Sharing life and truth in deep community.
therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
According to Charlie Brown, it offers the tastiest snowflakes. And according to tradition, it’s time for each one of us to turn over a new leaf. ’Tis the season for resolving to do a new thing! Given the fresh start of a new year, it’s true many of us aspire to begin healthier, happier behaviors that will stick around for the long haul.
Over the years, I’ve made personal resolutions to work out every day, to maintain a certain calorie count, to write more, and to finish reading the Bible in a year’s time. I’ve also chosen a “word of the year” to guide me in making choices and intentions that hold true to what’s most important to me. Reflecting on my own resolutions peaked my curiosity about what other people aim to accomplish as the ball drops. I discovered that a whopping 71% of new year’s resolutions are focused on getting in shape and losing weight.* I think new gym memberships and diet center enrollments each year would agree. Yet, research shows that 80% of people have already abandoned their new year’s resolutions by the second week of February, and only 8% ever make it to the finish line!* Oh, the suck of our old ways of doing life.
I wonder if this year might be different?
Not for a resolution, so to speak, but for God to do something new, something fresh in our lives that is altogether life-giving. Given all we’ve gone through as a human community over the last year, I have a hopeful feeling this is the very thing about to unfold.
It’s funny to me that we all readily acknowledge that accountability is key in taking our physical health to the next level. But, why have we never thought about this same truth when it comes to our spiritual lives? It’s true. Group fitness classes, running groups, and personal trainers give us the accountability and fun factor we need to do what we wouldn’t otherwise do on our own. They help us reach higher, be stronger, stay motivated, and have more fun, making it far more likely we’ll achieve our personal potential. Is it possible the same might be true in the spiritual spaces of our lives? I’d venture to say we need spiritual accountability as much as physical support, maybe even more. Why? The stakes are higher.
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Let’s crack open our Bibles for a quick lesson in the impact of spiritual accountability.
In ancient Thessalonica, Paul and his teammates had approximately three short weeks to share the gospel with the Thessalonian people, and then help them build a solid foundation of gospel understanding, a strong faith community, and new, holy rhythms of life. Just three weeks! If I’m doing the math right, that adds up to 21 days. Wait a minute! Isn’t that the same amount of time it takes to form a new habit? Yep. Why, yes it is.
As it goes, in just three weeks time, everything changed for those men and women in the thriving port of Thessalonica who chose to abandon their old ways of life and follow Jesus with Paul, Silas, and Timothy. And even better, as Paul happily reported, their new faith and love for one another had roots (1 Thes. 3:6). What trade secrets might be gleaned from their time together that could possibly help us to experience real, life-giving changes in our own faith lives that similarly endure the test of time and trial?
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
As we see in our verse for this month, Paul counseled his friends (by way of personal letter) to continue to encourage one another and build each other up. He called on them to press into one another in spiritual community and to spur one another along in faith and holiness. The fuel to their fire was the truth of the gospel, the hope they shared in the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier in the book Paul declares this truth:
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8
There it is, the calling for us to embrace: Share life and truth, together. Might we, like our Thessolonian brothers and sisters did so long ago, embrace one another and hold tight to the hope we have in Jesus this year as never before. I’m in! Won’t you join me? Let’s link arms, invite others along, and draw near to God and one another as we step into this new year. Might we encourage one another and build each other up in small batch communities of faith, so that real, life-giving rhythms and relationships can take root in our lives and last a lifetime?
What new year’s resolutions have you tried before?
What spiritual habit or rhythm would you most like to deepen and grow in this year?
Who encourages you most in life?
Who might you invite to join you and link arms with along your spiritual journey this year?
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