Going Deeper: Encourage – Session 2

As Long as it is Called “Today”

We are so glad you’re here and hope you have a friend or two to talk with along the journey. Do you have your Bible? journal? favorite pen? 

Well, Amen.

Father God, how great You are to bless us with the encouragement we need to quench our thirst as we travel through this world. Open our hearts to what You have to say today.

In the Introduction, we discussed how the faith action of Encourage demonstrates our care for others through acts of love. We are all thirsty for God’s love and need to be encouraged to seek it daily.

Read the Reflection Scripture:

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:10 ESV

What caught your attention as you reflected on the Scripture?

The Scripture tells us two things very clearly: God calls us to do good to everyone, but especially to other Believers. And we are to see doing good as an opportunity.

What do you hear Him saying to you?

Reflection Thoughts:

The Reflection Thoughts focused on the word “opportunity.”

How did you work through seeing doing good as an opportunity?

What are the two characteristics of an opportunity according to the definition?

Opportunities have a limited time frame, they happen at a juncture of favorable circumstances. We’ve all heard the phrase “opportunity knocks.” When it does, we either open the door or keep it closed. As the saying implies, opportunity will stop knocking at some point and walk away. They can also be seen as open doors through which we can walk or not. But they are not doors that stay open indefinitely. They close at some point never to open again.

The second characteristic of opportunities is they are always seen as advantageous. It is not good to miss an opportunity. They are associated with advancement and progress. They are viewed as good things to take advantage of.

The Reflection Scripture begins with: So then… A marker telling us the verses before brought us to this point. So then… let’s read what comes before to see how we get to this place of seeing “doing good” as a favorable opportunity.

Read Galatians 6:1-10

What opportunities to “do good” are found in this passage approaching our So then…?

  • Catching someone in their sin gives those who are spiritual an opportunity to gently restore him or her to where they need to be. It’s an opportunity to speak the truth in love and offer grace.
  • Bearing or supporting the burdens of one another. When you or someone else is heavy with trouble, there is an opportunity to share the burden. What types of trouble might bring with them opportunities to support one another?
    • Physical illness.
    • Loss to death or disaster.
    • Emotional burdens of depression or discouragement.
    • Any dis-ease.
    • Relationship struggles or divorce.
  • Keep watch on yourself when stepping into the another’s trouble. Here we find an opportunity to remember our own tendency toward temptation and sin. An opportunity to encourage ourselves to be careful, to beware of falling to the same sin or succumbing to pride. Keeping watch over our own hearts with humility and grace is a way we do good to ourselves.
  • Encouraging ourselves to continue to do good, sowing to the Spirit and not the flesh, is an opportunity to increase in perseverance and faithfulness. Doing good leads to its own eternal rewards. The reaping we look forward to is our progress in storing treasures in heaven.

Every opportunity to do good is an opportunity to encourage, whether the trouble is self-inflicted by sin or by forces outside our control.

Yet, would you characterize the “opportunities” in the Galatians passage as good? Catching people in their sin and trying to help them back in the right direction? Bearing one another’s trouble?

Sometimes, encouraging others can be difficult for our flesh. It is not something we can do apart from the Spirit.

Stacy says:

Years ago, God revealed to me a role I would live out in my family, and over the years I’ve become weary with the wishing it would change. Because it is not a role I was meant to fill and honestly I just don’t want the responsibility.

During a recent conversation I caught a glimpse of my heart’s condition, and my horrible attitude about this circumstance. I’ve behaved like the preteen who does their chores, but makes mom miserable in the process. Nothing about this feels like opportunity, and I have almost quit encouraging altogether.

This is yuck, really yuck! And I know I can’t change it on my own.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mark 10:47

As with all of God’s Word, it is meant to move us out of the world’s way of seeing things and into His Kingdom perspective. There is an opportunity for a shift in our worldview in this passage.

Read Romans 12:21

How are we to overcome evil? How does this relate to the opportunities found in doing good?

God tells us to overcome evil with good. Therefore, from His perspective, every evil becomes an opportunity to do good!

Is this a hard shift for you to make? Why or why not?

How does this worldview translate to encouragement?

We encourage fellow Believers in their times of trouble by easing the burdens brought about by evil. The blessing of soul-quenching love reveals Christ’s care and faithfulness, reminding them of His provision.

For unbelievers, reaching out to do good in their lives may draw them to Christ by causing them to wonder why we would help someone we don’t know well or aren’t related to. Again, quenching a soul-thirst for love, making them feel worthy of attention and care.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone! The Word calls us to be indiscriminate in doing good to others, when the opportunity arises. Why do you think we are to do good to everyone?

