Going Deeper: Encourage – Session 6

God Our Encourager

We’re here. At the end of Going Deeper into Encourage. Open up your hearts to Him and those you’ve gathered to talk with as we seek to see God Our Encourager!

Lord, open our eyes to see You in Your Word and open our hearts to receive the encouragement You pour out on us each day.

Read Reflection Scripture:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32 ESV

After reflecting on the week’s Scripture, what insights did you gain regarding God as our Encourager?

What then shall we say to these things? The first question of our Reflection Scripture calls us to look at what preceded to discover what “these things” are which reveal God is for us.

Read Romans 8:28-32

What are the “these things” which prompt the rhetorical question: If God is for us, who can be against us?

  • God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)
  • Those He foreknew/predestined, He called, justified, and glorified. Please note what is translated as past tense in English in the Greek is an active ongoing process. Those continually foreknown and being predestined are continually being called and continually justified and continually glorified. It is not a done deal, but an active ongoing process. (Romans 8:30)

These things reveal God as being “for us” and not against us. And there is more in the “for” than you might imagine.

The original Greek is the word: hyper. Yes, it is where we get our English prefix hyper-, as in hyperactive (Merriam-Webster’s). The definition of the Greek includes in behalf of, for the sake of and over, beyond, more than (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

God is not just for us. He is hyper-for us. Excessively on our side going to over-the-top super-measures on our behalf.

How is His being hyper-for us demonstrated in the “these things” and in the Reflection Scripture? How do they encourage you?

Stacy says:

My middle child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His struggle to focus and control impulses has been hard to watch over the years. Describing God as “hyper” is not something I consider good. Not until I read the sister’s notes on this word study.

I describe hyper as beyond human control. A full to overflowing mind, and an over-the-top excitement to embrace a big world. Energy that bursts forth from the inside constantly moving the flesh. From the human standpoint it is disorder, another broken in the world.

God’s unbroken perfection allows me to reimagine hyper. He is beyond human control and understanding. He is full to overflowing with love for us. His energy bursts forth each day in the rising sun and never stops. It holds all things together.

I hear the words of Habakkuk resounding in my heart.

Look around [you, Habakkuk, replied the Lord] among the nations and see! And be astonished! Astounded! For I am putting into effect a work in your days [such] that you would not believe it if it were told you.

Habakkuk 1:5 Amplified Bible

In Christ, no matter what we experience or go through, God in His great power and love is working out good in alignment with His purpose. He is for His people in a way where ALL things are allowed for their good. Knowing He is working good encourages us to exercise faith when facing circumstances or situations which look bad.

The good being worked is for a purpose: conforming us to the image of His Son. ALL things are purpose-full. Nothing random. Nothing accidental. Everything allowed by Him in His sovereignty for His purpose. We can be encouraged to continue when we know there is purpose in what’s happening.

Being foreknown and predestined reminds us He was for us even before creation. We are not an accident of evolution or a Big Bang. We are being loved and have been since the beginning. We may actually have been the entire impetus for Him to speak the first word of creation. We are not subject to the outside forces of the universe, but the universe was created by a God who loves us, has our good at heart, and a purpose for our lives. In Him, the entirety of creation is for us. What an encouragement to know God went to such excessive lengths to create a home for those He lovingly crafted.

What can we say to these things? God is hyper-for us. So excessively over-the-top for us He gave His only Son “for” us. Again, the for in Greek is hyper. And He did endure excessively on our behalf. Giving His whole life over to others so we might be rescued from the captivity of sin and death. A prison of our own making.

In addition to His Son, the Reflection Scripture emphasizes, if God has gone above and beyond by giving His Son, how can He not graciously give us all things. He is the one working for our good, but He graciously gives it to us. Graciously meaning freely. He does not call us to work, to earn, what He gives. Not even salvation through His Son. All we need do is freely receive.

Anyone feel encouraged yet?

He is so for us.

Reflection Thoughts:

The Reflection Thoughts echo the idea of God as for us in every way: cheerleader, inspirational background music, coaching.

What team are you facing where you need His hyper-for-you encouragement? What does the fight song sound like? How is He cheering you on?

Prayer of Praise:

How did praising God as the One who knows help you embrace Him as our Ultimate Encourager?

Knowing all there is to know about us, He still loves us and longs to encourage us to draw closer to Him.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…

Psalm 139:6

In the Word:

In our week of studying God Our Encourager, we looked for and identified the sources of and forms of encouragement He uses in the lives of His people.

