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About this series
Love One Another
Ten Keys to Experiencing Life in a Supernatural Community
We've all heard the thought-provoking challenge to face life's decisions asking, "What would Jesus do?" But what if we were to live each moment in light of Jesus' "new" commandment to "love one another" - as He has loved us? What would happen within our homes and churches if we took seriously His instructions to foster authentic, caring relationships? This series explores the powerful possibilities of lives lived according to the radical "one anothers" of the New Testament.More from this series
What did Jesus say? And we know that Jesus said a lot and we know that the number one thing He said, the very last night on the earth, was, “Love one another.”
How? “The way I loved you, so love one another.”
And He said when we love one another, when we sacrificially, unconditionally love each other, the way He loved us.
I want to talk about the power of encouraging one another, how that when we encourage each other, these one another phrases throughout the New Testament, that’s how God wants us to love each other.
I put a little teaching handout, you can pull it out if you’d like. And I’d like to begin with a reality that you already know about but I’ll remind you. Simply this is that life is hard. It’s real hard. Now, there are seasons where it just seems good but there are other seasons where it’s just hard. I can just take so much, I don’t know about you. Have you ever just gotten to the point where you just get right up to here and you think, “I can’t take any more!”
Sometimes, sometimes the only difference between success and failure is a simple word of encouragement. Sometimes you’re right on the edge and you’re ready to give up on a marriage or give up on a child or just give up on your faith. You’re right on the edge and you think you can’t take it anymore. And the difference between success, moving on, staying in God’s will, enduring, getting perspective, hanging in there, getting up and doing it one more time, the difference is simply a simple word of encouragement.
Encouragement can come from a friend, it can come by putting their hand on your shoulder and praying for you, it can come from a note, it can come from a phone call, it could come over a cup of coffee, it can come over a meal, or God can give it directly to you right through His Word.
I opened my Bible and I read Psalm 9, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” The next line, “Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.” And I read that and I thought, “He is a refuge, He’s a stronghold. Ingram, you just think you can’t take any more.”
And the difference between just feeling like I didn’t want to go on with the day and saying, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to trust in Your word, even though my emotions aren’t on the map today.” The difference can be a simple word of encouragement.
And what I’d like to do this morning is, from the Scripture, teach you, Lord willing, What is encouragement, why are we to encourage one another, and then how, how do you do it? What’s it actually look like in relationship?
So, let’s first define it. What is encouragement? Webster says, “It’s to inspire with courage.” It’s to help someone continue on when they are afraid or when they are discouraged, when they want to give up.
The meaning of the word in the New Testament is parakaleo. I only give it to you because you can see “para” we get the idea of “alongside,” “kaleo,” “to call.” It’s the idea, to encourage is someone called alongside us to give aid, help, or support.
In fact, I gave it to you because those of you who study the Bible quite a bit, you know, what’s the Holy Spirit called in the book of John? The “paraclete,” same word.
On the very last night, when Jesus was with His disciples, He wanted to encourage them and they were afraid and He said, “Don’t worry. I am going to send another counselor, like I have been your counselor, I’m going to send another counselor and He will be with you. He will be the paraclete.
See, the Holy Spirit is referred to as your helper, your counselor, your encourager. That’s what this word is and that’s what God wants us to do for one another.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word literally means “to strengthen, sustain, harden, to fortify, or to hold up.” In 1 Samuel 23:16 it says, “Jonathan,” in a very vulnerable time in David’s life, “strengthened him in God.”
To get the picture of how it works, in a literal way, this word is used in Isaiah 54:4 and it’s used for the strengthening of the pegs, pounding the pegs deeper in, for your tent. So you get the idea?
When would you strengthen your pegs? Well, if the wind starts blowing and you’re afraid the tent is going to blow over, what do you do? You get out there and you strengthen the pegs! You get them down deeper.
