Lucia's Blog: ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, May 30, 2019

ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."  
1 Thessalonians 5:11


Fifty days after Jesus died on the cross, the risen Christ stirred His apostles to announce a message that pricked the hearts of 3,000 and formed a community of diverse but committed souls. There is no doubt that they all wanted to please their Lord, but the weakness of men often kept them from following through on their good intentions. Within the group, someone had to step forward with love and zeal and encourage those who stumbled or fainted in the way. The Bible is filled with examples of men who lifted others and helped them continue on their journey.

The road that we travel as Christians is often hard because we must strive to do God’s will. The Lord has given us each other to encourage us along the way.  Encouragement is "giving someone confidence and courage to do something."   Let us focus on the power of encouragement from God and one another. We must start this journey of encouragement by reminding ourselves that God expects His children to be courageous, for He has always demanded bravery.  He expects His children to have a courageous and encouraging heart that is strong enough to do what is right to please Him.  Even when it is difficult and the road seems to be hopeless, and our circumstances are negative, encouragement can change a person's life for better in significant ways. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, we Christians are urged to watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong, and do all things in love.  Paul is urging us to be courageous, for God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control.  God expects us to be strong, encouraging, courageous, and not be afraid or timid or cowards.  He does not want His children to be scaredy-cats!  He demands that we be strong and steadfast in our heart and mind, for we must be courageous as Christians!  Consider some Bible examples of brave heroes of the faith who encourage us to follow their example.


I.   BIBLE EXAMPLES OF ENCOURAGERS:

  • Moses:  (Deut. 31:1-6; 1:37; 3:27; 4:21-22; 31:1-6; Exod. 3:11;4:10-17)
As I think of examples of encouragement in the Bible, Moses comes to mind. Moses changed people's lives by the way he encouraged the Israelites to be faithful to God. And though the nation had many problems, Moses still showed the power of encouragement. His positive influence helped the nation of Israel for the better because of his encouragement.  He encouraged Joshua.  When Israel finished its forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God did not allow Moses to enter the promised land because he disobeyed God earlier.  Despite this, Moses encouraged the people, reminding them that God would go before them and fulfill His promises with Joshua as their leader (Deut. 31:1-6).  He summoned and encouraged Joshua before all the people to trust in the LORD his God and to lead His people well.
"Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."  (Deut. 31:7-8).  

Moses encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous, in body and mind, as he went forth and faced great difficulties and overwhelming odds.  With confidence Moses encouraged Joshua, never doubting that God was going to lead His people to victory.  He encouraged Joshua to trust in God, for He was going to be with him, go before him and would not forsake him.  You can be sure that such encouragement gave Joshua the confidence that he needed to be faithful to God and to God's people, to lead them well despite what they might face along their journey.  Moses, the man who once refused to lead the people out of Egypt, encouraged a new generation because of what God had done in his own life (Exod. 3:11; 4:10-17).  May we be encouraged with godly and mature leaders like Moses to rise up and be faithful to God (2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:1-8; 1 Pet. 5:1-5).

  • Joshua:  (Joshua 1:1-9; 5:13-15)
Not only did Moses encourage Joshua, but God also stirred Joshua to great confidence (Deut. 31:23).  God appointed Joshua as Moses' successor before Moses died.  God used the same three-fold encouragement that Moses gave Joshua.  After Moses died, God spoke to Joshua and confirmed His promise to be with him (Josh. 1:5).  God assured Joshua that He would be with him anywhere he went and that he would be successful. He challenged him to be strong and courageous three times (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9).  God continued to encourage Joshua as he led His people (Josh. 5:13-15).  Joshua learned to trust that God's promises were true as God continued with him, for he knew God would not forsake His people.  What an encouragement for us today! God keeps His promises, and we must learn to rely on Him in faith and love! (Heb. 13:4-6).

  • Joshua and Caleb:  (Numbers 13 & 14)
Before the twelves spies entered the land of Canaan to spy it out, Moses instructed them to "be of good courage."  (Num. 13:20).  Although the land was good when they examined it, ten of the twelve spies brought a negative report.  They fearfully declared that the people who dwell in Canaan were too big and strong to be displaced.  They reported that the Canaanite cities were fortified and impossible to overthrow.  They felt like grasshoppers in comparison to the giants of that land.  Out of the twelves spies, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones that had confidence and courage.  They gave a good and positive report about the land, crying out that the LORD was with them. The inhabitants of that land would not be able to stand against God, and that there was no reason to be afraid.  But when they heard these words of truth, the people wanted to stone them and put them to death for their courage.  But God rewarded Joshua and Caleb for being brave, and courageous (Num. 14:29-30).  Both men encourage us to be brave despite our fears, doubts, and discouragement, for they trusted in God alone to help them win the victory.

