Most visitors to Philadelphia want to see the liberty bell and the convention hall where representatives of the first thirteen states forged the constitution of the United States.  Gracing the hall where those representatives assembled is a painting by the highly renowned painter, Benjamin West.

   In later years West told this story how he became a painter: One day his mother left him with his sister, Sally. Without mother present to object, he found bottles of food coloring and proceeded to paint Sallyís portrait. In addition, he made quite a mess out of the kitchen. When his mother returned, she said nothing about the messy kitchen. Picking up the paper he was working on, she exclaimed, "why, itís Sally!" And she rewarded his effort with a kiss. Benjamin West said, "My motherís kiss that day made me a painter." Benjamin West was a product of the awesome power of encouragement.

     Most of us can remember goals that at one time were important to us. We can also remember that in most cases it was encouragement or lack of it that made the difference in whether we accomplished our goals or abandoned them altogether

Godís People Are to Encourage One Another

     In the book of Hebrews we read that one of the most important reasons Christians are to meet together on a regular basis is to encourage one another. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching."    Hebrews 10:24,25

     There are several reason why it is important for Christians to assemble together:

***The church is formed and becomes visible in the eyes of man. The meaning of the New Testament word translated church is assembly.
***Godís people are able to collectively praise and worship their God.
***Godís people receive instruction in Godís truth from gifted teachers and preachers.
***Godís people are able to present their tithes and offerings which expresses their love, gratitude, and worship to God.
***The unsaved of the community can observe Godís people in their assembly and hear Godís word of salvation to them.
But notice that the reason emphasized in Hebrews for Godís people coming together in assembly is to encourage one another.

     We can accept as a certainty that every Christian is facing inward struggles and outward obstacles. The number of struggles and obstacles can be countless in variety and they change with each individual with the passing of time. This is the reason that Hebrews tells us it is of utmost importance that Godís people assemble together often.

Meaning of Encouragement

     The common understanding of encouragement is that we say or do something that makes another person feel good. It is true that when someone is truly encouraged they will feel good, but that is only a by-product. The Old Testament (Hebrew) word translated encourage is chazaq (pronounced khaw-zak). It means "to fasten upon" hence to seize; be strong. Our modern phrase, "Get a grip on yourself" gives the idea quite nicely. The New Testament (Greek) word translated encourage in most recent translations is a form of parakalíeo. Itís basic meaning is "call alongside". Depending upon the context, it carries the ideas of comfort, consolation, exhortation and entreaty

Even our English word encourage is helpful. It means to put courage inside another person.

     Every new convert needs encouragement. They are painfully aware of the influences of old habits and old dependencies in their fleshly nature. They are very unsure about their ability to live a consistent Christian life in the presence of still unsaved family members, friends and co-workers or classmates

.   Every husband and wife needs encouragement to consistently put into their relationship those words and acts of love that strengthens their marriage.

     All parents need encouragement in the challenging task of raising their children to know God and embrace godly values in a society that is increasingly hostile to a true Christian life.

     Every child needs to be encouraged. That God Öand other godly people truly loves them.

     Every teen needs encouragement in their frustration of hearing what they ought to be and do, while constantly seeing attitudes and actions that are just the opposite.

     Every Christian needs encouragement because God has gifted them and given them an assignment to do His will. Some need courage to just find out what their gift and assignment is. Some who know their gift and their assignment need encouragement to go forward in confidence.

     No wonder that God inspired those words to be written, "Önot forsaking our own assembling together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one anotherÖ".

God Gives Encouragement

     We read that Noah faced the formidable task of building an ark 450í long, 75í wide and three stories high. We also read that he was a preacher of righteousness for 120 years and that there was not one recorded convert outside of his immediate family. Although Noah may have had moments of discouragement, we read of none. We do read that "Noah walked with God." (Genesis 6:9) God kept Noah encouraged until his work was done.