When your life starts falling apart, when you start to feel weak, when you feel like you can’t go on, you know what God wants? He wants someone to come into your life and strengthen your pegs, help you make it through where you couldn’t on your own. That’s what encouragement is.
In the New Testament, the word, there’s one primary word and then a couple closely related words but they all surround the basic meaning of “inspiring to hope.” It’s a picture of someone, their life is just ready to stagnate and they need some wind in their sails and you give them some wind. You give them perspective. You give them some truth.
Two sides of this in the New Testament, it’s encouragement with a view to comfort, as in 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4. God promises that He will comfort us so that we can comfort others with the same comfort He gave us.
So, part of encouraging people is when they are down, they are afflicted, they are going through it and you step in and you comfort. But the word is also used to “encourage with a view to exhort or to motivate to righteousness or holy living.”
See, sometimes people get complacent. They lose perspective. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another,” how? “day after day, as long as it’s still called today,” which is how often? Every day. “…lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” I need you to spur me on, I need you to get my perspective back up, I need you to help me look up and go after it.
And we need that from one another. That’s what it means to encourage. In fact, encouragement, get this, encouragement is not sympathy. Sympathy is great but that’s not encouragement. Sympathy means I feel bad for you. Encouragement has two major characteristics.
I took every word in the New Testament where encouragement showed up and I studied and I put it in categories. The source of encouragement, about ninety percent of the time, you know what it is in the New Testament? The source? Truth. It’s not emotional, it’s not some ooey-gooey feeling someone gives you. It’s truth. It’s the Word of God.
It’s when you come into a person’s life and they are discouraged and they are afflicted and they are ready to give up and you say, “Wait a second, truth, isn’t there a heaven?” “Oh yeah.” “Truth, sowing and reaping. Doesn’t it happen at different times?” “Oh yeah.” “Truth, aren’t we living in a hostile environment? Why did you expect everything to be easy, to go well?”
See, the source of encouragement is in the context of meaningful relationships, we restore people’s perspective by giving them truth. Guess who the agent of encouragement is in the New Testament. Now and then it’s an angel. But ninety-five percent of the time, guess who the agents are. It’s us! Regular people.
In fact, if you wanted to sum it all up, we could say this, “We are to aid, help, support, and intercede for each other by means of comforting in affliction, strengthening in faith, and motivating toward righteousness.” In short, encouragement or this idea of building up others is taking the truth of Scripture by life and word in the context of meaningful, caring relationships to restore perspective and thereby provide hope, which carries us through affliction and above complacency. That’s what encouragement means.
Now, let me give you four quick reasons why we need to encourage one another and then I want to do today a little bit differently. I want to give you an example. I think we’ll learn more by just having an example than learning, “This is what it means here and this is what it means there.”
But let me give you four reasons why encouragement is absolutely critical. The first one is it’s commanded. And really, that’s enough. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”
However God has designed this life that we’re to go through in Christ, He never designed it for you to make it alone. We’re to encourage one another.
The second reason is because sin is deceitful. I already quoted Hebrews 3:13, “Lest your hearts be hardened.” The fact is, left to yourself, I’m left to myself, I will start to go into denial, I will start to compromise, I will start to move south.
Remember that old hymn, “prone to wander, Lord I…” It’s true. It’s old and it’s true. And left to yourself and me left to me, I get out of the context of meaningful relationships, I’ll give you Bible verses to support why I sin. I have seen it happen. See, we need one another to keep us focused.
Third, because spiritual growth requires it. 1 Thessalonians 3:2, the apostle Paul sends Timothy to this brand-new group of believers in Thessalonica, what, to strengthen and encourage them in their faith. You can’t grow to be all God wants you to be without the ministry of other people to comfort and to inspire, to motivate, literally, to ignite you to go on with the Lord.
The fourth reason is because we lose perspective so easily. The whole book of 2 Corinthians is a study in this. Paul talks about his ministry but in 2 Corinthians 7 verses 3 to 7, you’ve got the apostle Paul.
Now, the apostle Paul is a man of awesome gift, powerful intellect, amazing spiritual giftedness, right? In 2 Corinthians, he is ready to throw in the towel, he is ready to quit. When you read the passage carefully, he is clinically depressed.
But then he says, but God refreshed me through the coming of Titus – even the apostle. See, it’s not, well, if you have enough gift, or if you’re spiritual enough. There will be a time in your life, and it has probably already come, that you desperately need someone to come and strengthen you or you will fall flat on your face. So, that’s why encouragement.
But how do we do it? What’s it look like? How does it actually function in real life relationships? I think the best picture that I know of, there may be better, the best picture for me is in Hebrews chapter 10 verses 19 to 26 and I’ve put it in the notes, I put the text there.
Now, what I’d like to do is, you need to understand, the background of this book is here’s a group of people that are falling away from the living God. They are early Jewish Christians and when you came to Christ as a Jew, not only in that day but in this day, but especially in that day, you were totally ostracized.
If you had a job and you became a Christian, your job was likely gone. If you were a part of an extended family and you became a Christian, you said, “Jesus is the Messiah,” they had a funeral for you. Not only that, the Roman Empire was having its struggles and they found there was a good scapegoat, “Let’s blame the Christians.”
And so, to be a believer in the first century was like, not only a salmon swimming upstream but where the stream is really uphill. It was tough. And after a while, some of these early Jewish Christians were getting such flak, they were looking at each other and saying, “You know, we know what we know, but why don’t we just go back to the synagogue and let’s just cut it with this Jesus stuff. The price tag is too high.”
And they needed to be encouraged! They needed to remember what was really true. And so the writer of Hebrews, throughout the book, but especially in chapter 10, is going to encourage them and he does it just like how we’ve talked about.
In verses 19 to 21 he gives them two major facts. He says, “This is true.” And then in verses 22 to 26, he is going to say, “Therefore here are three actions.” And as we do this together, I think you’ll see some practical ways to encourage the people in your life and your network. Follow along as I read.
He says, “Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy places,” literally it’s the holy of holies. Remember? He’s speaking to Jews, he’s using all Jewish terminology. “…by the blood of Jesus, by a new and a living way, which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.”
Now, I’m a Jew and I’m thinking, “Let’s see, holy of holies, the only way to get in the holy of holies, well how? High priest, once a year. But we have a new way, not the old way, not the old covenant, a new and a living way.”
And the veil, what happened? When Jesus died on the cross the veil of the temple was what? Ripped in two. And so, there was now access, immediate, personal access for every believer, not through the blood of animal but through the blood of the Son of God. Every believer, he’s wanting to remind them, this is a fact, this is a truth, don’t give up what you have! You have one hundred percent available access to the living, holy God in the holy of holies, one hundred percent of the time because of what Jesus did on the cross, fact number one.
Fact number two, “And since we have a great high priest over the house of God,” then he’s going to make an application. Now, they know all about high priests. They know all about the need to have a priest to be an intercessor to represent you before God and represent God before you.
And he says, “Now you have a high priest but it’s not like the old way. Your High Priest is sitting at the right hand of the Father. You have a High Priest who is praying for you as Jesus is praying for us. When you go into the presence of God directly, not through anyone, not through the Law, but directly on the basis of faith through the blood of Christ and His resurrection, you have a High Priest and no matter where you’re at in your life, you have two things going for you. Number one, you have one hundred percent access to God, one hundred percent of the time. And when you get there you’ll never be alone.”
“When you come before God, as a believer,” he’s saying to these Jewish Christians, “there will be a High Priest at the right hand of God and He is called an advocate, a counselor,” 1 John, “our attorney, and He will plead your case.”
And so he gives them these two awesome facts that, for us, should blow our mind but especially for those Jews it was like, “Wow!” And so notice the structure in this passage, it starts out with, “Since, since,” the focus is on two facts. Now notice the structure, three key words, “Let us, let us, let us,” there are three exhortations.
Since those two things are true, now remember, these people are drifting away from God. What are the exhortations? Exhortation number one? Verse 22, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having,” or literally, “having had our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
It’s in the perfect tense, it’s a participle. He’s saying, “This already occurred to you, those who really believe,” he said, “let’s draw near to God. You’re drifting away from God,” he says, “draw near to God,” how? “sincerely, from the heart,” why? “because your hearts have been sprinkled, you all have been forgiven. Christ’s blood and work is applied to you. You can come with confidence. He has changed you.”
Second, verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Interesting little thought here, the word “hold fast” means someone who takes control of something. Someone who will hold something down. Someone who is mastering something.
He is saying, “Hold on to, don’t let go of,” what? “the confession of your faith. Remember that time when you came to Christ, when you said, ‘I believe in Him as the Messiah.’ Remember in your own life when you asked Christ to come into your life,” he says, “hold fast to that. Not wavering.” The word literally means “to lean away from.” “Not leaning away from God but leaning into Him,” why? “because He is faithful.”
See, he has given them truth. Two facts: Fact number one, access to the very presence of God is available one hundred percent of the time for a believer in Christ. Fact number two, regardless of where you’re at in your life, in your experience, when you go into His presence in prayer, you will never go alone. You will always meet a friend, an advocate, an attorney who is there to plead your case.
Therefore, do – what? Draw near to Him! How? Sincerely. Why? Because He has already forgiven you.
Step two, hold fast. Don’t let go of – what? What you’ve professed. Live out how you believe. Why? Because God is faithful, even if it’s hard He’s faithful.
Three, “And let us consider,” literally “give attention to, ponder, examine with regard to the spiritual welfare of one another in the body,” “let us consider how to stimulate,” or, “provoke one another to love and good deeds.”
Get your focus outward. Have relationships in the body of Christ where we motivate one another to look outward instead of inward. Because when you’re discouraged where do you look?
We do that analysis of a naval. “Oh my. Poor me. It really is hard. It’s harder than anybody else. I’ve got spiritual lint in my spiritual naval. It’s terrible.”
He says, “Provoke one another.” It’s a strong word. Only here used in the New Testament in a positive way. It literally means “to ignite.” What are we to ignite? “One another to love and good works, not forsaking the assembly of ourselves,” the idea of close relationship, “but being motivated,” why? “so much the more as we see the Day approaching.” The reference there is the return of Christ and judgment that’s going to come.
So, you see the structure, as you examine the structure there’s two facts out of those two words, “Since, since.” And the two facts are very, very simple. One, we have access into God’s presence because of the unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance provided by Christ. Fact two, since we never go into God’s presence alone, we never have to be afraid.
Three, “And let us consider,” literally “give attention to, ponder, examine with regard to the spiritual welfare of one another in the body,” “let us consider how to stimulate,” or, “provoke one another to love and good deeds.”
Now, let me play something out for you. I’m a Jew, I’ve denied my faith, I’m a Jew and I know what the story is and I have already gone back to some of my old ways. And then I get this letter. God could never accept me, right? I’ve already blown it.
Some of things I promised I would never do, I told all my friends, I’ve already reneged on my commitment. I’m born again, it really happened, but life got hard.
Does this mean that when you blow up in anger and when words come out of your mouth or you think them in your heart that cut and hurt and put down and crush others, that for you, entrance into God’s presence is one hundred percent available a hundred percent of the time? Yes. Yes. It’s what it means. And when you get there, you will have a counselor to plead your case.
“Now, Chip, are you telling me that this means that when right after, the moment after I give into a temptation to lust, right after I have lied to a business associate, right after I have passed on information about someone else that was unkind, immediately afterwards, right after that, at that moment, are you telling me that if I would choose to, I could come right before the presence of God, tell Him, ‘I’m sorry,’ and He would be a hundred percent available?
“And when I get there, there would be Christ to negotiate my case and explain to the Father how that was actual sin and that I’m sorry for it but He has done the ledger account and all the sin on my side of the ledger has been moved over to Christ and been forgiven and all the righteousness on His side of the ledger has been appropriated to me so the Father will look at me as I come in prayer right after doing that and forgive me?” That’s exactly what it’s saying.
“Are you really saying that right after you fail to speak up in class when your faith was attacked, right when you get home and feel that deep sense of guilt when you have gone too far sexually with your date? Immediately right then, sitting on your bed, feeling like the worst, lowest, most terrible person, you promised you wouldn’t do that. You made a commitment as a couple you wouldn’t do it, that right there, that night at one thirty in the morning, sitting on the edge of your bed, that you can enter directly into the presence of God and He is one hundred percent available a hundred percent of the time and is ready to forgive and to restore. And when you get there you won’t be alone.” That’s exactly what the Scripture is saying.
“Are you actually saying that when you haven’t read your Bible in days, maybe weeks, when praying has been a struggle or you have only shot up a few when life has got really hard. When your priorities are so out of line, when you have fallen back into patterns of lying, when you feel like, in your heart of hearts, you’re so far away from God, and you feel like – dirty, worthless, guilty, bad, hypocritical – God could never accept me.
“When you feel all that, at that very moment, after that kind of a lifestyle, are you actually saying that the Scripture is teaching that if we would confess that as sin, that we could come right before the presence of God and have one hundred percent access to the throne, a hundred percent of the time, and be met by a friend who would say, ‘What you did is wrong, what you did violated and broke My heart, but what I did on the cross has paid for it. I love you, I accept you, and we can go on.’” That’s exactly what this passage is teaching.
See, a lot of us grew up probably a lot like me and maybe it’s American culture or maybe it’s just how human beings are but when I, early in my Christian life and to degrees now, I always felt like little sins you had to feel bad for, like, ten, fifteen minutes. Know what I mean? Real bad.
But, the biggies? The habitual ones? The ones you promise God, “I’ll never do that, I’ll never,” I mean, you break one of the big top ten…
Those are, like, two to three day feeling bad about sins. You don’t want to read your Bible, you don’t want to pray, you haven’t prayed, don’t want to be around Christians, be superficial, get away, get alone, be depressed, feel guilty, get down on yourself, really down on yourself, it’s sort of a form penance. “I’m a bad person so I’ll punish myself to make me feel like a bad person,” and of course, are you moving closer and closer to God or farther and farther away?
See, that’s not how it works. See, the sooner we confess our sin, the sooner we draw near to God, immediately after we have sinned, the closer and the better and the more pleased God is.
Now, by the way, don’t get me wrong, “Hey, this sounds like a good formula. Man, I’m just going to go out and live like an absolutely wild man or wild woman and as soon as I get done I’ll say, ‘God, forgive me! And I know You promised to forgive me in future so while I’m sinning over here, I’ll…’” Uh-uh, uh-uh. What’s it say? How do you draw near? With a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.
God doesn’t cut deals, God doesn’t play games, He knows when you’re repentant, He knows when you really come and say, “Oh man, I’m sorry. I know I broke Your heart, I didn’t want to do it but I did it again.” But when you come honestly you are forgiven. You have access. You don’t have to wait two days, three days.
And so what’s one of the biggest things you think we need to do?
Here’s the first principle of encouragement. Biblical encouragement restores perspective.
See, what happens is when we sin, we draw away from God. The old adage, we sin, then we hide, then we run, right? And what does that do? If I’m a member of a small group and I have sinned and really blown it, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go.
When I’m involved in sin and I’ve done some things that I know that are wrong, do you just get up on Sunday morning or Saturday night and say, “Wow! I can’t wait to go to church and worship God and hear all those songs and hear someone talk out of the Bible and make me feel even more guilty. Can’t wait to go!” What do you do? You do what I do. You blow it off.