  • Gideon:  (Judges 7)
What an excellent example of encouragement and courage!  Despite the Midianites being numerous as locusts (Judg. 7:12), God forbade the 32,000 Israelite soldiers from going into battle against the Midianites.  He knew that the Israelites would be deceived into thinking that they had gained their victory because of their vast number of men, 32,000 soldiersSo, He reduced Gideon's army to 300 men, leaving Gideon afraid to attack with such a small amount of men against the massive Midianite force.  But God helped and boosted Gideon's confidence, allowing him to overhear the conversation of two men from their enemy's army about a dream.  These Midianites were sure that God was going to deliver the entire camp of the Midianites into their enemy's hand.  Gideon was encouraged by this.  So he obeyed God and defeated the Midianites with that small army.  He took courage and was able to finish the task God had entrusted to him, for He knew God was with him and the Israelites to help them overcome their enemies.

  • David:  (1 Samuel 17)
Another example is David. David's courage to fight Goliath encouraged or inspired the army who were terrified by the Philistine giant. The Philistine giant and champion had defied the Israelite army for forty days, mocking them to provide someone to fight with him.  Imagine if this giant had won, the Israelites would have had to serve the Philistines!  But, if the Israelites won, the Philistines would have to serve Israel!  The Israelites were terrified by this giant, for he was immense in size and no one could challenge him.  David, a young boy, and shepherd observed Goliath's taunting when he brought some things to his brothers who were fighting in Israel's army.  He couldn't fathom why Israel's army was allowing this "uncircumcised Philistine" to "defy the armies of the living God."  (I Sam. 17:26).  But this remarkable young man volunteered to fight this giant, Goliath.  King Saul tried to persuade him to change his mind, for he didn't think that David had a chance of killing such a giant.  But David said to Saul,
"Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.' 37 And David said, 'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'Go, and the Lord be with you!'" (1 Sam. 17:36-37).  

After David's words, Saul provided David an armor, but David refused it and chose instead to go into the battlefield with only his staff, sling, five smooth stones, and great courage, trusting God to help him win.  So, David hit this giant into his forehead with a stone from his sling, struck him and killed him.  He then proceeded to cut off this giant's head with his sword.  David is a perfect example of courage and encouragement for us today, for he trusted in God to give him victory!

  • Jonathan:  (1 Samuel 16:12-13; 18:1-4)
Jonathan, Saul's son, was a great example of courage. He was an enormous encouragement in the life of David, especially when Saul was determined to murder him.  Jonathan’s devotion to both God and David took center stage during Jonathan’s visit to the future king’s place of hiding.  An exhausted and depressed David found refuge in the desert of Ziph.  When Jonathan found him there, their final encounter, he gave David what he needed the most, encouragement.  His example of encouragement motivates us to encourage a discouraged friendJonathan sought for David until he found him instead of waiting for an invitation, for he knew that David was discouraged.  Once Jonathan was at David's side, he spoke words of encouragement that gave David strength and courage in God.  Jonathan reminded David of God's plan for him, for God had made it clear to him that he would be king one day.  Jonathan did not wait for David and King Saul to be close friends.  The king relentlessly pursued David hoping to take his life. In the desert, David had forgotten or lost faith in God’s plan.  But Jonathan sensed David’s despair, and reminded him of God’s plan, for David would be the king and Jonathan would be second to him.  Jonathan renewed his commitment to David in the form of a covenant. Early in their friendship, both had made a beautiful oath or covenant to one another. The day that David killed Goliath, the hearts of the two men were knit together! (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Jonathan reminded David that nothing had changed any of that. Nor had his father’s hatred of David.  Such an amazing heart is remarkable beyond words!!  Jonathan is an excellent example of encouragement, for he remained faithful to his friend despite adversity or circumstances.  He remained at his beloved friend's side!  Jonathan accomplished what true friends do, for he showed his love by going to David and speaking words that renewed his hope in God and took away his discouragement.  May we be loyal friends to those who need us like Jonathan.

  • Nehemiah:  (Nehemiah 2:17-20; 4:6-10; 6:3, 15)
No example of encouragement is better than Nehemiah. He was a cupbearer to the Persian king and an exceptional leader and encourager who had a heart of compassion for his people. He prayed to God on behalf of his people whom he loved (Neh. 1-2). He sacrificed his comfortable lifestyle to help the nation of Israel implement a plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. You see, to encourage others often demands personal sacrifice and planning, because encouragement does not happen by accident. Nehemiah inspired the children of Israel to action through his positive influence and encouragement. Nehemiah's words to them were:
"You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision. 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, 'Let us rise up and build.' So they strengthened their hands for the good work.'" (Neh. 2:17-18).