The three primary sources of encouragement are:

  • His Word: both the written Bible and the Word made flesh – Jesus.
  • His Spirit.
  • His people.

The three forms we looked for are the ones we’ve talked about in our study of Going Deeper into Encourage:

  • Inspire
  • Come Alongside
  • Spur On

Read 2Corinthians 5:1-10

We find several truths in this passage:

  • Our current “tents” are temporary.
  • Believers have an eternal dwelling waiting for them in heaven.
  • Our mortality, everything susceptible to death, will be swallowed up by life.
  • God is the One preparing the eternal dwelling place for Believers.
  • The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of what we will gain when we go from death to life.
  • We are called to walk by faith, not by sight – being sure of the coming hope we do not see.
  • We will all come before the judgment seat of Christ.
  • We will receive our due according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil.

What truth in the passage do you find most encouraging? Why?

Carol says:

The truth I find most encouraging is the temporary nature of my current “tent.” One day it will be exchanged for an eternal dwelling in heaven. One where all my mortality will be swallowed up by life.

All dying will be done and only life will remain. The groaning will be over, the battle to die to self and dealing with the falling apart nature of my physical body will be finished.

Knowing it will all come to an end encourages me to press on. All the groaning came to pass – it is temporary.

What sources and forms of encouragement can be identified in the passage?

All three sources of God’s encouragement are found in the passage:

  • His Word, both written and the one made flesh, Jesus. The Bible delivers these encouraging truths and Jesus made the way for the Spirit to come into our lives.
  • His Spirit. The One guaranteeing what is to come.
  • His people. Paul was the one God inspired to write the letter to the church.

All three forms of encouragement we have talked about are utilized.

  • The picture of the eternal dwelling in heaven waiting for us when we leave our temporary tents inspires us with a vision of our eternity.
  • The Spirit as a guarantee is a come alongside encouragement. And Paul’s words delivered in a come alongside letter remind us we are all in this together.
  • A little spurring on is included in the reminder we will all be judged for how we lived out our lives in the tents we now wear.

Consider the truth which encouraged you most. What source and form are used?

Stacy says:

The Christian Standard Bible reads, “…who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.” It reminds me of unsecured debt. Debt requiring no down payment, no commitment made by the purchaser in advance. No personal investment made, and no guarantee of payment needed.

What an encouragement! Holy Spirit is God’s down payment for us. The debt Christ paid to save my life is not unsecured. Grace comes through His commitment, and His personal investment. Holy Spirit is the guarantee I will never be left to earn salvation or sanctification on my own. He comes alongside me every step of the way.

Which of the three Sources do you lean on most for encouragement? Why? What keeps you from leaning on the others?

The truth of what our eternity looks like and the guarantee of it by the Spirit has all been prepared for us by God – our Ultimate Encourager. He employs many sources and forms to make sure we are encouraged on our journey. We only need to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to receive it.

So we are always of good courage… Yes, we are of good courage…

2Corinthians 5:6, 8 ESV

Read John 14:15-27

What assurances does Jesus give His disciples on the eve of His departure?

Jesus assures them:

  • If they love Him, they will keep His commandments.
  • He will ask the Father to send them a Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will dwell with them.
  • He will not leave them as orphans. Not only does the Greek translated as orphans mean to be without father or parent, it means to be left without a teacher, guide, or guardian (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
  • They will see Him again, in a little while.
  • Because He lives, they will live.
  • Those who love Jesus will be loved by the Father, and both Father and Son will make their home with them.
  • The Helper will teach them all things and remind them of everything He said.
  • His peace.

What does He encourage them to do as a sign of their love for Him?

He encourages them more than once: If you love Me, you will keep my commands. Obedience is the evidence of our love for Jesus.

What form of encouragement is this coming from the Word made flesh? Do you find it encouraging? discouraging? Unfair? What emotions stir when you hear Him say: If you love Me, you will obey Me.?

It is a spurring on for His disciples to keep His commandments as a sign of love for Him when they don’t see Him anymore. It is evidence of their faith and belief in Him as Messiah, though they will be left wondering shortly.

This spurring on to obey will lead to the guarantee they will receive as a result of loving Him: The Holy Spirit who makes the way for Father and Son to dwell within Believers. The Spirit who will teach and guide, correct, and remind.