Jesus’s gift of grace is an opportunity for all – the entire world (John 3:16). Therefore, like Jesus, we are to offer indiscriminate good. But also like Jesus, not everyone will receive the good we offer.

Do you find it hard to be indiscriminate in doing good? Is it easier for you to encourage a stranger? or someone you know? Explain.

Just as opportunities have two distinct characteristics, doing good involves two distinct parties: a giver and a receiver.

The Galatians passage tells us it is an opportunity to bear one another’s burdens, meaning we will not always be the one doing good to someone in need. We may be in the role of the one needing to receive some good, being an opportunity for someone else.

Do you see yourself as offering an opportunity to someone else, when you are in need? Why or why not?

If doing good is an opportunity, as the Reflection Scripture says, then we should approach the prospect as a cause for excitement. No matter which end of the doing good we find ourselves, giver or receiver: I get to do good! OR I get to be an opportunity for someone to do good!

However, in our realities, this is not always the case.

Do you actively look for opportunities to do good to others, as you go about your days? Do you consider it an opportunity to do good when you see a circumstance where you can do good?

Carol says:

To be honest, I don’t think I actively look for opportunities to do good. I’m too self-centered.

I’m not even sure I see “doing good” as an opportunity, a fortuitous circumstance. I’ve had my moments, but sometimes doing good is an inconvenience. It can be messy and time consuming.

Like the man in trouble on the side of the road in the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). Why is he called “the good Samaritan,” anyway? Because he did good. The Samaritan saw the opportunity and took it, encouraging the poor guy left for dead on the side of the road.

Can you imagine how discouraged he was when three people had already walked around him to avoid getting involved?

I could easily be in the category of the three. Too busy, too distracted, too self-focused to get involved. But my hope is, He is growing me to love others more than myself and to see the opportunity to do good in the midst of another’s trouble.

I really don’t want to be one of those three guys…

How have you reacted when you’ve recognized missed opportunities to do good?

Carol says:

Well, as long as I’m being honest. I’ve missed so many opportunities to do good and each convicts me to the core. Hopefully, I’m learning from my failures to be more faithful in the future.

Many of the opportunities I’ve missed involved missing the step before – reaching out in relationship.

I can think of at least two specific people I’d been involved with in some activity or other and then saw them somewhere else and had the opportunity to extend the relationship. But my first thought was: They won’t remember me, and I’ll just cause embarrassment for both of us, so I won’t say anything.

This thought has caused me to miss opportunities to build relationships which would place me in a position to do good. In both cases, it wasn’t long after the chance to connect, each one came to a point of needing good done in their lives, and I felt stuck. How could I get involved now? when I missed the opportunity to reach out and build relationship?

So I’m learning. Slowly. The first step in doing good is to put aside my introverted insecure self and step out to connect with people. Then I can be in a place to do good when it is needed and the opportunity arises.

God calls us to see the opportunity of doing good as a blessing. Every day we need to prepare ourselves to do good by building relationship with both God and others. Then we will be in the perfect place to take advantage of the opportunities doing good offers whether we are on the giving or receiving end of encouragement.

Prayer of Praise:

What was your experience praising God as Present?

Did it change how you view encouraging others daily? in doing good?

Stacy says:

Two days this week I considered the joy I felt. It was like a river flowing out of me I couldn’t contain, and I wondered why? Where did the joy come from? These two days were marked with an intentional desire to be completely present in the moment we call now. A spiritual discipline I felt God nudge me towards as I reflected on this week’s Scripture and praise attribute.

The reality is I spend much of my time trying to figure out how to live differently. I roll mistakes over and over hoping to avoid the same pitfalls as if I can manufacture my own transformation. Or, I live in the future. A ticker-tape list of things to accomplish rolling through my mind at any given moment.

It’s true. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But the only moment we have to connect with Him and others is the one we have right now. Not yesterdays or tomorrows. This now living takes mountainous trust. Trust He will never leave us in the midst of our brokenness, and trust He’s got the future covered.

Two days of joy pointed me to the blessing of intentional presence. First, the present is the only opportunity we have to do good or encourage others. Second, when we do… joy overflows.

Our study this week focused on encouragement as a daily need. We saw how Jesus blesses Believers with the source of daily soul-thirst quenching power through the Holy Spirit and His rivers of Living Water flowing from within.

