Summary: God commands us to "Encourage one another". This is such a vital concept ithat God not only expects us to do it for His church, He shows us how to do it. What has God done to encourage us, and how can we obey Him in doing the same for His people?
OPEN: Years ago I read this poem:
“In a world where bad deeds are celebrated
and good deeds relegated
to page 49 of the paper,
Where first place goes to push and shove
and the cost of things is put above
the cost of time together.
From time to time, the best of us
Reach out and touch the rest of us.”
From time to time, the best of us reach out and touch the rest of us.
Now what reason does the poet give for why that’s important?
Well: too often the world focuses on the bad in people’s lives.
Too often first place goes to push and shove.
Too often money and things become more important than people.
That’s all true
And because that is true, the prophet tells us the best among us should reach out to the rest of us.
And, of course… everybody does want someone who reaches out to them.
I personally love it when people reach out to me.
In fact, I prefer it.
If it came to whether I rubbed your back or you rubbed mine – I’d choose mine.
But we all want someone to reach out to us.
We all want someone who will compliment us.
Someone who will root for us.
Someone who tells us we can/will succeed.
Somebody who believes in YOU/ME.
Now the Bible tells me that God thinks this is important for His church too.
“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.”
In fact, we need to:
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph 4:29 & 32
We ought to be kind to each other.
We ought to build each other up.
We ought to encourage one another and strengthen each other.
We shouldn’t go around saying negative/ hurtful things about other Christians.
We need to use our words to lift up each other up.
ILLUS: I’m always intrigued by the phrase some parents and care-givers use with children: “Now children, we need to use our ‘indoor’ voices.”
What Ephesians 4 is saying is that when in the church (not the building) we need to use our “in Jesus” voices.
Those voices need to lift up, not tear down.
And this command is repeated elsewhere in Scripture:
· “…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
· “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
This is so important to God that He not only expects us to encourage one another, God Himself is willing to show us how it should be done.
Now, I don’t often use Greek from the pulpit… but this is intriguing.
The Greek word - translated “encourage” in these passages is “parakaleo.”
Say it with me: parakaleo”.
It means to “call someone alongside” so that you can comfort them/ strengthen them.
Now, what’s really interesting is that (in the Gospel of John) Jesus made us a promise:
“… I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (“paraklatos”) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit who lives inside us once we become Christians. Acts 2:38 says that when we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins we receive… “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Everyone of us who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit inside of us.
And the word Jesus uses to the describe God’s Spirit (in the Gospel of John) is “paraclatos”.
“Paraclatos” described someone who would “come alongside you”.
Now why does the Holy Spirit come alongside us?
Because God gave us His Spirit to comfort and encourage us.
That is one of the major roles of the Holy Spirit.
So, God wants us to “parakaleo” each other (come alongside)
And God sends His Spirit as a “paraklatos” us (One who comes alongside)
In other words: God not only believes we ought to encourage one another, He Himself is committed to encouraging us as well.
Now how does God encourage us?
Well, first (as we just mentioned) He deliberately places His Spirit inside us to encourage us. And God’s Spirit encourages us by reminding us that - as Christians – we BELONG.
Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were MARKED in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a DEPOSIT guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory.”