Summary: The way to have excellence in your walk is by 1. Encouragement, 2. Endurance, 3. Enjoyment
“Excellence in Your Walk”
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
As I was sitting Tuesday morning at a Red Lion Inn in Sacramento, I had you on my mind. Through the morning I was praying for you as the Spirit led me, but then I began to think of what I might share with you this morning. I was kind of easing into putting off working on this sermon until Friday, but I prayed for a word from the Lord. And I think He gave it. I prayed, “Lord, what do we need to hear? What do You want to share with us this week?” And I clearly heard these three things, “Encourage, Endure, Enjoy”.
I thought “GREAT! Three points to my sermon already. And they all start with the same letter. Can’t go wrong there!” But as I meditated on these words a little more, I realized that these are some things that are really important to us in this day and age. So let’s take a little closer look at them.
First of all, Encourage. I don’t know about you – but I need a lot of encouragement. Maybe I still struggle with insecurity or inferiority complexes – or maybe the flesh side of us – the emotion side of us – just needs lifting up. Maybe it is just our nature to need encouragement. But I need it. The early Christians needed it – and I suspect you do, too. Besides, we are commanded to encourage one another.
Why do you think we are commanded to encourage one another? Certainly, because we all need it. But why are we commanded to provide encouragement? I think it is because it is not natural for us to do it. The flesh finds it hard to be encouraging. So the Spirit must make it into a command. Our Scripture says,
“… encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
God’s Word is saying, “if you want God to be with you – you need to encourage one another. What kills a relationship, be it a marriage, friends, or a church family – is discouragement and negativity and strife. Who wants to be around someone who is discouraging and petty and negative? The way to win friends and influence people is to never condemn, complain or criticize them, Dale Carnage says. The Bible says,
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4
“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13
I remember a time in my life when my first response was critical. My wife may tell you that my first response is STILL negative – at least when she brings me a new idea or suggestion or plan. My natural response is to see the negatives – first. Then I begin to process it and see the potential. But what I am talking about is a little different. My first instinct, maybe as a type of self-preservation, was to find a persons weakness or fault and put them down for it. I had to come to a place where I rejected that and choose to find the positives – not the negatives. I remember when I read this verse and it changed my life.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Now, I know you can take that to the extreme and sometimes guys verbally spar in fun and friendliness – although we have to watch that, too. But I evaluated what was coming out of my mouth and found it lacking. Unwholesome stuff DID come out of my mouth. Destructive stuff was coming out. Hurtful stuff was coming out.
You see, I had come from a sinful state where I didn’t like people, didn’t trust them, didn’t want to be around them. My feeling was that people always hurt you – better to avoid them. Then I got saved and Jesus turned my world upside down. I began to love people. But I was used to being destructive – not constructive. I was used to being discouraging – not encouraging. I had to watch what came out of my mouth so that it built people up – not torn them down. I had to meet THEIR needs – not mine. My words had to benefit those who were listening.