Thursday, August 23, 2012

Encouragement - Part Six

There is a dear lady at church who has been an encouragement to me for several years. She participated in one of my Bible studies and I fell in love with her gentle, kind spirit. She was filled with God’s Spirit. She was knowledgeable in Scripture. She encouraged me to write. She was a joy to be near.

Health issues took her away from regular attendance, but she was never far from my mind. I thought of her often. Found her phone number a couple of times to give her a call. But I never reached out to her. The busyness of my life prevented me from encouraging this wonderful, Godly woman.

This past weekend, I ran into her in the lobby at church. It was as if we’d never lost contact. She was thrilled to hear of my adventures through the past couple of years and excited for my upcoming service trip.

Before we parted ways, she prayed Scripture over me and once again, encouraged me to remain faithful to my writing.

There are so many like Paula in my life. People who have encouraged me and I’ve not reciprocated. I’ve not felt the need to be an encouragement in return. I believe, God is telling me that my selfishness has come to an end. I may not be gifted in encouragement, but I can still encourage others. No, I am commanded to encourage others.

Well, we are back at it. Have you learned as much about encouragement as I have? I pray that you have. But we aren’t finished yet. There is still so much to say about it.

We are going to look at the elements of encouragement and how it relates to our daily lives. The apostle Paul was encouraged and encouraged others through his words, his letters, and his presence. Let’s look at some of the ways Paul encouraged others, including us.

Paul was encouraged by God and the work God was doing in His Kingdom, but specifically by faith. In Romans 1:11-12 (NIV), Paul says, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

Paul was also encouraged by the faith of the Thessalonica Church. “Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.” (1 Thessalonians 3:7 – NIV)

Paul used Tychicus to encourage the believers in Ephesus and Colossae (Ephesians 6:22; Colossians 4:8). And specifically to encourage their hearts. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2, Paul sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage their faith.

In Acts 9:31 (NIV) we read these words. “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

As you can see, Paul knew how to encourage others. But the greatest encouragement we receive is from the Holy Spirit. How has the Holy Spirit encouraged you?

Now we are going to take a look at the who’s and why’s and how’s of encouragement. This will take a few days (I don’t know how long exactly), but when these blog posts are finished, you will have a better understanding of this “little thing” called encouragement.

Who is to encourage?
Everyone is to be an encourager. Throughout the New Testament, we see Scripture that leads us to this conclusion.

Let’s start with 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV). “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

There’s nothing specific here of how to encourage or build up, but I know what it isn’t. Tear down, discourage, dishearten, break, negative, stifle. These words are not part of this verse. Therefore, they should not be part of our lives.

As you think of this verse, what are some other words that we can interchange with the word encourage? Hearten, cheer, inspire, boost, urge, support. These are the words we should be focused on when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul shares this same thought when he wrote to the Corinthian Church in 2 Corinthians 13:10 (NIV). He said, “This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not tearing you down.” Even when Paul felt the need to correct wrong behavior, he did so in an encouraging way.

There are a few more passages with the call to encourage. I’ll just list them here for you to read. 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; and Hebrews 3:13 (we’ll be looking at this verse again).

I want to close today with the words from Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV). While we aren’t positive of the author of this book, Barnabas is a contender. The thought of the great encourager continuing to encourage long after his death through this book blesses my heart. Here’s what he says.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

So, let’s consider. How can we spur one another on? How can we encourage? I don’t believe God has poured Himself into this series for the mere purpose of writing a daily blog. I believe He is calling us (me) to do something with this study of encouragement.

It has changed me. I now look for ways to be an encouragement to someone. I can be an encouragement to someone through an email, through a note, through a phone call, or through a personal interaction. There is no reason to allow discouraging words into any conversation. Never!

It can be difficult on the days when I never leave my house. But there is still opportunity. My family deserves my encouraging words and spirit as well.

Consider for yourself how you can “spur” someone. Encourage another. I pray that you will be thrilled to do so.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,


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