What form of encouragement does the Holy Spirit’s presence represent in our lives?

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:

The essential thing in “heaven and earth” is… that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something that has made life worth living.

—Beyond Good and Evil

Obedience is a 100 mile ultra-marathon in one direction. Running the obedience race on our own is impossible. Holy Spirit inspires us, spurs us on, and comes alongside us as we take step after step toward the finish line.

Holy Spirit is God coming alongside the Believer to help them do life. How does this encourage you?

Carol says:

The first time I read this passage and learned the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything Jesus ever said, I was inspired to read through the entire Bible.

I view all of Scripture as Jesus’s teaching – everything He said. After all, He is the Word made flesh. If I wanted the Spirit to fulfill His job in my life, remind me of all Jesus said, then I better make sure I heard it (or in this case read it) at least once. You can’t be reminded of something you’ve never known.

I wanted all the fuel I could give Him in order to remind and guide and teach. This encouragement spurred me on through the Bible so I could experience the full coming alongside of the Spirit in my life.

Read Romans 15:1-7

Just as Jesus bears with our failings, Believers who are strong in the faith are obligated to bear with the failings of others. This is one of the ways the church matures and is built up. Those who are farther along in Christlikeness encourage others in their failings.

What role does Scripture play in encouraging us in bearing with others? Explain.

What was written before is meant to encourage us to endure and have hope. The Old Testament reveals the coming of the Messiah, all He suffered, and the coming of His Kingdom in the end. We see much of what He endured in more detail in the prophetic passages of the Old Testament than is given us in the gospels.

The Psalms are His prayers, many prophetically reveal Jesus’s emotions and spiritual wrestling during His life on earth and on the cross. The Old Testament prophets say much about Jesus’s coming the first time and the second time. Both give us reason to persevere as He did and to trust in the hope of His promises which are yet to be fulfilled.

What forms of encouragement do we see in the passage?

All three forms of encouragement are given:

  • Come alongside is displayed in the call for mature Believers to support others in their failings, to build them up.
  • The call to come alongside is given with a spurring on, reminding it is not something pleasing in the flesh, but it is part of being like Christ. They are encouraged to deal with others failings the way Jesus dealt with them, with grace and mercy.
  • There is also a vision to inspire the hard work of difficult fellowship: the ultimate unity of the church for the glory of God.

How does Jesus bear with our failings? What form of encouragement does it take?

Jesus bore our reproach, not to please Himself, but to make the way for us to be saved; and He welcomed us for the glory of God. An extreme coming alongside.

How does He welcome sinners for the glory of God?

The Greek translated as welcome – proslambano – means to take to oneself; to take as one’s companion; to take by the hand in order to lead aside; to receive into one’s home with kindness; to receive, i.e. to grant one access to one’s heart; to take into friendship; to take food (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

Jesus welcomes sinners who are ready to receive His gift of grace in all these ways. He comes alongside as companion and friend, receives us with kindness. He makes His home with us until He is ready to take us to His. He gives us access to His heart as friend, brother, Rabbi, and feeds us spiritually.

How does your experience of being welcomed by Him encourage you to welcome others in His name?

Carol says:

He has definitely put up with my failings, taken me into His heart. He brought me in to be healed and restored, made new and set free.

The healing and freedom He has brought into my life opens me up to others as well. I welcome them into my heart and willingly offer to walk with them in their pain and dis-ease just as He took mine.

He welcomes me without condemnation, and I certainly have no room to condemn others. I’ve welcomed people, invited and offered to walk with them. Some have received the invitation for a season, others have said no.

All welcoming invitations are not accepted. Some refuse the invitation.

Have you allowed Him to welcome you? How far into His heart have you ventured? Or have you declined His offer to draw closer? become more intimate? Why?

Stacy says:

I used to define obedience as success or failure in following the rules. I approached God’s Word as a list of laws to follow. Do pray every day. Do go to church. Don’t lie. Don’t slander. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. I was a Pharisee constantly fine tuning the letter of the law when it came to my own spiritual journey. According to my list, I was a failure.

Now I see obedience is not about rules at all. It is saying yes to God’s invitation to enter the wide open space of His heart. Jesus’ sacrifice split the curtain of separation from top to bottom, and obedience means stepping into the Holy space. It is a long journey full of joy and pain, but never a journey I walk alone. He’s there cheering me on, carrying me through, spurring me on when I stall out along the way.

