Friday, August 30, 2013

Encourage One Another

My first thoughts concerning encouragement are along the lines of saying kind words to other people. Proverbs 16:24 reads, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” But as I began to study this command, I quickly found that biblical encouragement is much more then trying to “turn that frown upside-down”!

Hebrews 10: 23-25 is the main passage teaching this one another. Verse 25 says we are to encourage one another by “not forsaking our assembling together”. As I carefully consider this statement, I see how encouragement can have many facets. Our regular church attendance encourages our own faith to grow. Our example also encourages others to be regular in their attendance, and it encourages the leadership to see regular attendance among the people. This is a win-win-win situation.

But Hebrews 10:24 takes encouragement to an even higher plane. Here the writer tells us we are to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”. This is going way beyond showing up on Sunday morning and complimenting someone’s new dress. We are to be seeking more faithful, Christ-like service because of the interaction we had with that person.

In Acts 11:23, we read that Barnabus encouraged the believers in Antioch “to remain true to the Lord.” This is certainly more than a pat on the back, “atta boy”, feel-good moment. We find later in Acts 11: 25-26, that Barnabus brought Paul to Antioch where they both worked for a year to teach and disciple these believers. These men invested their lives to ensure that others were steadfast in their faith.

So now I think I’ve got a better understanding of biblical encouragement. However, I’m left wondering what I can do to actually encourage love, good deeds, and remaining true to the Lord? I think the first step is to be an example, exhibiting these qualities in my own life. And yes, “atta boys” are in order when you see these character traits in the lives of others.

But when I think over this list, I realize that these qualities are imparted by the Holy Spirit. His indwelling of the believer brings about love, good deeds and steadfastness. This implies that biblical encouragement also involves intercession. We are to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to live Spirit-led lives. In Luke 11:13 Jesus is teaching on prayer and says that our heavenly Father is eager to give the good gift of the Holy Spirit “to those who ask”.

To summarize, biblical encouragement is much more than kind words and compliments. We are to desire the super-natural qualities of “agape” love, good deeds and steadfastness in our own lives as well as each other. Like Barnabus and Paul, we should labor so others will have intimacy with God’s word; for it is there that we come to know true “agape” love. Without such knowledge, there are no “good deeds” and our faith will soon fail.

Furthermore, Hebrews 10:25 adds a sense of urgency about our mission; this encouragement needs to be done “all the more as you see the day drawing near.” There is a pressing deadline beyond which our encouragement will stop, either by death or the Lord’s soon return.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “today”, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Discussion Questions:

What other practical ways can we encourage love, good deeds, and steadfastness? In what ways have you personally been encouraged in these areas?

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