Going Deeper into Loving Others
Here we are back again, continuing our journey of Going Deeper into Loving Others. This time through the faith action of Encourage.
Have you gathered a someone or two to talk with? Do you have your Bible? a journal? your favorite pen? Get ready, because it’s time to go deeper…
Father God, how great You are to bless us with Your Son, Your Word, and Your Spirit. Open the eyes of our heart to the things You want us to see on our journey back to You.
For the next five weeks we will be talking about and exploring Encourage as an act of faith and an expression of love.
What comes to mind when you think about encouragement? what emotions rise?
When do you feel most in need of encouragement?
We need encouragement most when we are discouraged, the polar opposite of encouraged. Discouragement causes us to lose heart, drive, and the spirit to go on.
What causes discouragement?
Situations and circumstances can be a source of discouragement. Our own failures or the failures of those who have influence and power over our lives.
Everyone of us has the power to either encourage or discourage those around us through our words and actions. And most of us have a predisposed bent toward one or the other.
Which are you? Are you one who is eager to encourage? or do you see the dark side of things and discourage others, maybe even without meaning to?
What lies at the heart of your natural tendency to encourage or discourage others? Explain.
I was raised by parents who were steeped in fear and worry. As a result, I tend to see the downside to everything.
I used to say I had the gift of coming up with the worst-case scenario in any situation. Of course, I didn’t do it with the heart of a fatalistic doomsayer (even though I probably sounded like one), but with a heart to protect, prepare, and guard against whatever could possibly go wrong.
When it came to my children, the heart was to protect them from disappointment. This skewed view was not a great way to encourage children to pursue possibilities and dreams. Or even step out in faith.
God has been busy healing my soul and freeing me from fear and worry. Dare I say I’m just about worry-free? I still prepare for the possibility of bad outcomes, but they are not my focus. Because really, God alone knows what will happen. No amount of worry… no all-out doomsday prepping… will keep us from facing what God brings into our lives for His purpose, our good, and His glory.
Today, I readily encourage my children (and others) to listen to God. Pursue whatever they believe He is calling them to do and trust Him with whatever comes. Because in His hands, it’s all good.
I’m an eternal optimist eager to give encouragement. My natural bent is to see good, potential, and possibility in most circumstances. I’m not kidding when I say I even love Mondays. The start of a new week, imagining the possibilities and what’s coming spur me to rise early and get going. I have a deep desire to encourage others, and I can’t remember a time I didn’t.
I am learning haphazard encouragement given indiscriminately causes trouble at times. Because this natural bent has its dangers. There are those who don’t accept encouragement and their response can be painful. Other times I give encouragement for encouragement’ s sake without seeking God, and it can point someone in the wrong direction.
Encouragement draws others and inspires hope. When we give it freely with God as the focus, faith grows in us and others too.
How do we go through most of our days? feeling encouraged? or discouraged?
Most of our days are spent somewhere in between being really fired up about life and feeling ready to throw in the towel. But, if our lives were filled with regular doses of encouragement, maybe we could avoid dark valleys of discouragement all together. Or at least put more distance between them. Encouragement is not just for the days we can’t go on, it’s for every day.
So far, on our journey of faith, we have delved deeper into loving others through Respect, Share, and Give.
Just like our primary faith actions of Loving God and Loving Others are inseparable, we find Encourage inseparably intertwined with Respect, Share, and Give. When it comes to loving others, they are the strands which make up the cords of encouragement we cast out to others.
How does encouragement express love?
Encouragement shows we care what direction a person’s life is taking and how they are fulfilling their potential. We care about their heart and their emotional outlook on life. When we encourage others, we reveal our desire for someone to live out their full potential and experience an abundant life. Those we love, we want to see fulfilled.
The Bible tells us God is love (1John 4:16) and it also tells us He is the God of encouragement.
Read Romans 15:5-6
What does God give us along with encouragement? Why?
God gives endurance and encouragement, so we can:
- Live in harmony with one another and Jesus.
- Glorify Him in unity as one.
What does this Scripture reveal about encouragement?
The definition of endure and its synonyms include: to regard with acceptance or tolerance, to abide, bide, tolerate, keep up, hold up, persist and remain (Merriam-Webster).
Encouragement is given by our loving God to help us endure others in community for His glory. It gives us what we need to hold up, abide, and remain in relationship with God and those He calls us to love. Love can take the form of encouragement and help us live in a broken world among broken people, so others might see His glorious grace through us.
The Christian author Philip Yancey shared his thoughts on feeling loved in one of his books about grace:
At a gathering I attended, he asked us to think about one question: “When have I felt loved?” I came up with a list: when someone listens to me attentively, makes me feel important, encourages me (and sometimes even challenges me), cares for me when I’m hurting, gives me an unexpected gift.
–Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace: Bringing Good News to a Deeply Divided World
In Philip Yancey’s quote on what makes him feel loved, how many of the faith actions in our study of loving others do you see?
All of them:
How would you answer the same question: “When have I felt loved?”
