designed. It will make our testimonies of faith all the more inviting and effective to the world around us.
God is well able to deal with those who need correction, and most of the time, He hasn’t asked us to point to the faults or shortcomings of others. If we will allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in a person’s life, and continue to work on our own hearts by cultivating gentleness, forebearance, mercy, forgiveness, and encouragement, we’ll be amazed at how He is able to work things together for our good and for His glory.
Don’t underestimate how much a timely word of encouragement can bring hope and grace and courage to a person who may be struggling in ways you aren’t aware. There are plenty of people who will be quick to point out what’s wrong in others, but we need people who will be quick to point out the good things, the God-things, in life and in other people.
We really are in this faith journey together. We may have differences of opinion or perspectives, but we’re on the same side. Ultimately, none of us have it all perfectly correct. We are all works-in-progress, people who are looking unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
If we are going to do this Kingdom work in a way that brings glory to God, we need to make it as clear as we can that we, as believers, are on the same side and that we are committed to building the Kingdom of God and sharing the good news of Jesus to the people in our world.
So, my friend, just in case no one has made this clear to you in your life, let me be one to say, “I’m on your side, I’m praying for you, and I’m cheering you on! In Jesus name!”
Andrea Howey is a hand lettering artist from Dallas, Texas. She uses hand lettering to share her heart and the message of hope, truth, and faith found in the Word of God. Her aim is for people to be encouraged in heart, strengthened in faith, and above all, point people to know Jesus personally and intimately.
You can find Andrea and her beautiful handwritten words of encouragement on Instagram at: @andrearhowey.
Week 4 Challenge: Take time this week to evaluate your relationships in the body of Christ. Is there someone you need to reach out to, making it as clear as you can that you’re on their side and that you want to work with them and not against them? With unity as your goal, seek forgiveness and give encouragement where needed.
Week 4 Reading Plan:
Week 4 Memory Verse: