November 21, 2021
We live in a world of put downs and tear downs. Now a “put down” is a disparaging, belittling or snubbing remark. A put down is meant to criticize or humiliate the recipient. Growing up I often heard the mantra: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, that’s just not true. Millions of men and women are in therapy today because of wounds inflicted in them by words spoken to them either by others or by their own hearts. Words like these: You’re worthless. You’re ugly. You will never amount to much. You disappoint me. Why can’t you be more like your brother? You are too fat. You are too thin. You don’t have what it takes. You should be ashamed of yourself. I hate you. I wish you were never born.
Our words have much power. Our words have the power to crush spirits; but they also have the ability to lift spirits, to bring strength to the weary, give hope to the hopeless, and make souls stronger. Words like these: You matter. You’re truly gifted. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are God’s beloved. I see Jesus in you. I see love in you. I value you. I need you. I respect you. I like you. I forgive you. I love you.
What I’m talking about is the power of encouragement. Everyone needs encouragement. We need to know our lives matter. We need to know we are loved and appreciated. Every one of us needs courage to face the difficulties of life. Like I said last week, we need each other to stay the course together. But we also need the encouragement we CAN GIVE to one another to help us stay the course.
So that’s what we’re going to look at today from God’s Word: Everyone needs encouragement and we have the power to give it. In fact, the Bible gives us numerous ways we can inspire hope, or instill courage to stay the course as followers of Jesus Christ… So, today we are going to look at six ways God says we can encourage one another as God’s people. In other words, when we encourage one another we become the kind of church our world can’t resist. In fact, if you were here last week we looked at three practices from Hebrews 10:24-25 that make God’s people irresistible to the world. The first practice was this: An Irresistible Church Stirs Up Love Together People are attracted to a community that is full of love for one another. So God wants us to provoke one another to love and good deeds. To incite a riot of love amongst our fellowship. For as Jesus said, If you love one another as I have loved you, the world will know we are His disciples.
The next practice we looked at was this: An Irresistible Church Stimulates Good Works Together People are attracted to acts of kindness and grace. And that’s who God is calling us to be with one another. People are looking for a community to belong where they can experience kindness not condemnation; grace not judgment. And a church who practices acts of kindness with one another will become an irresistible church.
And the third practice was this: An Irresistible Church Stays the Course Together People are looking for a community that doesn’t quit on you when times get tough, a community you can rely on for life, love, strength, growth and protection. And we can be that kind of community when we love the Church like Christ loves His church and when we see the Church as God sees His Church – as a community where every single person is valuable and every single person is needed.
And so today we’re going to unpack that final practice that makes for an irresistible church: when we encourage one another. There are so many ways we can do that. And the first way comes from Hebrews 10:25, and that is this: We encourage one another…
When We Speak Life-Giving Words to One Another: Let me read Hebrews 10:24-25 for us again: “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 10:25
Our word, “encouraging” is from the Greek parakaleo, and has many meanings determined by the context from which it is used. It can be translated as “counsel”or “comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, exhort.” In fact, a form of this word was used by Jesus in naming the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 And I will askthe Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.
Encouraging of one another in this way is one way we allow the Holy Spirit to work among us. So then to encourage means coming alongside a person, joining them in their journey and speaking words that encourage this traveler to keep pressing on despite obstacles or fatigue. The image that helps us understand this kind of encouragement can be seen in your child running a race. There you stand near the end of the race, and you see your child struggling. She’s tired, she doesn’t have much left, but she’s almost there. So you yell, “Come on, only a few more yards. You’ve got this. Keep pushing! We’re proud of you.” And then your daughter HEARS your words of encouragement and the support and love coming through your words pumps renewed strength into her lungs and her legs, and gives her what she needs to keep going and finish the race. That’s what God wants His church to be full of: cheerleaders who come alongside and speak truth that help us stay the course – to keep going, and to finish the race.
Life is hard. Following Jesus is hard. Being the only one standing up for Christ in a world that opposes the gospel is hard. Every one of us needs others to come alongside us in the journey, to encourage us to stay the course. That’s one of the reasons we call our groups, Journey Groups. For together we can come alongside and speak truth and life and hope into one another’s lives. We are in this together.
In fact, writer Ann Voskamp once said, “only speak words that make souls stronger.” I like that. As I said earlier, we live in a world that majors in put downs, in criticism and judgment. As God’s people we are to major in words that lift up, build up, and put courage in us to keep going. Words like, “I see the compassion of Christ in you.” “I appreciate you.” “I’m so glad you’re my brother.” “I appreciate your patience with me.” “I’m so thankful for your faithfulness.” “You have a great smile.” “I’m glad you’re here.” Your friendship is such a blessing to me.” “I love you.” Our words don’t have to be flattering, they just need to be honest.
So let’s spur one another on with encouragement. Let’s be known as the cheerleader church. Let’s draw near one another and encourage one another in our journey together. So let me make a few suggestions how you might put this into practice:
Begin with your spouse. Practice speaking life giving words to your spouse today. Tell her how she brightens your life. “Becky brightens my life every day.” Tell him what you RESPECT about him. Men are fueled by respect. Then think about your brothers and sisters. Who needs encouragement today? Make a point to email or call a brother or sister this week to encourage him or her. Write a note. I love how everyone who is going through an illness or struggle in our Church family gets a note from our mercy team. We all need that kind of encouragement. And then there’s Thanksgiving Day. Be the one in your gathering who initiates words of sincere thanks for the people in your life. Be the encouragement your family needs, your church needs, our world needs. Everyone needs encouragement. God wants Us to be known for words that lift up, not tear down. That’s the first way we can encourage one another. Now, the next way is closely related to the first, we encourage one another:
When We Come Alongside One Another: Earlier in this letter to the Hebrews the author gives this command: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13
Again, this command carries the idea of strengthening by coming alongside. We cannot strengthen one another from a distance. It takes being in CLOSE PROXIMITY. Just your presence brings encouragement to others in the body. I love how Professor Albert Mohler says it, “We cannot have confidence and full assurance of faith apart from the church. We cannot endure in isolation. Each Christian desperately needs the body of believers for encouragement.”
Again, one of the devil’s schemes is to get us to isolate ourselves from other Christians. He knows if we are not getting the love and support of our brethren, he can not only discourage us, but he can deceive us. Giving and receiving encouragement then, is essential to the building of our faith. Without the encouragement we receive from one another we can fall prey to the deceitful lies of the culture around us, which can create in us a hard heart of unbelief.
What happens is this: When we isolate ourselves from relationships with God’s people, we allow ourselves to become more and more influenced by a culture that opposes God. It starts subtle enough. One sin embraced by the culture becomes acceptable to you, then another, then another. Pretty soon you become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
And the danger of this deceitfulness is that it creates in you a heart that becomes hardened to the things of God. And the danger of developing a heard heart is not just that you might stumble. The danger of developing a hard heart is that it will lead to a denial of God and rejection of His grace in Jesus Christ.
Now, I am not saying that you can lose your salvation. Because Jesus says, He will lose none that are His. And the Bible tells us that anyone who has faith in Jesus has received the Holy Spirit, the mark of God in us that guarantees our salvation. But what this passage is saying, is that if we isolate ourselves from the fellowship with God’s people, we put ourselves in a place where our faith can be eroded – and eventually hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
So, we really do need each other. None of us is meant to go it alone. And sometimes just your presence, just being there will encourage a brother or sister to stay the course. We forget we are in a spiritual battle. And sometimes we forget just how important our presence is to one another. This is why we are not to forsake the gathering together, whether that be in worship, or in a journey group or serving alongside others in the cause of Christ. For God made it so we need the support and strength of one another to keep from falling away. We encourage one another when we come alongside one another. That’s a second way God gives us to encourage one another. He’s a third: We encourage one another…
When We Are Taught the Scriptures: Paul was clear about this in his letter to the Romans where he wrote: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4 When we learn the story of God – that from the very beginning God has been working to restore mankind to relationship with Himself, we understand God is still writing His story in our lives today. We see that God is still at working to change lives with the good news of Jesus. Under the teaching of Scripture we’re reminded that God sent Jesus to rescue us from this present evil age. Under the teaching of Scripture, we are reminded that this world is not our home. That we are strangers and aliens in this world. Under the teaching of Scripture, we are reminded that our home is with God, that our life is in Christ, and our hope is in the Gospel, and there will be a day when we will see Him face to face. And on that day history will come to a conclusion. On that day every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. But until that day, Jesus says that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart “be encouraged” for He has overcome the world.
We need the teachings in this book. It is God’s living Word. It’s full of His promises to us. It reminds us that we’re His beloved. It reminds us that He will always be with us, never against us, and always for us. It teaches us about His kingdom, His ways, His will. It is full of hope, full of encouragement, full of life – and it points us to Jesus, who loved us enough to die for us to bring us to God. So when we sit under the teaching of God’s Word we get encouragement. That’s why just reading the Bible together can lift you up, build your faith, and help you endure whatever you’re facing. That’s a third way we can encourage one another. Here’s a fourth. We encourage one another…
When We Serve One Another: Paul wrote how he was hoping to be encouraged on his visit to the Roman church in his introduction of his letter to them, saying, For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 The purpose of spiritual gifts is that we might use them to be a conduit of grace to one another. When you serve me, you impart God’s grace to me. When I serve you, I impart God’s grace to you. And the goal of serving one another with our spiritual gifts is that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. That’s why in a gathering of believers there are those with the gifts of mercy, so they will provide comfort and care to the hurting. That’s why when you have the gift of giving, you don’t think twice about coming to the aid of someone with a need. What a blessing it is when a brother or sister sees your need and helps to meet it. We’ve experienced this just this past week. We just recently learned that our new car was totaled in the accident. We received a payout this week. But our insurance on our rental ended with the payout. The problem with that is that there are no cars available to purchase. We put money down to reserve a new car when it comes in at the end of December. We were in need. Someone in our Church family saw our need and offered their car. Now we have something to drive. What an encouragement!
That’s what our gifts used in serving one another are meant to do. To give encouragement. God uses our gifts to comfort, to help, to encourage, to lead, to teach, to impart wisdom, to give and to love. When we’re together, we can experience mutual encouragement as we use whatever gift God has given us to serve one another. And when we do we not only help one another, but we build up our faith, we instill hope and give strength to stay the course. And of course, that leads to a fifth way we get to encourage one another. We encourage one another…
When We Give Love to One Another: Listen to this personal expression of encouragement Paul experienced from Philemon. He writes to him, Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:7 Notice, it wasn’t Philemon who loved Paul that encouraged Paul. It was Philemon’s love for God’s people that encouraged him.
Here’s the thing: Anytime any of God’s people seek what is best for another of God’s people, it shows that the love of Jesus Christ is alive in that church. And that’s encouraging to those who witness it. Whenever we love as Christ loved us, we encourage one another. It encourages me when I hear that one of the women in our church brought a meal to one of our family this week. It encourages me to hear that one of our men invited two new guys to join us in our journey group. It encourages me to see people stepping up to serve without being asked. It encourages me to see God move our people to give every dollar needed to pay the postage on over 3000 Shoeboxes. It encourages me to see people inviting new people to join them for lunch. You see, every time you give love to someone you refresh the hearts of God’s people. That’s what an irresistible church does. It gives love! That’s a fifth way God says we can encourage one another. Now a final way. We encourage one another…
When We Stand Firm in the Lord Together: Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8
In this last form of encouragement, Paul expresses how the Thessalonian’s unwavering faith in Jesus Christ had encouraged him. When he heard Timothy’s report of their standing firm in the faith, this message gave him new strength, it invigorated his faith. It gave him strength to carry on in the midst of his afflictions.
Again, this is why remaining faithful to the fellowship of God’s people is so important – for when you stand firm in Christ with God’s people, you encourage those who serve with you, you encourage those who watch over you, you encourage those who pray for you, and you encourage everyone else who is standing firm with you. You can never underestimate the power of your faithfulness to Jesus Christ. It not only invigorates the faith of those you fellowship with, but it encourages your Pastor, it encourages your children, it encourages your grandchildren when we stand firm together in Jesus.
It’s obvious to me, and I hope it’s obvious to you that God put us together to encourage one another. For our lives will continue to be filled with joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, times of blessing and times of trial. That’s why God put us together in His Church, so we can help one another stay the course together.
We all need encouragement to finish the journey. And God put us together to help one another along the way. So, let me ask you: Who needs encouragement today?
I began today talking about the power of an encouraging word. Do you know I still remember the day I received my report card at the end of Spring Semester of my Junior year at Corban University. There was one little note written on my Theology Report Card from Dr Miller, my professor. He said, “I can see God using you to do great things.” I’ve never forgotten that. Those words encourage me even today. So let me close with these words. “I see the love of God in you, and I know He’s going to use you to do great things with Him, as you love and encourage one another.” Let’s pray.