Parameters of Encouragement (3)
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 1 Corinthians 4.6
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22.18, 19
Every good idea?
Perhaps we all would like to help our fellow believers feel better about themselves and their walk with the Lord. At any rate, we should, because we are members together of the Body of Christ, and we are called to encourage one another to a richer, fuller, and more fruitful experience of our Lord Jesus.
True encouragement is the work of the Holy Spirit. Naturally, therefore, we should only expect Him to encourage us, and to use us to encourage others, within certain parameters consistent with His character and calling. We have already considered two such parameters: The glory of God and the Kingdom of God. All true encouragement will aim at these objectives, to know God’s glory and show it in all we do, and to further the rule of King Jesus unto righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
We may not feel competent to encourage our fellow believers toward a more consistent realization of these goals. And, in a certain sense, we aren’t. But we are commanded, over and over, to encourage one another; and we are promised that we can do whatever God calls us to do. So it must be that the Holy Spirit can work in us in such a way as to enable us to connect with fellow believers such that a spiritual charge of encouragement occurs, empowering them to more courageous actions for the Lord Jesus.
God has given us His Word as living and active power to aid us in encouraging others (Heb. 4.12). The Holy Spirit uses the Word to bring us into the Presence of God and His glory and to outfit us for every good work (2 Cor. 3.12-18; 2 Tim. 3.15-17). Do we experience Him encouraging us in this way? Do we see Jesus and His glory in God’s Word? Are we daily challenged, directed, and empowered for every good work?
And are we effective in wielding the Word of God in such a way as to fight off discouraging spiritual elements and build others up in the Lord (Eph. 6.17; 1 Thess. 4.18; Eph. 4.29)?
The call to encouragement means we share in the responsibility for helping our fellow believers increase in Jesus and His Kingdom. The Word of God is our handbook for encouragement, but we need to make sure we’re prepared and using it as God intends.
How do you read the Bible? Put another way, what are you reading the Bible for? What do you hope to gain, or realize, or achieve from your reading?
You may be looking for more understanding of God’s will. That’s a good thing to seek. Perhaps your interest is in finding some word of comfort during an anxious period. Keep reading; it’s in there.
Some people may read the Bible merely to check it off some to-do list for the day. That’s OK, too, although that’s not nearly enough. Or you might be reading to prepare for some class or Bible study group – you don’t want to look dumb in front of your friends. Well, that’s a good reason to read the Bible as well.
By all means, read the Bible for all these reasons. But above all, read the Bible for the reason He Who gave the Bible gave it: Read it to see Jesus (Jn. 5.39), and in seeing Jesus, to gain the courage God’s Encourager wants you to have to live more fully for Him in every facet of your life.
Do you ever read the Bible for courage? That is, to let the words of Scripture so illuminate and expand your mind, inflame your heart, and bore into your conscience that you feel like you just have to do something like you’ve never done before? Something beyond your present experience? More than what you’ve ever imagined? More even than you think yourself capable of taking on?
If you’re reading that way, you’re reading expectantly, believing God to do something in you that transforms you, be it ever so slightly, more fully into the image of Jesus, and that launches you out into your daily mission field with new confidence, new plans, and new spiritual conviction. You’re reading, in other words, for courage. You want God to deliver on His promises that you can become more like Jesus, you can be more faithful and consistent as His witness, you can put your old self aside and serve others in love, you can die to your ego and fears and live selflessly for Jesus, even if it entails some form of sacrifice or suffering.
Read the Bible for courage. Plead with the Lord to encourage you! And don’t stop wrestling with His Word until He blesses you with the courage you seek.
Read the Bible to see Jesus. See Him throughout the course of His earthly ministry – His selflessness, compassion, boundless energy for serving. See Him teaching about the Kingdom of God. See Him shaping His disciples. See Him casting out demons, healing the lame and sick, standing up to false teachers and egomaniacal religious leaders. Hear Him explaining the mysteries of creation in terms of His Kingdom and salvation. See Jesus suffering for our sins and trusting God completely as He does.
Then see Him in glory – served by multitudes of angels, adored by innumerable departed saints, putting His enemies under His feet, upholding the universe and everything in it by His Word of power. See Him radiant in glory, matchless in beauty, shedding the light of life on everything and everyone as He works to prepare a place for us with Him forever.
Set your mind on the things that are above, where Christ is seated in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-3). Let the awesomeness, majesty, brilliance, power, and closeness of His Presence fill you with the conviction that you can become more like Him, you can fulfill your calling as His witness, you can love your neighbor more consistently, and you can do exceedingly abundantly beyond anything you’ve ever asked or dreamt before.
Commit yourself for the day ahead to take a single, specific step of courage so that Jesus stretches out in you, makes Himself known through you, and furthers His influence and reign on earth by what He leads you to do.
Then, throughout the day, look for other believers to encourage with the courage the Holy Spirit has given you by your vision of Jesus and your engagement with Him in His glorious Word.
1. What does it mean to read the Bible for courage?
2. Why is having a clear, compelling, and growing vision of Jesus so important to having the courage to follow Him?
3. Who are the people you would be most likely to encourage by the courage Jesus gives you from His Word?
Next steps – Transformation: What new step of courage will you take today? Whom will you encourage?
T. M. Moore
Our new book What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? can help you in setting your mind on Christ. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.