Read Romans 16:25-27

What sources of encouragement do we see in the closing of the letter to the Roman church?

All three sources of encouragement are present:

  • His people. Paul is the one sharing the gospel and Jesus’s preaching with the church at Rome.
  • His Word. The written Word in the form of the prophetic writings reveal the Word made flesh and confirm the message of the gospel through the Word made flesh.
  • His Spirit. The Spirit reveals the mystery found in the Old Testament. Without the Spirit we would never see it or understand it.

What forms of encouragement are evident?

  • Come alongside is present in Paul’s letter to the Roman Believers.
  • Inspiration is seen in the reference to the mystery of the prophetic writings being revealed. Something awaited for a long time.
  • Spurring on as the unveiling of the gospel brings about obedience to the faith.

God’s common purpose in the Old and New Testaments is the focus of the passage. What encouragement do you find in their common ground? Explain.

The interconnectedness of the Old and New Testaments encourage God’s people to trust His faithfulness as proved thus far through the fulfilling of gospel prophecy. It also reinforces the message behind the Reflection Scripture: God is for us.

All the preserved writing and promises over the centuries encourage our faith through the revelation of truth. It should encourage us to study both Old and New Testaments to build our faith and move us to obey His Word.

By seeing His one message over thousands of years delivered in 66 books with more than thirty authors, we should be inspired to praise Him for His great love and continued encouragement of His people so prone to wander.

This entire passage is a praise of God as our Encourager: Now to Him who is able to strengthen you… to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

He alone strengthens us for the journey, from the blessing of faith to receive the truth of the gospel to the prophetic revelations bringing about obedience. The whole thing is wrapped up with an Amen.

Amen is not just a sign-off for prayer. It is not a way to tell God or those you’re praying with that you’re done praying. Amen is an affirmation of agreement at the end of a prayer, praise, teaching. The meaning is most fully expressed when the leader ends with: And all the people agreed and said “Amen.”

Amen is a word of encouragement. A word for others to come alongside you in agreeing in what has been proclaimed. A word to inform God of the fact we’ve been encouraged: Yes.Let it be so!

Our final day of study this week, encouraged you to consider how God’s faithfulness has strengthened you on your journey of faith. How has His faithfulness encouraged you to continue? Has it moved you to encourage others?

How did you do with the challenge to encourage yourself and another regularly throughout the study? What was your experience?

Carol says:

My encouragement of another returned to me in an unexpected way.

I wanted to encourage a loved one who appears to me to be in a difficult place spiritually. About the time we started the study, I came across a list of Scriptures I collected several years ago for my own encouragement. The title of the list: Who Am I. Each Scripture defines who a Believer is in Christ.

I felt prompted to use the list to encourage my loved one. Emailing one Scripture daily and clearly stating who they are in Christ. The discipline turned into six days a week rhythm. Sending emails with the subject: I love you.

Now, understand, I received no response in return. Had no clue if they were reading them, rolling their eyes, or instantly hitting “delete.” But encourage I did. And the most amazing thing was, I became encouraged about who they are in Christ.

I was reminded they have already made the most important decision in their life to choose Him, and yes they may be wandering in this season, but I trust He is for my loved one. All this season which looks bad to me, like a loss and a waste, He is working for good.

So the biggest lesson I learned as the subject lines boldly changed from: I love you to I love you and am proud of you to I am proud of you and love you is that God calls us to encourage others to encourage ourselves too!

What an awesome for-us God!

We’ve come to the end of Going Deeper into Encourage. Looking back, did you find yourself more apt to encourage others? What form of encouragement did you use most often? Inspire? Come Alongside? Spur On? What responses did you receive?

The primary purpose of the faith action of encourage is to strengthen us to hold on to the hope of His promises. And that’s exactly where we go next.

Going Deeper into Hope is our final study in the Loving Others series and begins Tuesday, October 9, 2018.

But we can’t leave here without encouraging one another with a little Amen. We’ll close with a song of praise: And the People Said Amen – Matt Maher

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

2Corinthians 1:20 ESV

Father God, You have given us Your Yes in Jesus and the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of all Your promises being fulfilled in our lives. Open our heart to Your encouragement and flow it through us to encourage others along the journey as a fresh drink of cool water.

Amen!

[Feature Image Photo by Mariam Soliman on Unsplash]

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