Summary: We are called to encourage one another.
Fifty-one years ago, on June 18, 1956, a freak accident happened on a lake in New York. A speeding motorboat bounced on a wave and shot into the water two of its passengers, a 50-year old man and a little girl. To keep her from drowning, the man held her head above water while the boat circled back. They rescued the girl. But the man sank and drowned.
That’s how Dawson Trotman died, the founder of the Navigators, an international discipleship ministry. According to a quote in Time Magazine, “He lived to save others. His death was just the way he would have planned it.” I read somewhere that his obituary reads like this: “Dawson Trotman, always lifting someone up.”
Now that’s a legacy. Would that be yours, too? That you live to save others? That you always lift someone up? In a word, encouragement. Tonight, we will talk about “The Power of Encouragement.”
We will look into two things, that is, the principle and the person of encouragement. Let us read Hebrews 10:24-25… “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 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.”
First, let us look at the PRINCIPLE of encouragement. In the Greek, the word “encourage” means “to call to one’s side, to comfort, to console, to strengthen.” Basically, to put courage in. At the time of the writing of Hebrews, there was a great persecution. Our tendency during such trying times would be to save our skin or to each his own. But, the book of Hebrews encourages us to encourage one another. Someone wrote, “Encouragement is the kind of expression that helps someone want to be a better Christian, even when life is rough… To encourage is to inspire another with courage.”
It is interesting to note that the Greek word for “encourage” is the one used for the name “Comforter” of the Holy Spirit. People usually equate the works of the Spirit with signs and wonders. But, when we encourage one another, we show that the Spirit really dwells among us. Encouragement, I believe, is the best indicator that the Spirit is working in and through our small groups and eventually in our churches.
The word “encourage” is in the present tense. It means a habit or a way of life. In fact, Hebrews commands us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today”. It is also in the active voice. It means we don’t wait for others to encourage us. But we take the initiative. We must encourage even if others could not, even if others would not. Note that we are to “encourage one another”. That means that it is not only for pastors but for every one of us.
Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” When a person is discouraged, when we fail to encourage, sin can deceive and harden his heart to the point that it becomes sinful and unbelieving, leading the person to turn his back from God. Someone wrote, “People live by encouragement. Without it they die. Slowly... Sadly... Bitterly.”
Verse 24 says, “let us consider…” It means “to observe attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon.” In short, we are to focus on encouraging one another. It is never accidental but intentional. I like how The Message goes: “Let’s see how inventive we can be…” Let us think of creative ways of encouraging others.
Verse 24 continues, “let us consider how we may spur one another on…” To spur means “to stir up, provoke, stimulate or incite someone to do something.” In other words, to create a thirst. A thirst for what? “toward love and good deeds.” That’s how we measure encouragement. It is not a fuzzy feeling. Always remember, as the song goes, “Feelings are nothing more than feelings.” If someone became a more loving person or a better person, then we really encouraged him or her.
Verse 25 says, “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.” We usually use this verse to remind people to be faithful in attending church services. However, note the conjunction “but”. It gives a strong contrast between the clauses “Let us not give up meeting together” and “let us encourage one another”. That means that, even if we attend church services, if we fail to encourage others, we have not obeyed this verse to the full extent. Encouragement is the purpose of our meeting together, whether it is a worship service or a small group meeting.