     Abraham and Sarah were discouraged that God had not given them the son He had promisedÖfor 24 years. But they kept walking with God. In the 25th year God gave back to Abraham and Sarah their youth. In a state of elated encouragement God gave them the son He promised.

     Such stories abound throughout the scriptures and every one cries out to us to keep walking with God even when our path takes us through the valley of discouragement. In due time God will encourage us and enable us to overcome all obstacles.

Godís People Are To Give Encouragement

     In Mosesí day Israel continually wrestled with a spirit of discouragement. They were discouraged because they thought they would never get out of the bondage of Egypt. Having accomplished that, they fell into discouragement because they thought they would never get through the rigors of the wilderness. Their greatest discouragement came when they thought they would never get into Canaan to possess the land. This discouragement was because of their unbelief and kept them out. All but two of the adult generation that came out of Egypt perished in the wilderness.

Moses approaches the time he must die. The generation of Israel of the wilderness journey are camped East of the Jordan River. On the other side is the land of Canaan. The walled cities, the fierce giants and the rugged land are still there. Months of face-to-face, hand to hand combat are anticipated. The ingredients for discouragement are ample.

Moses speaks to the people "The LORD was angry with me also on your account, saying, ĎNot even you shall enter there, Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it." Most of us know the rest of the story. Against almost insurmountable obstacles Joshua and Israel stayed encouraged until they possessed the promised land.

In our New Testament we have a man who was such an encourager that the apostles gave him the new name of Barnabas which means "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36 NASB)

We first read about Mr. Encouragement selling a tract of land and bringing the proceeds to the apostles to take care of those in the church with physical and material needs. Others joined him in this effort and we read "ÖNor was there anyone among them who lacked..." (see Acts 4:32-37)

We next see Mr. Encouragement providing acceptance of Saul to the Jerusalem church. Before Saul left Jerusalem he was the leading persecutor of Christians. "Öand breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the LORDÖ" Acts 9:1. Saul had a personal encounter with Christ on his way to Damascus and was transformed from persecutor to preacher. But when Saul came back to Jerusalem all the Christians were afraid of him. They thought his conversion was just a ploy to find their whereabouts and take them into custody. Barnabas personally took him to the apostles and let them hear with their own ears Saulís testimony. Both Saul and the church were encouraged.

Following this, word came that a great church was being formed in Antioch of Phoenicia. There were a couple of things that troubled the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. The first was that this rapidly growing church did not have an official preacher. The other was that it was an integrated church of Jews and Gentiles. Their decision was that Mr. Encouragement will have to handle this one. "When he came and had seen the grace of God he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the LORD." Acts 11:23. Barnabas didnít stop there. He went up to Tarsus to get Saul and bring him back to Antioch. He knew they needed a gifted Bible teacher and Saul was the man to do the job. Every day he lived he was an encouragement to those who came into his presence.

We need to remember that all Christians are to encourage one another.

Some Ways Christians Encourage One Another

Through preaching and teaching
     Most of us have experienced being encouraged by both preaching and teaching. Special areas can be addressed by studies or workshops on specific areas like "Parenting", "Living For Christ In The Workplace" etc.

Small Groups Provide A Channel For Encouragement
     The closeness and confidence found in a small group allows people to become aware of hard and scary things that others in their group are facing. This makes it possible for in-depth encouragement to take place.    Encouragement is best done one-on-one, face to face between people who have a common interest.

Some General Principles of Encouragement:

  1. Be willing to really listen
  2. Sharing relevant Bible truths; especially promises of Godís help.
  3. Committing to daily prayer about the need.
  4. Recounting different ways God has met a similar need in the past from scripture and/or experience.
  5. Offering to be with the person at the time special courage will be needed.
  6. Affirming your confidence that God will supply special grace in their time of need.
  7. Reminding them that obedience to God is more important than the outcome
  8. Reminding them that God surely has great reward for those who have the courage to do the really tough things God has impressed them to do

   And remember what Benjamin West testified, "It was motherís kiss that day that made me a painter."

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scripture quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted


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