And even though Nehemiah had to endure scorn, he still did not give up but chose to be a mighty encourager. He said to his people, "The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.” (Neh. 2:20). He did not allow himself and his people to be discouraged or be diverted by their enemies. Nehemiah did not quit when he was faced with an abundance of distractions and enemies but rather encouraged and exhorted his people to not become weary. Their enemies were conspiring against them as they built the walls (Neh. 4:6-10). Because Nehemiah relied on God strongly and trusted in Him, he was able to speak powerful words of encouragement and wisdom to help and motivate the builders to finish the job completely. He encouraged them until the task was completed! (Neh. 6:3, 15).

  • Daniel:  (Daniel 6)
In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, 605 BC, the Babylonian army marched across the land of Israel, destroying Jerusalem and laying waste the villages and the countryside. Daniel and his people were captured and led away in chains into Babylonian captivity.  There Daniel was educated in the philosophies and pagan ideas of the Babylonians.  Though Daniel was taught these pagan and ungodly ways, he refused to embrace them, for he remained faithful and true to his Jehovah God.  He faithfully embraced the true wisdom of God, becoming a prominent advisor in the royal court of Babylon. Because of his wisdom and faithfulness and good reputation, Daniel served in two empires, in the courts of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and King Darius the Mede.  There he acknowledged the fullness of God's purpose in his life.  However, the governors and satraps were jealous of him, plotting and bringing charges against him to get rid of him.  And though they couldn't find anything wrong to accuse him, they used his faith and conviction against him.  They were aware that he always prayed, so they appealed before King Darius' pride to sign an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever should make petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to him, must be cast into the den of lions.  Even though Daniel was a friend of the king, the king failed to realize that this law might affect his friend.  But Daniel kept praying to God three times a day with the windows open (6:10).  Daniel was accused of disobeying the king's laws and was thrown into a den of lions, but God delivered him.

Even though Daniel experienced suffering, anxiety, humiliation, and persecution as a captive of the Babylonians, God was with him, providing for him.  Daniel is a role model, an example to us of the power of one person to make a difference. His story speaks to us across the ages and reminds us of who God is and what He can do in the life of His faithful servants.  One lesson of encouragement for us in the life of Daniel is that God is with us in times of trial, persecution, and temptation. We can always count on God to deliver us during the difficult circumstances we face!  His purposes are ultimately for our own goodNo matter what happens to us, if we stand firm and faithful to God's principles of righteousness like Daniel did, we can rest assured that God will be on our side to help us, for He will never forsake or abandon His faithful children.

  • Peter & John:  (Acts 4-5)
In the early church, those who preached the Gospel were usually threatened with persecution.  In Acts 4:3, Peter and John were arrested for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection.  The Jewish religious leaders threatened them severely demanding that they stop speaking and teaching about Jesus and His Way.  Instead both men showed a great deal of courage and conviction, continuing to do what they knew was right and pleasing to the Lord.  They faithfully announced, "We must obey God rather than men."  (Acts 5:29).  Their example of courage and conviction toward our Lord and His cause is the most excellent motivator for us.

  • Paul:  (Acts 20)
Paul was determined to preach the Gospel and go to Jerusalem even though he knew he would be persecuted and killed (Acts 20:22-24).  Paul was a man of great courageHis courage led him to serve God to the best of his ability.  He didn't mind dying while serving the Lord faithfully, for he was determined to do what was right regardless of the consequences.  What an example of encouragement for us today!  Paul, like the others, trusted in God and demonstrated it in their lives with courage.