What one word might be used to express what happens when we experience feeling loved through someone’s interaction in our lives?
How about: “encouraged.” To be encouraged is to be filled with courage, spirit, and hope (Merriam-Webster’s). Encouraged is the word which most reflects how we feel when we are loved. We feel as if we could take on the highest mountain, the deepest valley, or the widest river. To feel loved is to be encouraged. Yet, for most of us, this is not the demeanor with which we approach our everyday lives.
Why do you think we need encouragement? especially as Believers?
Spiritually speaking, we live in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Read Psalm 63:1
According to Scripture, what are we thirsty for?
God. The God who is love.
When it comes to loving others, the foundation for encourage as an act of faith is based on the reality we are all thirsty. Believers and unbelievers alike. We are all thirsty for love.
The problem arises when we don’t connect our thirst with our longing for God. Until we make the connection we run to all sorts of things to try and satisfy the soul thirst only He can quench.
What are some things we run to in the world to try to satisfy our longing?
- Financial security
What is it we most need to be encouraged to do? seek?
We most need to be encouraged to seek God.
Going Deeper into Encourage will focus on our need to lovingly encourage others to quench their thirst in Jesus. Because when we wander from God, we wander from life.
Read Isaiah 5:11-13
What are the consequences when we seek fulfillment in anything other than God?
The things of the world only leave us hungrier and thirstier than before. They lead us away from God and into exile.
Early in my walk my prayer life was somewhat one-sided. Most of my one-sided conversation with God centered around things I thought would make life perfect.
God help my husband to be more… Please allow me to get that job… Help me find a church where I can grow…
I believed if my prayers were answered, I would be full. When God answered my prayers I felt encouraged, but something was still missing. I was still thirsty. Good marriages, great jobs, and even a vibrant church were never designed to quench my thirst.
Though they are a blessing, they are not meant to provide living water. Living Water, one that quenches our thirst forever is only found in our relationship with Jesus.
The Psalmist must of have understood when he wrote these words.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
I’m thankful nothing in this world satisfies my thirst for very long. Because thirst is the reason I keep digging deeper into Him. It keeps me growing in my faith and reminds me nothing but His presence quenches my thirst.
Encouragement among Believers is one way we help each other endure the wilderness wandering in the world until God fulfills His promises. We encourage one another to quench our thirst with Living Water.
Read Nehemiah 9:18-21
Nehemiah led the reconstruction of the wall around Jerusalem after the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon. These verses are part of a prayer of praise to God after completion of the project. It was a time to encourage God’s people to return to Him and avoid the sins which removed them from the Promised Land in the first place. In praise, they remembered God’s way with His people during their wilderness wandering.
What means of encouragement do we see God give the Israelites?
What aspect of God’s character is revealed?
God in His mercy continued to guide the Israelites despite their idolatry. He continued to feed them miraculously and quench their thirst. He didn’t even allow their clothes or shoes to wear out on this forty-year journey.
What aspect of His mercy do you think provided the most encouragement when it came to living in the desert?
Providing water to quench their thirst was surely the most needed encouragement for them to endure their wandering. Especially when the river of water came flowing out of a rock (Exodus 17:6).
However, our spiritual thirst is an even greater need. We just don’t always recognize it.
Read Amos 8:11-13
What does this prophetic word reveal about God? about our need for His Word?
Spiritual thirst for God’s love is universal to all people.
I recently read a biography about Tiger Woods. At a very early age, Tiger began listening to motivational speakers. Instead of music or games, he listened to recorded affirmations and teachings that provided a message of success. While most kids were playing outside and jumping on the trampoline, he was practicing golf hours a day and listening to encouragement through his headphones.
From the golf standpoint there are very few in Tiger’s category of expertise. He became the greatest in the world. He defied odds in many ways and drew new fans to the sport. He had it all: family, fame, and success.
Throughout the book an undercurrent of thirst flowed. Even though he achieved all he set out to do, it didn’t satisfy. In fact it eventually became the downfall in his personal life and his ability to play well.
He’s not alone in his struggle. Because the world teaches us to quench our soul thirst for more or better. Even those who are the greatest in the world seem to be searching for more, but if you’re the greatest what “more” is there?
The whole wide world, every single soul is thirsty for God. Nothing else will satisfy. Not fame, fortune, or achievement. These just leave us panting for more.
The world says self-esteem is the encouragement we all need. In children’s sports, we have gone so far as to eliminate winners and losers all together, because even the worst players deserve encouragement.
The problem is, it is a false encouragement wrapped up in self. An absolute work of the enemy. The world teaches we can lift ourselves up with positive affirmation or motivational speakers, but in the end it leads to pride.
Believers are called to esteem God and God alone. When we refuse, our thirst is never satisfied.
This universal thirst and need for God’s love is the foundation we will build on as we talk about and learn to encourage others as an act of love.
Our first week of study is the need to encourage one another: As Long as it is Called “Today”.
Click here for PDF of homework: Encourage Week 1 – As Long as it is Called Today
Father God, encourage us to encourage others.