And that’s why, if you’re a member of a small group and they really know who you are, it’s one of the best things that happens to you because they’ll look through that, they’ll love you, they’ll accept you. But you know what? If you’ve got something you need to do, isn’t it amazing how our little human minds work?
You know, if you have something to do, “Oh, well, I better get this taken care of.” But if you don’t, what do you do? You spiral down, down, down, down, down, far away.
And so, one of the number one things we do, biblical encouragement restores perspective. The number one thing where we need to restore perspective is letting people know the truth. What’s the truth?
Whatever you did last night, whatever is in your past, whatever is in your closet, whatever you have done in any way, to anyone, wherever you are right now, God says, “Entrance, if you’re a believer in Christ, if you’re born again, if you’re part of His family, entrance into the very presence of God is one hundred percent available, one hundred percent of the time, for you, at this minute.”
And when you get there, you will not get a God whose arms are crossed, toe tapping, in your face saying, “Shame on you.” You will get a God who will let you know what a price He paid for you and if you come with a sincere heart, full assurance of faith, you will experience peace, you will experience forgiveness, you will experience restoration.
This may come, at least emotionally and psychologically, as news to you, God is not down on you. He’s really not. He is for you, He made you, He died for you, He loves you.
So, one of the major ministries of encouragement, we need to restore perspective for one another. To remind one another that access before God is available. How often? A hundred percent of the time. How much of His attention will we get? One hundred percent of it. When we get there, you’ll never get there alone. Christ is there waiting to restore.
Can you imagine what would happen in the body of Christ as that would happen more and more to one another?
I had an incident just recently with my wife and we were teaching this prayer class together and we’re learning a lot and, boy, just the needs in the class were just amazing and overwhelming and I was just really discouraged. And we got to talking and she made a simple statement. My perspective was just getting, like, “This is happening, and this is happening, and this is happening, and this is happening,” and I’m getting all ticked off because I have this other very unbiblical view that if you’re walking with God, if you’re obeying Him, and you’re doing what’s right, as far as you know, that there will just be blessing and things will go well.
It’s an interesting little theory but Jesus obeyed the Father, and it didn’t go well for Him. Paul obeyed the Father, and it didn’t go well for him. Stephen obeyed the Father and… not real good at all for him. Now, was there joy and great blessing in those men’s lives? Absolutely.
And my wife turned to me as we were talking, and she said, “You know,” she said, “honey, maybe we’re just experiencing the price tag of the privilege to get to teach on an area that has such potential to transform people’s lives. Maybe this is just what it costs.”
And you know what? I just went like this, “Doop! Oh, okay. Alright.” If you get to gain eight yards and a linebacker gets an open shot on you, boom! Okay. Gained eight yards. That’s the price tag. Do you want to gain eight yards or not? If you do, then you get hit by a linebacker, they get an open shot on you.
Ladies, that may not help you at all, that helped me a lot. That helped me a bunch. If that’s what it costs, that what it costs. What did I get? Perspective.
Notice the second thing here. The second thing here is, he goes on, “Let us hold fast.” We explained what that means. It means not wavering.
See, these things, they go in a progression, don’t they? When you don’t draw near to God, you can always tell when we’re struggling in our spiritual life, pretty soon, little dust on the Bible; prayers get shorter, superficial; we don’t want to be around the Christians that you really connect with, you avoid them. Well, don’t we?
So, we need perspective restored but then the next level, notice it says, “Hold fast. Hold fast your confession.” Live out what you say you believe. And, see, when we get discouraged, when we start losing hope we start saying, “This marriage isn’t worth it. I’m not fulfilled. This kid, you know what? We’ve tried and tried and tried. Just let him go. Who cares?”
