when he had landed at caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to antioch. after spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of galatia and phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. [acts 18:22-23]
paul, after an arduous journey, lands and immediately begins encouraging his friends and fellow followers of Jesus—he begins traveling to places that he went to before to plant the message of Christ to strengthen them. what does it mean that he went “strengthening all the disciples?” this word, ἐπιστηρίζω epistērízō, really only appears in the book of acts–in acts 14 and 15, and here in acts 18. the term has a sense of ‘re-establishing’ or ‘confirming’. paul doesn’t take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to his work–his care and love for both the commands of Jesus and of those who he ministers to lead him to come back, encourage, affirm and confirm those who he has poured his life into.
what an opportunity! what a joy! this is the reason why we as brothers and sisters in Christ regularly meet together:
and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. [hebrews 10:24-25]
let us shift our thinking: we don’t “come to church” as a part of a routine, so we can watch a concert and listen to a motivational speech. let us not come as consumers, but gather as fellow workers, encouragers, stirrers, pursuers, strengtheners, confirmers! in our wednesday gatherings, lot family gatherings and throughout the week, let us be ready to pour ourselves out strengthening and encouraging our brothers and sisters for the toil that is our daily lives, telling those who are lost the gospel in a dying world. the day, that glorious day when Christ appears is approaching, until then, let us join arm in arm, in unity and strength for the sake of God’s glorious name!
today, be filled with encouragement as you seek the presence of God–be reminded of all of those who have strengthened you, and those who you have pursued in the past–like in paul’s experience, there will be many who walk away, but there are still many more who need strengthening today–make a phone call, send a text, set up a coffee or dinner–continue to strengthen and confirm, let the meeting be for mutual encouraging and stirring up the love of Jesus!
maranatha!–our Lord, come!