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Summary: Originally a Mother’s Day sermon directed to men who are incarcerated, this message focuses upon the Christian act of encouragement as seen in the lives of Philemon and Barnabas.

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Submitted By Dr. Bobby J. Touchton

Ashland, Kentucky

INTRODUCTION. Let me begin by reading an email, entitled, "What My Mother Taught Me,"

My other 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 no one 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 discipline6) Home atmosphere

7) Need for outside role models

8) Training of children

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

ILLUSTRATION: 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."

If you asked me why I picked the book of Philemon to preach on encouragement, I would tell you 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 Hebrews.

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." There is a distinct difference between encouragement and comlpiments. Unearned compliments, compliments that aren’t sincere can ring hollow. 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.

ILLUSTRATION: A group of frogs were traveling through the woods when two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit and when they saw how deep it was they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump out of the pit with all their might. The other frogs kept telling them : “STOP – it’s no use, you’re as good as dead.” Finally one of the frogs took heed of what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died. The other frog however continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. “What’s the point of going on”, they cried out to him. In response the frog in the pit jumped even harder and harder and finally made it out. When he got out of the pit the other frogs said to him “Didn’t you hear us? We were shouting at you – Give up – you’re as good as dead” In response the frog said to them “Oh is that what you were saying. I’m profoundly deaf. I thought you were shouting out encouragement to me all the time!”

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