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Be Encouraged

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When one considers the idea of encouraging, the thought of giving help or support or cheering someone up comes to mind. Such is often expressed in the scriptural record. Thus Isaiah speaks of the need of helping the oppressed, who too often are the most in need of encouragement and help. For example, Isaiah writes:

Seek justice,
Encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
Plead the case of the widow. (Isa. 1:17)1

So also in the early church period we read of those who had particular need of such help. Again and again we read of the early church members doing just that (e.g., Acts 11:22-23). The church leadership was conscious of such needs and often sent church leaders as messengers of the gospel, among whom were Paul and Barnabas and Judas and Silas.

An interesting example of this is the time when Paul and Silas were in Philippi, after having been arrested and imprisoned for their faith. Upon their release, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them (Acts 16:40). Paul was indeed a conveyor of such encouragement and urged others to do the same. For example, he wrote to the Thessalonian believers, “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in the faith” (I Thess. 3:2; cf. 4:18). Paul earnestly desired to learn that the Thessalonian believers continued to trust in the Lord in all situations, even those that were difficult. In a subsequent message to the church at Thessalonica he expressed his wise desires and hope for the believers:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strength in every good deed and word. (II Thess. 2:15-17)

The early church leaders were noted for their desire to encourage others in their walk of faith. Thus when Barnabas visited the church at Antioch and saw the “grace of God” at work in their lives, “he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true in the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 11:23)

Indeed, Paul often urged believers to encourage one another. His wise hope and desire were that they do so (I Thess. 5:9-11).Through Titus, Paul instructed the church leaders as to their proper manner of life and ministry so that each might “encourage others by sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). As he wrote to Titus himself, he instructed him as to how the church membership should act and minister (Titus 2:1-10). Even the young men were to fulfill their responsibilities so as to be living examples (Eph. 6:1-3). Paul’s own desire and purpose was to encourage the hearts of others (e.g., Col. 2:1-3). Interestingly, Paul was somewhat rewarded in his efforts. For when he was on his way to Rome as a prisoner for his faith, he himself was encouraged by others.

Likewise, the Apostle Peter closes his first epistle by saying “I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (I Peter 5:12). It is also of interest to note that in the times of trials and difficulties the members of the early church were themselves encouraged by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31).

From all of the above we can see the guiding hand of the Lord for his earthly servants. Should we, then, not be encouraged in our daily walk with the Lord? One way that each of us has at his disposal is the availability of the Holy Scriptures: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4; cf. vv. 5-6). Moreover, as Hodge points out, Paul’s great purpose was to declare that “the facts recorded in the Scriptures are designed for our instruction.”2

The Scriptures testify as to how God’s servants ministered. As he himself pointed out, Paul endured in the midst of hardships so that he might continue to deliver the gospel message to people:

I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10).

Paul also commended the Thessalonian believers for their faithful endurance despite their hardships.

So also we should be willing to face whatever lies ahead in faithful endurance to Christ and the gospel message (cf. 2 Tim. 4:5). Moreover, we should not despise God’s corrections and disciplinary measures. For the Lord does so much like a father does for his children (cf. Heb. 12:7). We also should remember we have the ever availability of the Scriptures to help and guide us, for God’s Word endures forever. As Peter testified, the word of the Lord stands forever (1 Pet. 1:25). As I have written elsewhere, “Spiritual strength … comes through faith in God and keeping His revealed standards.”3 Therefore,

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty Defender is always the same.
Mount up with wings, as the eagle ascending;
Victory is sure when you call on His name.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord,
And be of good courage for he is your guide.4

1 Unless otherwise noted, all scriptural citations are taken from the  NIV.

2 Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953) 433.

3 Richard D. Patterson, “The Source of True Strength,”  Bible.Org. (2013), 10.

4 Linda Lee Johnson, “Be Strong in the Lord.”

Related Topics: Devotionals

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