I want to help people follow Jesus.
Where do I start?
We are looking at the way Paul discipled others. After all, besides Jesus, he had to be the world’s great discipler.
What did Paul do?
He shared the gospel.
He encouraged people.
For example, notice all the different ways Paul praises the Thessalonians to the glory of God throughout just the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians.
He, in verse 3 tells them that he is thanking God for three specific evidences of spiritual fruit he sees in their life, faith, love and hope.
Then in verse 4, he describes them as family.
He also affirms that they are loved by God and chosen by God. This is a way of saying that he is sure they are Christians.
In verse 6, he recalls his experience among them and he reminds them of their response to God’s Word; in verse 7 he looks at the results of their faith and tells them that they have become an example to others, and in verse 8, he talks about the way in which their faith has even impacted his own personal ministry in other places.
And in verse 9, he indirectly encourages them regarding the way they treated him and then again highlights the fact that others are taking notice of their genuine conversion experience.
That’s seven and it may not even be all of the ways in which Paul finds to verbally encourage the Thessalonians, and I am convinced as you look at the way Paul went about discipling Christians that this was a characteristic of his ministry.
And it should be of ours.
When you are involved in a discipleship kind of relationship, you are obviously seeking to help that person change to become more like Christ, which means that there is going to be correcting going on, and that correction is important, but it is going to be very difficult for the other person to hear if they are not convinced you are for them.
I am not talking about building someone’s self-esteem here, but I am talking about eagerly looking for the work of God in their life and letting them know that you see it, on a regular basis.
This kind of encouragement does several things.
One, and most important, it gives glory to God because He is at work.
Two, it causes you to be thankful and not just critical about the person you are working with. We all know how easy it is when you have been friends with someone for a while, to stop seeing the good in what God’s doing through them and begin only noticing the negatives, and it is easy for those negatives to become a poison in your relationship, where everything becomes negative and so if you are working on encouraging them, it forces you to look for things to encourage them about and helps you not develop a warped perspective on what God’s doing in their life.
And three, it gives the person hope because it is hard to see growth in our own lives, and it helps them see what is important because we usually praise what we think is important, and as a discipler when you encourage someone you are pointing them back to what really matters.
I think it would go a long way if this became a hallmark of our discipleship relationships as believers, and that includes of course our families, where like Paul, we are actively looking to see ways God is at work in people and where we are praising God by letting them know that we see it. I guarantee you that the people you are working with will more easily hear you as you seek to correct them if they are absolutely convinced that you are seeking their best, and for many people, they take a lot of convincing, they don’t just assume that you want their best, they need you to tell them, over and over again.