  • Jesus:  (Hebrews 2:18; 7:25; Romans 8:34; John 1:41-42; John 4)
Our Lord Jesus showed encouragement to others like no one else.  He encouraged Matthew, a tax collector who was despised as an outcast by most Jews.  Jesus saw Matthew's potential and encouraged him.  Because of Jesus' encouragement toward him, Matthew was able to overcome anything, even the materialism that might have afflicted him as a tax collector.  Matthew devoted his life to sharing his newfound riches with others because of Jesus' encouragement.  Another example is given to us of Jesus' encouragement in John 8, where He offered encouragement to a woman caught in adultery (John 8:10-11).  Jesus never declared her innocent of the charges against her, and she did not try to deny it.  Jesus never considered adultery to be a small sin and of little importance to God.  Adultery was punishable by death under the Old Law where there were at least two witnesses.  But Jesus chose not to see her soul as hopeless but believed that she would follow Him to start living a better life, free of sin (John 8:12).  Jesus did not limit her by her weakest moment, nor did He put her under a civil legal microscope.  He encouraged her to live a better life, for Jesus saw the potential in her and helped her to be restored and have confidence.  Jesus also wants us to encourage one another to good works (Heb. 10:24-25).  He does not want us to tear others down but rather to build them up.
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Another example is the woman at the well in John 4.  Here we find a friendless, lonely woman, for she had no husband, and no children.  She was likely rejected by many because of her lifestyle.  This poor woman needed a friend and a people to belong to.  It is hard to build any relationship when you have no one to teach you, but with God, everything is possible.  God sent His Son that we might have a relationship with Him.  Jesus crossed enormous cultural and social boundaries when He spoke to this woman, pursuing a relationship with this hopeless and helpless woman who was excluded from society.  Jesus risked everything and got involved in this woman's life!  Christ wants us to encourage one another in our walk with Him, for He wants to give our lives meaning and purpose. He wants us to have a relationship with Him, as well as with one another, realizing our purpose in life.  Jesus is an excellent encourager, for He knows our pains, disappointments, and trials (Heb. 2:18).  He provides encouragement for our spiritual needs (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).  But, we must listen to Him to find spiritual encouragement.

The early church followed Jesus' attitude of encouragement, for they showed encouragement to one another (Acts 2:42-47) and clung to each other in faithfulness to God.  They encouraged each other to remain faithful in worshipping the Lord (Heb. 10:24-25), and continued in fellowship, sharing the Lord’s Supper together, praying, praising God, and having favor with one another.  Encouragement was the trademark of their strong faith (Acts 11:23-24; 14:22; 20:1, 31).  Indeed, the early church modeled Jesus' teaching and excellent example.  We must use God's Word to be effective encouragers, not our cleverness or intelligence.  Thus, as faithful disciples of Christ, we must try to encourage one another daily (Heb. 3:13).  We must keep our eyes open to find opportunities to encourage others (family, neighbors, brethren, friends, etc.) like Jesus did and like many other faithful Christians.

  • Barnabas:  (Acts 4:36; 13:5, 13; 15:37)
Barnabas is referred to as the "Son of Encouragement"  (Acts 4:36).  Although we're not given much detail about Barnabas in the Bible, this remarkable man is the king of encouragers and well deserves his nickname!  We must stress the importance of encouragement when someone obeys the Gospel and is converted to Christ if we want to help him reach his potential for the Lord.  I cannot help but think of Barnabas as an excellent example of this!  He was a special man in the lives of many first-century ChristiansThose who serve and encourage babes in Christ, as well as other disciples who are struggling, such saints are very special people!  This sort of encouragement is a gift that can never be repaid.  All mature Christians must strive to become a Barnabas in the lives of others.  Barnabas was indeed a special encourager to John Mark.  He played an essential role in the life of this young man, for he helped John Mark to restore his lost confidence.  And that is what encouragers do!  In Acts 13:5, John Mark went with Paul and Barnabas on their first evangelistic journey.  He joined them to help preach the Gospel and save souls, which is very commendable!  However, in Acts 13:13, Mark left the group at Perga and chose to return to Jerusalem after traveling to just a few places.  So why did he quit or get discouraged?  We're not told the answer to that question, but we do know that Paul was not very happy about John Mark's departure.  On Paul's second trip, he insisted on using men of proven character.  So, he had no interest in taking John Mark with him again.  John Mark's ministry might have ended at this point, were it not for Barnabas.  Barnabas thought it was unfair to hold John Mark's mistake over his head and label him as a quitterDespite how hard Paul tried to change Barnabas' mind about John Mark, he still couldn't persuade him, but Barnabas stuck by him, offering forgiveness, acceptance, and confidence, for he was willing to give him a second chance!!  Barnabas did not say, "let's wait five or ten years for him to prove himself."  John Mark needed help and encouragement right then, not later in the future! 

Sadly, some can never forget the past sins of their companions, even when they have thoroughly repented.  Such an attitude of heart is very discouraging!  Barnabas expected the best from people, in the same way that Jesus did. We must be grateful and encouraged by men like Barnabas who are willing to help modern-day John Marks recover their confidence.  Barnabas' effort paid off, for even Paul acknowledged Mark's usefulness to his ministry (2 Tim. 4:11).  Isn't it something that the discouraged young man became the encourager to Paul!  So we must strive to encourage those who have struggled or failed and make a positive difference in their lives!


