The Work of Encouragement (1)
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5.24
Therefore [encourage] each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5.11
The almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, Ruler of the vast cosmos, Redeemer and Savior of His people, Lord of lords and King of kings – this God has redeemed us to do good works: growing in grace, loving our neighbors, bearing witness to Christ, increasing in holiness, bringing His goodness and beauty to light, edifying our brethren, building His Church, and advancing His Kingdom.
It takes courage to live this kind of life, pursuing such works as these. The unbelieving world is not always agreeable to our undertaking such efforts, and we are easily distracted to less-demanding occupations. Thus, we need a disposition of heart and soul that inclines us to take risks, embark on difficult tasks, and go beyond our present capacities into new areas of growth and service.
We need courage to live and work for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Establishing and maintaining that disposition is the work of God’s Spirit, the Encourager. He uses the Word of God, the Presence of God in creation, everyday situations, and the words of encouragement we offer one another to help us work out our salvation, increase in Christlikeness, and take up things exceedingly abundantly beyond what we have ever known or done before (Phil. 2.13; Eph. 3.20).
He gives us the courage we need to realize more of the fullness of God, so that He Himself may overflow from us, like rivers of living water, to refresh and bless our world (Jn. 7.39). This is what God wants for you. And He stands ready to encourage you to these ends.
But how can we know when God is encouraging us? When He’s getting ready to ignite a bolt of courage in our soul? What are the components of encouragement that He uses to generate holy power for good works from within?
Aspects of encouragement
God’s work of encouragement is not an exact science. It’s as much a mystery as anything else. He doesn’t always encourage us in stages. Sometimes He moves us to leap tall buildings in a single bound; but most of the time it’s here a little, there a little (Is. 28.9, 10). It is possible, I believe, to recognize certain movements of God’s Spirit as He stirs and nudges us toward courage for something or other.
Just as important, we need to recognize the components of encouragement because God calls us to encourage one another. He chooses to work in us and through us, in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, to create that lightning strike of spiritual energy which gives someone the courage to move forward in the faith.
How can we know when God the Encourager is trying to encourage us?
When something in the Word of God grips your mind and holds your attention, leading to meditation, asking questions of God, and searching the Scriptures for more light on the subject, it’s probably God stirring you in some particular way, toward some specific task, work, or person.
When you find yourself thinking about a passage, a person, a need, a notion, or an action, so that it stays with you for many days, alternately exciting and delighting you and causing you to hesitate or doubt, that may be the Lord, preparing you for something He wants you to do.
When you get an idea that seems to come from nowhere, or that develops and grows, like a living thing, out of some passage you’ve been meditating on, sermon you’ve heard, book you’re reading, or some situation in your life sphere that demands attention, it might well be God, laying the groundwork for courage.
Or when you are so convicted of the need to do something that you seek out friends, counselors, and leaders to talk with, and you spend more time talking with God about the matter, it may be His way of wanting to encourage you to some specific work.
When you feel mixed affections in your soul – a sense of being unsettled, the excitement of something new, a need to answer nagging questions, fear of doing something, fear of doing nothing, the prospects of joy – it may be the Encourager of God, getting you ready for something exceedingly abundantly beyond what you’ve ever known or done before.
When some believing friend has come alongside you in a new way, with new interest and attention, asking deeply spiritual questions about your walk with and work for the Lord and offering to pray with and for you, it may be the Encourager at work within your friend, charging up the ground of your soul for a lightning strike of courage.
The fact is, in sincere Christians – believers who have embraced their calling to the Kingdom and glory of God, and who are seeking His Kingdom and righteousness in everything they do – these stirrings by God’s Spirit are not uncommon. When we find ourselves being thus encouraged, we need to try to focus before the Lord on what He’s wanting to do in and through us.
The key component
My sense is that the courage we need to move or grow or undertake in some new project or way will come as other believers provide a continuous supply of encouragement to spark new energy for growing and making progress with the Lord.
And this makes it really important that we know how to encourage one another. The Holy Spirit – the Encourager – is always at work in every believer, laying the groundwork for courage within the parameters and for the specific ends we have previously discussed.
But what makes courage spring up within us is when He brings other believers alongside to encourage us in specific ways. The more we learn about how to encourage others, the more likely we are to recognize the Lord’s encouragement when it comes to us.
Learning to encourage others is a sure way of being more consistently encouraged yourself. And it is to the work of encouragement – a work to which every believer is called – that we turn in this part of our study.
1. How do you know when the Spirit is encouraging you in some particular way?
2. Why do we need courage from the Spirit to do the works God has redeemed and saved us to do?
3. What’s the most encouraging thing someone has done for you lately? Can you see the work of God in this?
Next steps – Preparation: Try to become more attentive to the stirrings of God’s Spirit within you. Each time you sense Him trying to encourage you, take a few moments to pray, give thanks, and open your heart to His work.
T. M. Moore
We can encourage people in even small and seemingly insignificant ways. Our book Small Stuff helps you be more aware of the opportunities for encouraging others that God brings to you each day. 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.