So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
Paul was a passionate man. He loved the churches very deeply. Like a fierce momma bear he would protect them from all sides. He loved Jesus so very much and protected the Gospel fervently, his anger to anyone who dared twist it, teach it wrongly, and lead the beloved church away from the truth was as evident in his letters as his love of the people. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to be stuck in prison and only be able to teach, edify, and warn the brothers and sisters from afar. If he had not suffered for Christ the way he did, we would not have written so many of the scriptures that we learn from, live by, and teach from.
Paul connected with the church all over the Near and Middle East not only with his letters but through people as well. He had men who stayed with him or near him and helped him as they could. They traveled back to their home churches and brought messages which were shared from local church to church. He understood that the church was not several separate churches in several different cities, but one church and one body spread across regions. Often his letters ended with the charge he gave men like Tychicus to give more intimate messages, to share what had been going on with him personally, or do him various favors such as bring him his scrolls and cloak. Though disconnected physically, Paul did not allow himself to be cut off completely. He understood the importance of maintaining human contact with his brothers and sisters in Christ. Sending messages with people like Tychicus was done with the purpose of encouraging the people who received the letters, the holy kisses, and personal visits.
Encouragement is one of the most important things we do for one another. Life is not easy for anyone. Christian life is difficult, we all struggle, we all suffer, we all are working together toward the same hope, we are all being transformed to the image of Christ and working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Encouragement is a gift of the Spirit (Romans 12:8). One of the purposes for using the gifts of the Spirit is to edify or encourage the church (Ephesians 4:12). And it is commanded in the way we treat one another, interact with one another, and walk through this challenging life, through tests and tribulations, and joys and celebrations. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 reads,
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
There are times when a brother is down, when he is struggling through to walk an arduous path. Maybe then when he is having a hard time putting on the armor of God, we can encourage him by encouraging him our faith and love, reminding him of our mutual hope, and repeating the joy of our salvation to him. When he can’t lift his shield we can lift ours, when his breastplate is at his feet and fiery darts are hitting him, we ward them away with our shields and remind him that he is righteous because of Jesus Christ. We wield the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and speak love and truth to him, telling him and showing him who God is and who is in Christ. That is how we encourage and build up the body of Christ. That is putting faith, love, and hope into action. That is loving one another as Jesus loved us.
When His followers lacked faith, Jesus showed them they could have faith. He didn’t angrily bark, “You of little faith.” Our Merciful Lord spoke with kindness, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea (Matthew 8:23-27)! He showed them the awesome greatness of God and built them up by increasing their faith. The phrase “you of little faith is used seven times in the book of Matthew; all seven times Jesus accompanied it with edifying actions or teaching.
Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples, he rebuked the winds and sea, he rebuked the enemy, he rebuked illness, and he rebuked death. Even when it looked like he was rebuking Peter, he was not addressing Peter but rebuking Satan who was using Peter and ordering him to fall in line to God’s will. Jesus would not let Satan tempt Him with the idea that He did not need to die. Jesus immediately followed the rebuke, with teaching that He and they all would indeed suffer, that losing one’s life was the cost of following Him (Matthew 16:21-28, Mark 8:31-37).
We need encouragement and we need to encourage one another because all of us have, are, or will suffer and struggle. But we do have one another. We have the Spirit of God, not only because He indwells us, but because He indwells all of us. When we are together, we are edifying one another through the Spirit, using His gifts, using the sword of the Spirit, and He is ever-more present in our midst. Even if it is only two of us, He is more than just within us, He is among us. Matthew 18:18-20 says it this way,
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Though we may lift our shield for a brother whose faith is little, and though we may speak God’s word to them when they can’t hear Him themselves, it is God working in us and among us; it is He who is edifying, giving more faith, and speaking, not us. It is God who heals, not us. It is God who saves, not us. Ephesians 6:23-24 read,
Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
Our peace, love, and faith are all from God. He is the one who provides it all. Being alone, far off from the encouragement of the family of God, also distances us from God. Being alone can make you forget just how awesome God is because you are not among believers gathered together and operating in the Spirit together. And though nothing can separate us from His love, we can tend to forget how great His love is when we are not experiencing regular fellowship with the body of Christ. His love is incorruptible. Human love, earthly love can be corrupted, tainted, insincere, spoiled by sin and flesh. But the love of Christ, the love shared by His body and perfected in us, cannot be ruined by sin it is perfect, indestructible, genuine, constant, and imperishable.
We need to be reminded of that love; we need to experience the love of God often. The best way to experience that is to regularly be with His church, living life together, worshipping together, and reading the scriptures and earning together. Acts 2:42-47 reads,
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This is what the life of a believer is meant to be like. You cannot experience this love, growth, or worship alone. You cannot experience God in His miracles and provision by yourself. It is when we are devoted to one another, devoted to the Gospel, and devoted to loving one another that this happens. What glory to God if you are not a participating member of His body and you have a need fulfilled, are healed, or learn something new? What opportunity will you have to exercise the gifts of the Spirit or demonstrate His fruit if you are alone?
Paul did not use imprisonment as an excuse to separate himself from the church. Today we have absolutely no excuse with telephones, smartphones, internet, live streaming, Facetime, Skype, cars and people willing to give rides and visit, and countless other technologies that can be used to bring people to us. If you have a phone, call a church and ask for a ride and call a believer and talk together. We are human and we need encouragement, we need to know God’s awesome steadfast love, and we need to remember that Jesus Christ is returning and all that means for us and for the world. The author of Hebrews wrote this,
So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching (Hebrews 10:19-24 The Message).