Read John 7:37-39

Jesus called “anyone” who was thirsty to come to Him for a drink of living water. Figuratively, the Greek translated as thirsty means those who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

He calls those who recognize their thirst and their need for encouragement on a spiritual and emotional level. Who do you think would not heed His call?

Those who are fully satisfied with what the world has to offer at this point in their lives will not hear Jesus calling. They won’t even understand what He’s talking about.

Do you feel your need for the Holy Spirit’s living waters? How do you drink from them? Do you do it daily? Why or why not?

Carol says:

Over the past month or so, God has stirred up my spirit with things from my past. Things I would rather leave right where they are and not even think about… ever again.

These memories have caused moments of intense spiritual battle at very inopportune times. Right where I was, continuing with what I was doing, I drank deep and desperately from the Living Waters by prayerfully praising His name and remembering His promises.

Praise, from the moment I learned it as a part of prayer, has been essential to my walk of faith and builds my confidence in who He is. His Word says it is fitting and good to praise His name (Psalm 147:1). And in remembering who He is through praise, He is bringing healing to places I would’ve been content to leave buried beneath the scars they left on my heart.

But He wants more. And sometimes He stirs up a thirst in us for more, to encourage us to drink deep from the only source which gives life.

Praising Him daily and intentionally is the way I’m going to encourage myself daily through the remainder of the study.

We must recognize our thirst before we will come to Him for a drink of life.

We saw Jesus as the Builder of His house, the church. He suffered the full weight of the temptation of sin without giving in, to make the way for sin to be redeemed.

Read Hebrews 2:18

Through suffering temptation, He built the house. We considered how our own stories of temptation and past failures can be a means of encouraging others by building up the faith of the church (Hebrews 2:18-3:4).

How do you relate to this type of encouragement? building the church by sharing your own sufferings? Is it something you see as beneficial to the church? Why or why not?

How does our encouragement of others by relating to them through the common ground of brokenness glorify the Builder?

Sin leaves a universal mark of shame. Sharing our sufferings from sin bonds His people in humble thanks before the Father. Our faith increases as we build one another up with grace.

By giving God all the glory for our healing and transformation, in light of our past failures, we encourage others to do the same. When they seek and experience His healing power, they will be moved to glorify Him too. Sharing our grace-filled stories of temptation and sin can cause a domino effect of praise and glory to God.

How have you experienced this type of encouragement yourself?

Carol says:

We talked about how the other faith actions of loving others – respect, share, and give – make up the cord of encouragement. When we talked about Sharing: Stories, I shared one of my own ugly stories.

It is not a story I share lightly or with anticipation. The experience was a suffering in and of itself, filled with dread, unknowns, and lots of humility. I shared the story with great trepidation for what might follow. But by faith, I shared.

What happened was something I could never have imagined. A great show of love from the sisters who heard. They thanked me for sharing, and others were encouraged to share their stories, too. On the other side of sharing my story of sin, I discovered more freedom, joy, and humble wonder at His love flowing through His people.

Because we all have stories of temptation, sin, and failure, sin and its effects are our common ground. In Christ, His gift of grace is the mortar which builds the church, holding it all together with His love.

Being vulnerable and open, willing to share our stories at His call as a means of encouraging others to receive His grace and healing, is a very effective way to build the faith of His church. And in the process, it dismantles the oppressive threats and lies of the enemy.

Read Hebrews 3:1-14

Jesus, the Builder, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, the faithful Son over God’s house, the church. And we are His house… IF…

What gives us our place in His house? What has the power to dislodge us from His house?

And we are His house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Hebrews 3:6, emphasis added). If we hold fast to our hope in Jesus alone, make Him our confidence, and give Him all the glory for our life and salvation, then we have a secure place in His house.

The proof of our having a place in His house is the recognition of: 1) our desperate need for Him and 2) His love as the sole basis of our worth and value. We are worthy because of His love. These are truths we need to cling to daily as a source of encouragement.

Sin has the power to deceive us from the truth and pull us out of the church through rebellion. What forms does it take?

  • Pride.
  • Dependence on anything other than God.
  • Doubt.
  • Discouragement.
  • Arrogance.
  • Division

Daily, sin raises its head in various forms of temptation and the Holy Spirit warns us, encourages us, to be on guard, to listen attentively for His voice. We saw the Israelites as an example of what not to do. Many lost their place because of rebellion.

In Jeremiah, we hear God’s lament over the state of His people who continued to rebel after He established them in the Promised Land.

