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Summary: Discover how we can encourage others to be and to do what God wants them to be and to do

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Let me begin by reading an email, titled, "What My Mother Taught Me,"

My mother taught me RELIGION: When I spilled grape juice on the carpet, she instructed, "You better pray the stain will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me LOGIC: From her decisive words, "Because I said so, that’s why."

My mother taught me FORESIGHT: "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident."

My mother taught me IRONY: "Keep laughing, and I’ll give you something to cry about."

My mother taught me about STAMINA: "You’ll sit there ’til all that spinach is finished."

My mother taught me about WEATHER: "It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."

My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION: "Stop acting like your father!"

My mother taught me about ENVY: "There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have a wonderful Mom like you do!"

THANKS, MOM!

Happy Mother’s Day, everybody! I realize that not everyone in this room, including myself, has endured childbirth. So, in an attempt to offer everyone something this morning, and Mothers in particular, we will look at "How to Become an Encourager."

In Susan Yates’ book, And Then I Had Children, she includes the following in her list of common challenges to mothers:

1) Low self-esteem

2) Monotony and loneliness

3) Stress from too many demands

4) Lack of time with husband

5) Confusion about discipline

6) Home atmosphere

7) Need for outside role models

8) Training of children

These are only some of the many reasons for why Mothers need encouragement.

A cartoon showed a psychologist talking to a mother: "Let’s see," he said, "You spend 50 percent of your energy on your job, 50 percent on your husband and 50 percent on your children. I think I see your problem."

When my wife asked me why I picked the book of Philemon to teach on encouragement, I told her it’s because Moms sometimes feel like slaves, and they want to run away. If you’re not familiar with the book of Philemon from the New Testament, it is just before the book of Hebrew. I will read for us.

The author of the book is the Apostle Paul, a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ and mentor to Timothy. The recipients of this letter are Philemon and Apphia, and a house church leader named Archippus. Paul was writing from a prison cell, and he was imprisoned for his religious faith, not for a civil or criminal violation.

Paul is writing on behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave. Onesimus apparently met Paul and was converted to Christianity. Paul sends this letter with Onesimus back to Philemon, the slave’s master. Paul is not affirming slavery, but in fact asks Philemon to return worth and dignity to Onesimus, even as a brother.

Paul writes in verses 15-17, "... that you [Philemon] might have him [Onesimus] back for good -- no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me." The Bible never endorsed mistreatment of others; rather, the Bible endorses the equality of human worth under God.

Paul was certainly an encouragement to Onesimus, the slave, but Paul was also an encouragement to Philemon, the slave master. We need to understand that an encourager is not an amoral "good feeling dispenser." Paul was concerned about feelings, but he was more concerned about living according to God’s ways.

Let me define an encourager as the Bible would have us understand. A biblical encourager helps others to have the courage to be and to do what God wants them to be and to do. Let me say it again, "A biblical encourager helps others to have the courage to be and to do what God wants them to be and to do."

Everyone needs an encourager, especially Moms. Classmates need encouragers. Co-workers need encouragers. Family members need encouragers. Christians need encouragers, and non-Christians need encouragers.

The good news is that everyone can become an encourager. And this morning, we will learn from the Apostle Paul, how to become a biblical encourager. Let’s look together.

First, a biblical encourager affirms the person’s acceptance by God and usefulness to God. We see this in verses 4-7.

Paul affirmed Philemon’s faith in and service to God. But God is the Greatest Encourager. In fact, God’s Spirit is called, "the one who comes alongside." In a world that we’ve messed up, God encourages us by not abandoning us. He has always showed us His acceptance.

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