We say, “You know, everybody else is cheating, so what? I’ll pad mine too.” And instead of enduring, instead of hanging tough, instead of walking in integrity, instead of keeping our commitments, we say, “You know, I’m not going to read the Bible, God’s not answering my prayers; you know, I’ve taken steps toward God, steps toward God and it’s just hard, hard, hard, hard, hard. I’m tired of this. I quit. I give up. I don’t want any more of this.” Welcome to life.
And so what do we need? We need to step into one another’s life to say: hold fast, don’t give up, don’t give in, every marriage goes through those seasons, every parent has ups and downs, and some very severe with kids. And you know what? The ones that hung in there, the ones that did it God’s way, the ones that trusted, you know what? What’s it say? What’s it say at the end of the verse? “Let us hold fast,” what’s it say? “He who promised is faithful,” not on your timetable, not in your way, not in my way, He is faithful.
You keep your marriage commitments, you keep your integrity, you keep your sexual purity, you keep getting into the Word and pray and ask and seek and you will find. But maybe not as quickly and maybe not in the way and maybe not the way you got it pictured in your mind.
And so, one of the second ways we must encourage one another is to endure, to remind each other, “God is faithful,” and I see this in the body. We all have these ebbs and flows and some of you, you’re up and encouraged and God is doing these great things and answering prayers and He is being faithful but you have been sowing for a long time. And some of us are down here right now. What we need is for you to say, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Don’t give up now. Don’t give up, it’s too soon to give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.”
Sometimes, the difference between success and failure in a marriage, in a parent, in a walk with God, in integrity is a simple word of encouragement. Who in your world needs a word of encouragement? Who do you know that is leaning away from God right now? Who is drifting away from God? Is it you? A friend? A mate? What do they need? They need perspective and they need to know sometimes you hold on, make a knot at the bottom of the rope and just enduring is great.
I remember sitting in a classroom and maybe one of the most discouraging days of my life. Working full-time and going to bed about twelve or one in the morning, getting up at five, and doing this crazy Greek and Hebrew and I was in my third year and I felt like, “You know, I came here, I’m doing what You want me to do, God. I’m giving it my best. I’m working full-time, I’m going to school full-time, I’m involved in this college ministry. We don’t have two nickels to rub against each other, I never know ever if I’m going to be able to pay the bills and each month, yeah, You’re faithful, yeah, that’s right. But I’m tired. And You know what? I don’t need this.”
And I remember sitting in the class and you ever get to one of those times where you just get numb? I couldn’t tell you what happened in the class and I couldn’t tell you that everybody got up and left and I was left alone in the class and I was just kind of numb.
Man, I was having this conversation, I came about this close to canning seminary. I had already put in three years, it was just like, “You know something? Man, I don’t need this. I’m more committed now than I have ever been committed in life, never been worse, do You hear that? I don’t have any money, I’m tired, I’m worn out. There’s more, more, more, more, more… You know what? I’ll tell you what… ” You know how you have these conversations in your mind? “I’m checking out. You can have my helmet, you can have my jersey, you can have my shoulder pads, you can go give them to someone,” you know? Not real good.
All this is in my mind. And I guess I looked around finally and people kind of know something is probably wrong when you’re walking around like this. You know? But I didn’t even know what was happening.
And so I’m sitting there and Dr. Ryrie came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, he said, “Chip, get a couple good nights’ sleep, get at least two or three good meals, and don’t make any important decisions in the next two or three days.” He patted me on the shoulder and walked out.
The guy wrote the Bible, I was going to listen to him. The Ryrie Study Bible. And you know what I did? I canceled a couple things, I went home and got a couple good nights’ sleep, I splurged and got a couple good meals. And, you know, three days later? I was really thankful that I was in seminary. What a privilege.
See, the difference between success and failure, you know what it is? A simple word of encouragement. Who needs that from you?
Encouragement is taking the truth, in a context of a meaning and careful relationship, and restoring someone’s perspective. It’s encouraging them to endure and, third, it’s inspiring spiritual growth.