Read Jeremiah 2:12-13

He calls on the heavens to be appalled and utterly desolate over what His people have done, because apparently nobody else was.

To be utterly desolate, is to be exceedingly joyless, experience the sorrow of being separated from a loved one (Merriam-Webster’s). God calls on the heavens to join in His sorrow at the shocking realization His people have fallen to temptation and rejected Him and His love. They chose to drink from a leaky hole in the ground rather than the Fountain of Living Water.

What does this metaphor reveal about what His people have done? choosing broken cisterns over a fountain of bubbling clear clean water?

Cisterns are man-made for the purpose of holding water to drink from. Yet these cisterns can only be filled by rain provided by God. Their drinking from “broken cisterns” is a picture of their seeking life from the things God created rather than the Creator Himself. They were trying to find encouragement, strength, and security in the worship of the created and not their Creator and Sustainer.

They fell for the lies and chose idolatry. Skewed vision and misplaced affections caused them to miss the truth.

How do we seek encouragement from leaky holes in the ground? drinking from what He’s given us for our good in a way it becomes detrimental to our lives?

Stacy says:

Not long ago I agreed with God and committed to do something way, Way, WAY out of my comfort zone. When the day arrived to fulfill my commitment I sought encouragement from a loved one. I wanted to hear, You can do this. I’m proud of you. I can’t wait to see how God works! I wanted to be lifted up. I didn’t get what I wanted. Not one smidge of encouragement. Nothing. Nada. And it hurt.

Sometimes I seek encouragement from those who are not equipped to give it, and this was one of those moments. Though God intended for us to encourage each other, seeking man’s encouragement has become a leaky cistern for me.

I am learning to count on God to provide all the encouragement I need. He is the ultimate Encourager and never fails to provide at the right time and place. Through His Word, His creation, and His people, encouragement rises to help me stay on track. There’s no need to go looking for it.

Recognizing our own broken cisterns, the ones we rely on for encouragement, is essential to our walk of faith. We cannot be a light and an encouragement in the world when we are dragging darkness into the church. We cannot overcome evil with good when we are its source.

The overcoming of evil in the world begins with each one of us taking responsibility for our sins. Being appalled and desolate for what we’ve done, and turning back to the only Fountain of Living Waters. The waters which, in Christ, flow like rivers out of our hearts, and splash into the lives of those around us.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”…

Hebrews 3:13 NIV

How have you planned to drink from the Living Water for the remainder of the study?

How do you plan to encourage another daily?

Every day we need encouragement to be faithful.

Every day those around us need encouragement.

Every day presents opportunities to encourage.

As an encouragement today, worship God in song and remind yoursel of all His encouragement in your life.

Coming to the Father means we long to bring others to Him too. Rosaria Butterfield sees radically ordinary hospitality as the means of spreading the gospel daily to encourage those in the world. She sees it as a mutual giving and receiving of grace.

In radically ordinary hospitality, host and guest are interchangeable. If you come to my house for dinner and notice that I am still teaching a math lesson to a child, and my laundry remains on the dining room table unfolded, you roll up your sleeves and fold my laundry. Or set the table. Or load the dishwasher or feed the dogs. Radically ordinary hospitality means that hosts are not embarrassed to receive help, and guests know that their help is needed. A family of God gathering daily together needs each and every person. Host and guest are permeable roles.

Radically ordinary hospitality lived out in the family of God gathers daily, prays constantly, and needs no invitation to do so. And those who don’t yet know the Lord are summoned for food and fellowship. Earthly good is shown as good, and the solitary may choose to be alone but need not be chronically lonely.

We practice radically ordinary hospitality by bearing sacrifices of obedience that God’s people are called to offer. We don’t think we are more merciful than God, so we don’t encourage people to sin against him or violate what the Word of God says. We lament. We soberly know that God calls us to bear heavy and hard crosses, self-denials that feel like death. We trust God’s power more than we trust our limitations, and we know that he never gives a command without giving the grace to perform it. But we know that the struggle is insurmountable alone. When radically ordinary hospitality is lived out, members of God’s household are told that they are not alone in their struggles or their joys. Radically ordinary hospitality is accompanied suffering.

– Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key

Doing good to all. Encouraging one another daily. These are the things which inspire the encouragement needed to keep His ways in a world full of thirsty wandering souls.

It’s exactly where we go next: Inspire.

Click here for the PDF of the homework: Encourage Week 2 – Inspire – Homework

Lord, bless me with a heart for encouragement.

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