Summary: This word, paraklesis, is used 29 times in the New Testament. What we learn from a study of this word is that an encouraged Christian is a positive functioning member of the body, but that a discouraged Christian is a malfunctioning member of the body.
Admiral Richard Byrd, the famous polar explorer, had
adventures of being lost and then found that are amazing. In his
book Alone, he tells of being alone for six months in his little shack
in 1934 living through a long Antartic winter. Every day he would
take a walk, but he would take a bundle of sticks with him which he
would push into the snow every 30 yards so he would have a guide to
get back to his shack. He would then pick them up as he returned.
One day he was out for a long walk and did not notice the drifting
that was taking place behind him. When he finally decided to return
he looked back and could not see his line of sticks. He knew
immediately he was in big trouble. He knew his life depended on
finding one of those bamboo sticks. He put up a pile of crusted snow
chunks to give him a point of reference. As he backtracked he kept
his flashlight on his reference point. But he cam to a point where he
could no longer see it. If he lost that and did not find a stick he was
doomed. He decided to take 30 more steps in the direction he was
going. On the 29th he found his first stick and his line. He was all
alone, but he was filled with joy and encouragement, for that
discovery meant he would live and not die.
Most of us do not experience that kind of dramatic rescue and
feel overwhelming joy at being spared a tragic death. But the fact is,
when we trust Christ we go from being lost and dying with no
direction to being found of God and saved with a destiny of heaven.
This ought to be the most joyous and encouraging fact in our lives as
Christians, and so Paul begins this second chapter of Philippians by
appealing to that encouraging reality of being united to Christ. He
writes, "If you have any encouragement from being united with
Christ...." Paul's if here is not the if of doubt, as if they might not be
encouraged at all by their being saved in Christ. It is an if-then
sentence he is writing. If such and such is so, then it follows that
such and such shall also be so. For example: If you love your
country, then you should vote. If you love your mate, then you
should be kind. Paul has a series of 4 if phrases here that set the tone
for Christians to have the right attitude that leads them to be truly
The if phrases are equivalent to, if there is any water in the sea,
or if there is any light in the sun. In other words, it is obvious that
each of these things are true. Paul is simply reminding Christians as
to why they are to make an effort to be Christians in their attitudes.
It is because of these values which we can easily take for granted,
but when we think of them, compel us to move toward Christlike
goals. When a Christian is being self-centered, demanding his own
way, and not contributing to the unity of the body, it is because he is
neglecting to consider these values that Paul says are the foundation
for a Christian attitude. Lets look at them and learn to think about
them so we can develop a Christian spirit.
This word, paraklesis, is used 29 times in the New Testament.
What we learn from a study of this word is that an encouraged
Christian is a positive functioning member of the body, but that a
discouraged Christian is a malfunctioning member of the body.
Encouragement is like oil. It makes things run smoothly. The
encouraged Christian is the one who can give of self and foster unity
and harmony in the body. The discouraged Christian is looking to
take and not give. The one running on empty and needing the flow
to come from others to them is not bad. This is a part of the purpose
of the body. But they are takers in that state of mind and not able to
look beyond themselves to the interest of others. When self-need is
high one becomes a care-receiver and not a care-giver. This will be a
part of everyone's experience at some point, but the goal is to be a
healthy care-giver. This can only be when we are encouraged about
who we are in Christ.
Paul likes to use this word in a context of unity. Encouraged
Christians are united, but discouraged Christians tend to be divided.
From the frequent references in the New Testament, we know that
one of the hardest tasks of the church is to keep Christians united.