Week Four: Encourage

Week 4: Encourage

The basis upon which Christians can speak to one another is that each knows the other as a sinner, who, with all his human dignity, is lonely and lost if he is not given help. … We speak to one another on the basis of the help we both need. We admonish one another to go the way that Christ bids us to go. We warn one another against the disobedience that is our common destruction. We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s severity. … Or do we really think there is a single person in this world who does not need either encouragement or admonition? Why, then, has God bestowed Christian brotherhood upon us?

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Reflection Scripture: Encourage

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6 ESV

Day 1: As Long as it is Called “Today”

But 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 ESV

Carol says:

Encouragement is essential to everyone’s journey of faith. I don’t know how great I am at giving it, but I have been on the receiving end of encouragement. Looking back to where I am now, well, I just wouldn’t be here.

At the time of this writing, I’m in the process of reviewing a galley proof for the printing of a Christmas devotional I published as an e-book several years ago. Reading the Acknowledgements, I thanked God first, and then there it is: Secondly, to Stacy Boyer and her encouragement to use a gift I thought long buried and beyond revival.

I read it in wonder as I remembered all she didn’t know about me, when she looked at the Youth t-shirt idea and said: This is a Bible study. We had a superficial relationship at best. She was the Youth Director for my oldest child. That was the extent of it.

She didn’t know my childhood dream of being a ballerina was closely followed by being a writer. She didn’t know if I could write. She didn’t know my heart for His Word. She didn’t know me. But by faith, at the whisper of the Holy Spirit, she said, Let’s meet and write…

I remember sitting at the counter in her kitchen after several weeks of meeting together, tears rolling down my face at how God revived the dream of writing in me. And not just any writing, writing for Him! After all these years, it felt as if He buried this gift in me for His use, when the time was right. He used the discouragement of the enemy to protect something He wanted for His glory alone. (That probably sounds silly or melodramatic, but it’s how my spirit interprets this craziness.)

No. Without the gift of the sister’s encouragement, you wouldn’t be here at the home of Sister Talk: Faith. I probably wouldn’t either.

Stacy says:

Over the years I’ve taken several spiritual gifts assessments, and without fail in my top two, every single time, is encouragement. Yep, that’s me. I’m an encourager through and through. This spiritual gift has been a huge blessing, but it can be hard at times. I’ve been called Pollyanna more than once. Some probably think I’m full of something other than the Holy Spirit. And, believe it or not, there are times others do not want to be encouraged. I’m still learning when and where to use my gift.

Encouragement bubbles up from the depths of my soul. That’s how I know it is a gift. I absolutely can’t help it! There are times I think, Did I just say that? Honestly, I didn’t give a lot of thought to encouraging Carol to write. There was no grand plan or schedule check to see if I had the time. The invitation sort of popped out of my mouth and the rest was… is history.

I certainly didn’t realize the encouragement I gave would develop into the friendship we have today.

Funny thing about encouragement. It can sneak back up and bless you in ways you never imagined.

encourage… 1 a: to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope: hearten b: to attempt to persuade: urge 2: to spur on: stimulate 3: to give help or patronage to: foster

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.)

Encouragement. It’s something Believers are called to give one another daily, as long as it is called Today.

Read Hebrews 3:7-19

According to this passage what is the primary purpose of encouragement?

What is the evidence of our participation in Christ?

How many times is “today” used in these verses? What is its significance?

Today is the only day we have. Yesterday is gone and we are not promised tomorrow. The repetition of today, gives this passage a sense of urgency. Don’t miss an opportunity to encourage one another. Keep everyone around you on track. Only by persevering to the end do we attain the rest God has for us. It is not an easy journey. Many fall away. Therefore, we are to encourage one another… today. Day after day.

Do you know someone who wandered from the Way? What caused them to turn? Or maybe you had a season where unbelief seemed tempting. Did you receive encouragement to keep the faith? Where did it come from?

Encouragement keeps us going in the right direction. Bolsters us against unbelief.

Many of us consider encouragement as warm fuzzy comfort. But encouragement has many facets. Re-read the definition of encouragement given above. Write the action words associated with its definition.

Inspire, persuade, urge, stimulate, spur on, help, foster. These words go from soft and nurturing, to urgent and inciting. There is a different form of encouragement for every different season and circumstance.

The Greek translated as “encourage” in Hebrews 3:13 of the NIV translation is “exhort” in the ESV and NKJV, which means to give warnings or make an urgent appeal. The original Greek, parakaleo, has several different aspects: to call to one’s side; to speak to one with exhortation, comfort, instruction; to admonish; to beg, beseech; to console, encourage, comfort; to instruct, teach (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

The primary Hebrew word found in the Old Testament as encourage is similarly broad in its aspects of encouragement: strengthen, be resolute; to press, be urgent; to be severe, be grievous; to restore to strength; support; make bold; to take hold of (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

Encouragement promotes belief and can be a call to action. It has the ability to birth something new or pry someone out of a place they’ve become stuck. It is an essential part of our faith journey and an important part of fellowship.

From respecting others to sharing our gifts and giving as we are called provides encouragement to our faith communities. This week we’ll explore the three primary aspects of encouragement and the means with which we inspire, strengthen, and spur on others to faith in action.

Talk It Out

Talk it over with yourself:

Recall a time someone encouraged you. How did they do it? What difference did it make in your life?

Consider opportunities you’ve had to encourage others. Did you? Why or why not?

Talk it over with God:

Ask God to reveal the places in your heart you need encouragement in your faith. Ask Him to bring someone into your life to encourage you.

Next, ask Him to reveal someone in your realm of influence who needs encouragement. Ask Him to bless you with the spirit of encouragement and guide you in how to encourage them in their faith.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1-2 NIV

Exercise Your Faith

Encourage:

Find a specific person to speak encouraging words to today. Press farther than: “Have a nice day.” Whoever it is, look the person in the eye, and speak encouragement.

Reflection Scripture: Examen

Our Reflection Scripture exercise will be based on a spiritual discipline called the Examen. The Examen is a prayer practice with many adaptations, but at the heart is the process of reflecting on your day and identifying what brought you closer to God and what moved you farther from God. In its totality, the Examen can be quite lengthy and there are many resources available if you are interested in learning more.

We will concentrate on examining our day based on encouragement and discouragement. We’ll focus our attention on four questions, asking God to reveal the answers as we reflect on our day. We’ll consider who we interacted with along the way, and what we did to encourage.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6 ESV

Begin by reading the Reflection Scripture each day.

Enter God’s presence by inviting the Holy Spirit into your prayer. Take a few deep breaths and focus on Him.

Ask God the following questions. Take time after each question to listen and let Him speak to you.

Think back through your day, the things you did, the people you encountered…

When did I feel encouraged today?

When did I encourage someone else?

Was there a moment of discouragement?

What about the encouragement moved me closer to God?

End your Examen with thanksgiving for God’s encouragement. You may also want to journal, draw, take a prayer walk, or sing a song of praise in response to your time with Him.

[Feature Image Photo seen on website by sydney zentz on Unsplash]

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