CONCLUSION:

So, what is the lesson for us today? That we must resolve today to have that kind of encouragement and determination to change people's lives for the better. That we must encourage others the way we want others to encourage us in any given situation (Matt. 7:12). That our time, talents and treasures are heavenly trusts for the encouragement of others (Phil. 1:20-25). That every act of encouragement is an act of love toward God and Christ, for He is above everything, and thus we must be faithful to Him (1 John 4:20-21; Matt. 25:40). That one day, God will make us accountable for every relationship He has placed in our care, for as His stewards, we must be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). That every day of our lives, it is a privilege and responsibility to encourage others (Heb. 3:13). God encourages us so that we may encourage others as well (2 Cor. 1:3-4). And finally that we must remember that church assemblies are an excellent opportunity to encourage others to love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25). Knowing this, let us be the encouragers that our God wants us to be. Let us be encouragers, a positive influence in the lives of others. Let us encourage those who are struggling and have failed in the past. May we encourage others as Nehemiah so wonderfully did!
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We must look into our hearts to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) and see if there are any changes we must make in this gracious work of encouraging one another.  We must train our hearts to focus on the positive instead of the negative, for if we fail to be positive, we run the risk of discouraging everybody and God will hold us accountable for that.  Our culture focuses mostly on the negative and fails to notice the good around us, for we are mistake-oriented.  Our media does not make it easier to be positive about everything and everybody.  We must avoid focusing on the negative and make an effort to see the good in everybody and in every circumstance!  God demands that we use our eyes to encourage others, seeing the good in others and that we labor hard to cultivate it. And though some people are rough, unpolished diamonds, we must make an effort to be perceptive, and to bring out the best in others and shine our light before them.  So, we must concentrate on the positive to be great encouragers and see the glory in the ordinary.  Let us be wise and look for opportunities to praise others instead of being critical and destructive.  When our eyes and hearts are focused on the negative, it will be hard to do what God wants us to be, encouragersDo you look at others through encouraging eyes or discouraging eyes?  Are we striving to be the kind of encouragers God expects us to be?  Do we encourage or discourage others by the way we treat them?  Do we tend to be critical, sarcastic, and negative toward one another?  Do we find ourselves to be bossy or overbearing in our relationship with others?  Are we prompt to ignore others because we're preoccupied with many earthly things?  If so, why?  Wouldn't it be better to change our old habits and start encouraging others rather than discouraging them?  Don't be a discourager but choose to be a Barnabas in the lives of others! I assure you, you will not regret it!  Remember that encouragers notice efforts and progressMay we use our eyes to encourage others!

Often we see the need to encourage others but wait until it is too late, and the moment of encouragement is gone.  It is sad!  Why not make it our goal every day to encourage someone who is distressed and discouraged?  We must open our eyes to the many ways in which we can become better encouragers.  The best encouragement anyone will ever receive is to be taught the Gospel, the will of God to become a child of God as Peter encouraged so many on the day of Pentecost. Three thousand souls were saved (Acts 2:37-41)!  We must remember that every act of encouragement is an act of love for God and Christ (1 John 4:20-21; Matt. 25:40).  We must start encouraging others the way we want to be encouraged in every given situation (Matt. 7:12).  Most people will treat us the way we treat them, and we must remember that! (Lk. 6:38).  Our time, talents, and treasures are God-given gifts, heavenly trusts that must be used to encourage others (Phil. 1:20-25).  Thus we must remind ourselves daily to regard others above everything except God, for we must first be devoted and faithful to Him (Mk. 12:20-31).  Remember that God is going to hold us accountable for every relationship He has placed in our care (1 Cor. 4:2).  Let us never forget that encouragement is a daily privilege and responsibility (Heb. 3:13).  Therefore, let us not neglect to encourage others, for God is the greatest encourager in our lives, so we must follow His excellent example of encouragement (2 Cor. 1:3-4).  And let us not forsake church assemblies, for they are an excellent opportunity to encourage others (Heb. 10:24-25).  If as a child of God, you have become unfaithful, it is my longing and desire to encourage you to return to the fold of God, for we need you and you need the fellowship of your brethren.  If you are drifting and are discouraged, take heart, and focus on the reward that awaits you!

May the Lord help us to encourage others with our eyes, noticing the positive about them.  May we encourage others the way we want to be encouraged.  May we use our talents, time, and heavenly treasures to encourage others well.  May we always remember that every act of encouragement is an act of love for God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  May we never forget that encouraging others is a privilege and responsibility entrusted to us by God.  And may we not neglect church assemblies, for they are great opportunities to encourage one another (Heb. 10:24-25).

Luci

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