Day 4: Spur On
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…
Hebrews 10:24 NIV
Don’t speak those words!
The sister’s words to me almost every time I voice any kind of discouragement about things not getting done or circumstances never changing.
She rebukes to remind me to trust His faithfulness and His power to do the impossible. To keep me focused on Him rather than what I see around me. To walk by faith and not by sight.
It can be very annoying… especially when I just want to whine and wallow in self-pity a bit.
Early in my walk with Jesus I read two books by Joyce Meyer which made a difference in my life. Through her words I was encouraged to begin to take control of my mouth and my thoughts.
Her teaching revealed to me the importance of the words I spoke and the thoughts I allowed to take root in my brain. There were times I would get caught up in discouragement and something she wrote or said would come to mind. I would hear her voice say, Complain and remain, praise and be raised or You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.
Her words encouraged me to go another direction. As I began to speak words of hope and refuse discouraging thoughts, my faith grew drastically.
The third aspect of encouragement can be the toughest to give. Primarily because it’s generally not comfortable for the giver or the receiver.
Read Hebrews 10:19-25
Where do we have confidence to enter? Why can we enter confidently?
What are we to hold fast? Why?
How are we called to encourage one another and what are we to encourage one another to do because of the above?
Through the author of Hebrews, God reminds us we have confidence to enter His throne room, the holy places, because of Jesus’s sacrifice and His blood. He is our Great Priest who died for us, so we could draw near with pure hearts and a clean conscience.
We are called to hold fast to His promises because He is faithful. But sometimes… a lot of times… the dark harsh nature of the world seems unchangeable. It feels futile to do good because it makes no difference. We’d rather hide in the closet at home or throw in the towel: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
These are dangerous signs of discouragement which need to be countered. Because of Jesus’s great work, His faithful promises, and all He came to do to change the world forever, His Word tells us to “spur” each other on to love and good works. This is the NIV translation. Others translate spur from the Greek as: stir up (ESV, NKJV), promote (HCSB), stimulate (NASB95), motivate (NLT). But by far, spur is the best translation of the original.
The Greek word paroxymos is the form of encouragement expressed: “a causing of something by spurring on, or stirring up.” Its second definition has to do with an intense argument or sharp contention (Dictionary of Biblical Languages). This Greek word is where we get our English word paroxysm, which means a convulsion or sudden violent outburst of emotion or action (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.). Sometimes, we just need a sharp unexpected poke in the side to get us moving in the right direction. Something to jar us out of a funk and back to reality.
Paul, the apostle abnormally born (1Corinthians 15:7), received a sharp poke of encouragement from Jesus to become one of His apostles.
Read Acts 9:1-19
What was Paul’s primary goal before his trip to Damascus?
Who did he meet on the road near Damascus? How did Jesus encourage Paul to see the truth?
Ananias hesitated when Jesus called him to go and minister to Paul in Damascus. What did Jesus tell Ananias about His plans for Paul? What was Paul’s faith journey going to look like, according to Jesus?
We talked a little about Paul’s conversion yesterday, how Barnabas came alongside Paul to encourage him and vouch for him before the church elders in Jerusalem. This is the account of his transformation. The sharp poke in Paul’s side was a face to face with Jesus, truth about what he was actually doing (persecuting God), and the loss of sight for three days.
Sometimes, truth is painful and unexpected. Paul was zealous for God (Acts 22:3), he was passionate about protecting His law and His church. But he was missing a crucial piece of the truth. Jesus revealed it to him point blank, knocking the wind out of him, radically changing his direction and work for God.
A spurring on can be very effective.
Jesus loves all people, but He refuses to leave us where we are without trying to move us to the truth. He even tried to incite the leaders of His church to see the truth of who they had become.
Read Matthew 23:13-32
List the reasons Jesus was woe-full over the teachers of the law and Pharisees. What was their primary offense?
Jesus had some hard words for these hypocrites, but it did not mean He didn’t love them. He was trying to wake them up to the truth of who they were and what they were doing. These woes were given after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and just days before His crucifixion.
After arriving in Jerusalem, He spent His time in the temple teaching in parables, telling stories filled with truth which should’ve convicted those church leaders hell-bent on murdering Him (Matthew 21:28-22:14). As a last-ditch effort, Jesus spelled it out clearly, so there would be no misunderstanding: Woe to you hypocrites! Woe to you blind guides!
But He did love them.
Read Luke 19:41-44
These verses depict Jesus’s heart as He was heralded into Jerusalem during His triumphal entry. What did He do as He approached Jerusalem? Why?
Jesus was heartbroken for those in the church who missed Him. Those who were caught up in the tradition and approval of men rather than Him. He wept over the state of their spirits and what was in store for them.
This is the heart of the Man who called them out for what they were. Sorrow-full…
When we see someone stuck on their faith journey, wallowing in self-pity, self-indulgence, or self-deception, we need to apply some encouragement. And it just may come down to sticking them in the side with a sharp stick, yelling, “WAKE UP!” because the stakes are too high, and the truth is too great to miss.
Talk It Out
Talk it over with yourself:
Has there been a time in your life when someone encouraged you by stirring you up to do what you weren’t doing, but knew you should be doing? How did it make you feel? did it work?
Have you been moved to incite someone to action with sharp words of truth? Did you? If so, what was the outcome. If not, why didn’t you speak truth into their lives?
Talk it over with God:
Ask God to prepare your heart to receive sharp words of truth when you need to hear them. Ask Him to embolden you to give words to spur others on to love and good works.
Ask God to remind you the magnitude of what is at stake and the great promises He is faithful to keep. There is no other way.
“…Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. …”
Revelation 3:2-3 NIV
Exercise Your Faith
Consider where you are currently off track in your faith journey. Have you fallen prey to discouragement through self-pity? self-indulgence? self-deception?
Identify the places where your thoughts wander from the truth, where your actions do not match what you say you believe.
Consider what would spur you on as you go through your day.
Do you need to seek encouragement from a friend who will speak honestly to you about your struggle?
Or maybe every time you find yourself falling into old patterns of discouragement, you could give yourself a sharp poke in the arm. Some have used the snap of a rubber band around the wrist to spur themselves in a different direction.
Find something that works for you, spurs you on to remember His promises when discouragement tries to take hold.
As we become more adept at spurring ourselves on to love and good deeds, the more sensitive we will be to His conviction, and the more we will be willing to spur someone else on in love.
Reflection Scripture: Examen
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
Read the Reflection Scripture.
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.