Notice verses 24 and 25, “Also and let us consider,” a great word. Let us be sensitive, let us have our spiritual antennas up and know the spiritual welfare of people that are around us.
How do we inspire spiritual encouragement? Look on the back. By stimulating one another to Christ-like attitudes and actions. Love and good works.
Love is the outward, agape, unconditional focus and concern for other people. Good works are specific acts of kindness. You don’t do that naturally and I don’t do that naturally. We need one another to do – what? Get our focus out there. Get our focus out there.
See, left to yourself, you will analyze your naval and I’ll analyze mine. And we’ll make this case of how hard and how terrible and it’s not really going good and I’m not fulfilled and there’s this and there’s this, and then add: watch two movies, seven commercials, read two magazines, and you’ll be convinced: “I’ll bail.”And you’ll wake up one lonely, hurting, destroyed person with fragmented relationships and kids going between houses, economically unsound, emotionally bankrupt.
And one day you’ll wake up, as a fellow I talked to this week, who said, “I have been away from God for a long time and I’ll tell you what, when you are, the bill is very high.” Forgiveness is always available but the bill, the price is very high.
We need to encourage, to stimulate, to provoke each other to – what? Go to the next level. Get your focus outward! Who can you love? Love them whether you get it back or not! Be like Christ.
And in giving, what does Jesus promise? You will receive. The same amount? No! Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, you get more back! Give. We’re to provoke each other to do that, inspire one another to grow spiritually.
Secondly, by refusing to allow one another to drift from regular attendance at worship and small group time, not forsaking the assembly of ourselves. Who do you know drifting? Go get them. Go get them in love. Go get them! Go get them! Go get them! Don’t let them drift! Because they are just like you and they are just like me and it doesn’t mean they are godly, not godly, it doesn’t mean they’re not great people.
It just means left to ourselves, when you are moving this way instead of this way in relationship to the body of Christ, you’re on a bad trail, going a bad direction, and bad things are going to happen. We are commanded, go get them, love them, give them a call, write them a letter, meet them for lunch.
Finally, by reminding one another of the certainty and the accountability involved in Christ’s return. When Jesus comes back, we get a report card. The reference here is to the Bema Seat where Christians will be evaluated. He’s going to come back!
Stimulate one another to – what? Two things. Love and good works. How? Don’t let us drift from our relationships with each other. Why? Because He is coming back as you see the Day approaching. Help other people be winners. Help other people finish well.
“God, I want to finish well.” I don’t know, I don’t know on probably both hands the number of people that I know that have finished well. I know a lot of people that have good spans and a decade here or fifteen years or twenty years and really walked with the Lord. And I know a lot of people that sort of back off. I don’t know many people that go for it, man! I mean, go for it and end going for it. I want to be like that. I want to finish well. Don’t you? I can’t do that by myself. I need you and we need one another.
Let me give you some action steps so we take the theoretical, the concept, and the truth and put it into practice.
Number one, who do you know that needs some encouragement? Will you pull out a pen if you got it? Who do you know that needs some encouragement? Write their name down. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Who do you know? Who is leaning away from God? Who is starting to drift? Who is way out there?
Second, what truth or biblical passage would help restore their perspective? Maybe they need to endure adversity or maybe they need to be stimulated to spiritual growth. What truth? Pray that through. Because when you get with them, you don’t want to just sympathize, you want to pull them in, you want to give them perspective, you want to help them endure.
Third, what would be the best way to communicate your encouragement to them? A letter? By person? Phone call? In a group? Maybe it’s an act of kindness. Or maybe it’s meeting a need. But what are you going to do this week to become God’s agent of blessing to encourage?
If every one of us come up with one name and little stones go into the pond of God’s blessing and people get encouraged, do you understand what will happen in the body? Awesome things. Jesus said, “Love one another.” One of the great ways we do it is by encouraging each other, restoring perspective, promoting endurance, and spurring on to spiritual growth.