Summary: To stay encouraged you need to stay focused, stay in fellowship and stay fresh.

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A young couple, very much in love, were getting married in church. However, the bride was very nervous about the big occasion and so the Pastor chose one verse that he felt would be a great encouragement to them. The verse was 1 John 4:18 which says:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear

The Pastor asked the best man to read it during the ceremony. He mentioned that he felt that this was a very good verse for the bride and that he would be speaking on it later in the service. The pastor did not know the best man was not a regular churchgoer and did not know the difference between the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John. During the service the best man introduced the reading by saying that the Pastor felt this was a very apt verse for the bride and that he would say more about it later in the service and then read John 4:18, which says

The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.

Though this pastor wanted to encourage the couple his attempt went very wrong. At least he tried. The truth is that most of the time we don’t even try. We fail so often to encourage one another at all. When was the last time you encouraged someone?

Heb. 3:12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is building on the thought that Jesus is greatest. In chapter 1 and 2 he writes that Jesus is greater than the angels and in chapter 3 he starts writing that Jesus is even greater than Moses. He quotes Psalm 95:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion..

In the middle of his thought he remembers how the children of Israel acted when they were in the wilderness. Many times they allowed themselves to grow discouraged and then failed. With this in mind the writer goes off on a tangent to warn his readers not to follow their example. How do you avoid discouragement? How do we keep our hearts from becoming hard? How do we stay encouraged?

1. Stay Focused – unbelieving hearts (vs. 12)

The human heart is a very unusual thing. Even as Christians, it is in our nature to turn away from God. We have a fallen sin nature. Like sheep we seem to have an ability to get into trouble and to wander off where we are not suppose to go.

Rom 7:22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The first step to staying encouraged is staying focused. We need to focus our hearts constantly. Our hearts are more like old manual focus cameras than the new autofocus ones. Directing them requires effort. Driving a car requires that constant adjustments be made to the steering.

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