Be Encouraged

It’s sad to watch good people lose their courage, and sadder still to see fools gain it.  The twin commandments “do not fear, be strong and courageous” appear nearly 200 times in the Bible.  Evidently, losing one’s courage is a serious spiritual problem.  And the Bible delivers the antidote to loosing one’s courage.  It’s called encouragement.  It doesn’t cost a dime.  Anyone can give it or receive it, and it has great power in its working.  In fact, as a student of the Bible for many years now, I’m amazed at how prominent and effective this simple procedure can be for us to enact. 

A short digression for a moment.  In our western world evil is encouraged much more than the good.  It’s not enough that we simply tolerate what the Bible calls sin, evil is championed by its advocates making it increasingly difficult to discern between right and wrong.  God responded with a harsh judgment and a promise when this same scenario was repeated in ancient Israel.  Speaking to the “false prophets” who were misleading the Jews morally and spiritually, the Lord said, “Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination.  I will save my people from your hands.  And then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13)

Now for the good news.  A simple, but ancient, idea can turn a fearful person into a courageous witness for what is good and right.  It’s called encouragement.  Before you dismiss my simple suggestion, hear me out.

Everybody needs encouragement on their journey of faith because there are so many burdens to bear and barriers to climb in order to live the life of faith.  We all remember the famous word that the LORD gave to His mighty military General Joshua.  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  If Moses’ protégé needed an encouragement boost before undertaking the giant task of leading the Jews into their promised land, all of us do.  God took a moment just to encourage Joshua.  What a cool picture. 

And that’s what the Bible commands every Christian to do for one another, “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3).  In the daily battle of the Christian life, we lose our courage.  We grow weary and weak.  And the Bible says that “en-couragement” has the power to give us strength.  I know you see the etymology of the word itself, “in – courage.”  To encourage is to put faith and courage into another person’s heart. 

In fact, in the wisdom of God, when He engineered the brilliant idea of the church, He planned encouragement as one of the tools believers can use to increase faith in one another.  All the way through the New Testament you will find that the early church relied on the ministry of encouragement to build the church up in faith.  As the apostles fanned out in the ancient world preaching the Gospel and establishing churches they would often circle back and check on the churches especially to encourage them.  Acts 14 records one of many such trips.  Luke records that the apostles were “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.  “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14)

Of the many ways that the Bible promises to encourage us (there are many) the ONE greatest encouragement any of us can receive is to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Hebrews Chapter 6 tells us that we can be “greatly encouraged because we have fled to take hold of the hope set before us.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Greatly encouraged in Jesus! 

Do you need courage?  Have you lost hope?  Are you tired and weary of being fearful?  Jesus waits to forgive you, receive you and encourage you every step of the way home. 

Be encouraged, church family.  I look forward to studying God’s Word with you in one of our two services on Sunday morning.
Pastor Deric

Pray For One Another

B. Simpson was right! Prayer is our relational link to God. Prayer has been described as many things, but the idea of a “link” is very effective.  We pray because we want to stay connected with God.  Prayer keeps us abiding in the Lord.  Remember that John reassured us that, this is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15).  I’ve always loved the assurance of the Psalm which says, “the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.” (Psalm 34:15).  He hears you.  He is listening to your prayers.  He hears and answers prayer.
But prayer also strengthens the link we share with one another as fellow members of the household of faith.  Praying for one another is an effective way to take care of each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus.  The early church historian Eusebius wrote about the apostle James saying that, “his knees grew hard like a camel’s because of his constant worship of God, kneeling and asking forgiveness for the people.”  It’s interesting to me that James is famous for at least two statements about prayer.  The first, “you have not because you do not ask.” (James 4:2).  The second, Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
There you have it!  Praying for each other is very powerful, very effective.  Powerful enough to ease the weight of a burden.  Effective enough to heal the sick.  Strong enough to restore the sinning saint.  At least five times in the New Testament the apostles asked for others to pray for them.  Why?  Because they knew that prayer was one of their most formidable resources in faith.  Prayer can go where we are not allowed.  Prayer can accomplish what we cannot.  Prayer can change the world.  It can change people, nations, and the world.
That’s why James used Elijah as a prayer illustration in James Chapter 5.  Elijah was the prophet who served during one of the greatest times of apostasy and evil in Israel’s history.  And he prayed that it would not rain so that the resulting drought would humble the wicked king Ahab.  And it did not rain.  At the appropriate moment Elijah prayed again, and it rained.  James is simply telling us that we have great power in prayer to affect the destiny of people and nations.  There is no stopping the righteous man or woman who prays in the will of God.
I noticed in James Chapter 5 that his teaching about prayer and healing are preceded by the instruction, Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.  The Judge is standing at the door!”  You cannot pray effectively for the person about whom you are grumbling or criticizing.  Grumbling, murmuring, and complaining will kill your prayer life.  And it causes great hurt and harm to others.  James is straight forward, if you grumble against one another “you will be judged.”  The conclusion is obvious, keep your link with God strong and your link with others will be effective and powerful.
Join me on Sunday morning @ 9 or 11 AM to study James 5:13-20.  Can’t wait to see you.
Linked together with you church family!
Pastor Deric