During Jesus’ last night on earth, the number one thing he wanted us to know was this: “Love one another the way I have loved you.” Why? Because when we sacrificially and unconditionally love one another the way Jesus loved us, then the whole world will know that we are his followers.
So how do we specifically love one another in concrete, tangible ways from the heart? One of the most important ways we can love one another the way Jesus instructed us is by encouraging each other.
Let’s face it — life can be really hard. God is good, but in the midst of his goodness, we are still living in the midst of brokenness because we live in a fallen world. God is on our side and He loves us very much, but that doesn’t exempt us from experiencing deep, deep pain. There are times in this life when many of us might find ourselves right on the edge… ready to give up on our marriage, give up on a child or give up on our faith. We might get to the point where we feel like we can’t take it any more.
When this happens, sometimes the only difference between us going on or giving up, succeeding or failing is a simple word of encouragement. Encouragement doesn’t mean having sympathy, or feeling bad for someone. The definition of encouragement is: “To inspire with courage, and to help someone to continue, to give aid, support and help.” This help can come in many forms, such as in a friend’s loving presence, a letter, a phone call, or a prayer.
But the best encouragement comes in the form of truth – the Word of God. We desperately need God’s truth. When we feel like we can’t go on any more and life is too difficult, God comforts us with the Holy Spirit, who is our helper, counselor and our encourager.
God also provides us with encouragement in the context of meaningful relationships. God uses regular people like you and me to be agents of encouragement. He comforts us through other people who are willing to come along side us and encourage when we’re weak. In the same way, each of us are called to be comforters and agents of God’s love to those around us who are weak and afflicted.
Here’s why we’re called to encourage:
- God commands it. God did not design us to make it here on this earth alone. We were designed to have authentic, caring relationships. God also promises to comfort us when we’re facing difficult circumstances “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:4)
- Sin is deceitful. If left to ourselves, we will start going into denial and begin compromising what we believe. All of us need encouragement to guard against a growing complacency in our walks with God.
- Spiritual growth requires it. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2 Paul tells the persecuted church in Thessalonica that he is sending them Timothy, who will strengthen and encourage them in their faith. In a similar way, we are instructed to help ignite the faith of others who are feeling discouraged. This means we’re to provoke each other to grow spiritually.
- We lose perspective so easily. In 2 Corinthians 7:3-7 we read how even the Apostle Paul was faced with so much discouragement that he lost his perspective and was ready to quit his ministry. But God comforted him by restoring his spiritual perspective of the situation. As believers, we are also called to motivate others to righteousness and holy living, and to help restore their perspective by giving them God’s truth.
To sum it all up: everyday Christians like you and me are supposed to aid, help, support and intercede for one another by comforting those who are experiencing affliction. When we do, their faith grows stronger and they are motivated toward righteousness.
Are there people in your life who are discouraged and going through a difficult time? Let’s be the encouragers that God has called each of us to be, helping them to be successful and to finish this life well!
This week, we begin a series called Love One Another. In it we will explore what it looks like to fulfill Christ’s commandment to love another in authentic, caring relationships. It’s my prayer that this series will help you experience the many ways that God will work in you and through you when you step up and become an encourager of others.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge