Before Paul put the final period on his first letter to the Thessalonians, he issued a double-edged command: “encourage . . . and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). In a world more sinful than saintly, such a command is necessary because the spirit of discouragement, which seems to be the default setting, is dangerous. A single word of criticism can do untold damage to a person’s spirit—and potentially impact his or her entire life. The opposite is equally true: one can live a long time on a single word of encouragement. Those who encountered a first-century man nicknamed Barnabas can testify to that truth.
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