I rarely manuscript my sermons, but this past Sunday was an exception. Today’s post, and two more in the following days, will be made up of the lion’s share of my sermon manuscript that informed this past Sunday morning’s sermon on encouragement. Let’s dive right in.
If you belong to God, if you’re a part of the people of God, your life is to be about giving encouragement. It’s to be about deliberately planting hope toward him in the hearts of others. It’s to be about helping develop a harvest of praise to God. Your life in Christ our Lord is to be about helping others grow up toward God and in him. It’s to be about giving encouragement.
The covenant we have with God is covered with encouragement and the documents reflective of that covenant, the New Testament, are dripping with it. When you follow this thread of thought through this testament you’re struck with just how many different angles you’re offered from which to view this great privilege and tremendous responsibility to be an instrument of strength from God to others. As you read the following, let me encourage you to not merely read the text, but to check out and contemplate the Scriptures connected with each thought.
If you consider the generosity of encouragement exemplified in the lives of truly dedicated Christians (Acts 4:36-37) you cannot help but be reminded that your own life is to be like that of our Lord Jesus Christ. His life was all about giving. Your life in him now is not at all about getting, but totally about giving. It’s not about you and yours, but about God and others. This is your life and your life in Christ is about giving it away.
While we all have a responsibility to encourage others, some have a special ability to do so, a gift from God, a gift not to be shunned or shelved, but discovered and developed (Rom. 12:8). Don’t worry about how you’ll know if you have that gift or not. Simply live your life as encouragement to others and in time, others will tell you if you have the gift. If you have it, be humbled all the more and constantly make good use of it. If you don’t have it, don’t be jealous of those who do, simply continue to do good with whatever God has entrusted to you.
That God calls us all to be people of encouragement shouldn’t surprise us at all because our God is a God of encouragement (Rom. 15:5). When we’re encouraging to others, we’re living like our God. Godly living is living your life for God to bless others.
As encouragement becomes a part of your life, you’ll find yourself drawn together with others and you will come to see the sheer goodness of encouragement becomes a thing of beauty in itself. This is so because encouragement is what makes possible the very things we crave so much: peace, harmony, and love (2 Cor. 13:11). We cannot create unity – only God can do that and grant such – but, we can and must keep the unity he gives us. Deliberate encouragement is one of the best things we can do to keep the flame of unity going.
You will find yourself encouraging others in proportion to the gratitude you have in your heart to God. If you want to know how truly thankful a person you are to God, take a look at how you pour out your life in encouragement to others. If Christ is your encouragement, you will gratefully share the encouragement you have in him with others (Phil. 2:1-3).
As you do so, you will discover more and more of the great gain of encouragement. Real encouragement, and not mere sentiment, is always appropriate and helpful, equal to, and yes, greater than, anything we face in life. Any distress or danger. Any trial or trouble. Any fear or foe (1 Thes. 3:7). Love is greater than all and encouragement is love’s strong right arm.
It takes two to encourage, one to give and one to receive and as the receiver is given encouragement, they’re empowered to be an encouragement to others. That is, encouragement is a group happening and every word we speak to others is important and can be used by God to make a difference in how we both are being shaped more in his Son’s image (1 Thes. 4:18). If you find yourself hungering for encouragement, you must put yourself in the presence of others who belong to God. We’ll have more to say about that in a bit.
You need to know that encouragement all different shapes and sizes. One size does not fit all. Godly encouragement is both divine (being reflective of our God) and diverse (being reflective of the variation of our God’s creative work). That means it’s not only exceedingly powerful, but is also as unique as we all are different. To be given strength by God in every good thing you do or say is nothing short of great grace (2 Thes. 2:16-17).
Part of the grace that is encouragement is the fact that encouragement helps keep us steered in the right direction. It is an integral component of our guidance system as people of God. God made us this way. That’s why encouragement must be part of the center of your dealings with others, an obvious expression in the sharing of the word and will of God with others (2 Tim. 4:2)
But, of course, that doesn’t mean encouragement comes easily or without a price; quite the opposite actually. It requires true grit to encourage for those who encourage – that is, people like you and me – not only take up the burdens of others and make those burdens their own, but must also often face misunderstanding and even rejection for trying to care. Still, never cow down or quit (Titus 2:15).
And you won’t quit if the grounding of authentic encouragement in your life is genuine love for others. It’s this genuine love that will enable you to not only deal with the daily grind of life, but to live in the midst of life’s realities for the blessing of others. As you live a life of encouragement, you’ll be enabled all the more to recognize it in others when you see it and you’ll come to find encouragement for your own life in the simple awareness of it being alive and working in others (Philemon 7).
All of which leads us to be reminded of the goal of encouragement: to stay mind-centered on and heart-inclined toward God. You wisely understand that the true opposite of encouragement is not discouragement with God, but indifference toward him. And so, you encourage others so as not to just help others cope with life’s demands, but to help keep hope in him going (Heb. 3:13).
Encouragement. It is a huge part of why we’re his and why we’re here; here for him and here for each other.