Welcome to part three of our series Stay Positive. Today were going to talk about the power of encouragement, because there may be somebody in your life who is ready to give up and I want to encourage you, because you have the ability to lift them up with your words and to get them back on track. Or maybe you are discouraged this morning and that person sitting next to you is going to speak life back into your dreams. Today we’re going to talk about “Always Encouraging.”
You may have noticed how often the Bible, in the New Testament, uses the words strengthen, edify, or build up along with the word encouragement. You see, the apostle Paul and others recognized the value of encouragement. For example, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The founder of Chick-fil-A once asked, “How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? The answer he said was: “That person is breathing.”
Isn’t that so true? You see, all around us today, there is so much discouragement, and it starts so early in life. You know, you send your kids off to school and they might not get picked for the team because they’re not good enough, they score a “C” on a test and feel average, someone makes fun of them and they feel alone. Even social media gives you hard data proving that you’re not in the popular crowd, because you don’t have as many friends or as many likes for the picture you just posted. So you grow up and your boss is not satisfied with your performance. You come home and your spouse is nagging you. You meet with the in-laws for the holidays and they don’t like the way you’re raising your children and your children agree with the in-laws. Then you go on Facebook and you see a friend on their second vacation of the year and you haven’t had one in three years. Another friend is on a date at a nice restaurant and you’re eating macaroni and cheese again. And so day after day it’s amazing how many different voices of discouragement we can hear.
There's a story about a man who joined a monastery, where in addition to vows of celibacy and poverty, he was required to take a vow of silence. In fact, he was allowed to speak only two words a year, and that was to the abbot, during his annual performance review.
After serving his first year in absolute silence, he met with his superior and was allowed to speak. The two words he chose were, "Food cold."
He then served his second year in absolute silence. And at the year's end, during his review, he was allowed to speak again. His two words were, "Bed hard."
He then served his third year in absolute silence and when he went in for his review, his two words were, "I quit!" and he got up to leave.
The abbot said, "Your decision doesn't surprise me; because you've done nothing but complain since you got here."
A common complaint of employees, spouses, and children is that they never receive any feedback except negative feedback. In a world filled with negativity, where we’re almost drowning in a pool of discouragement, we’re going to focus on God’s word, allowing him to stir within our hearts, so that we can stay positive. I believe that God is calling you to be an encourager, to be that one who would build others up in a world that is constantly tearing people down. And so today we’re going to look at three different things that we can do to always be encouraging.
You see, as followers of Christ we should stay positive, always encouraging, because our God is an encouraging God. And so as those who have been created in the image of God, who are born again, and have been indwelt by the Spirit of the living God, we’re to reflect the very nature of God, always encouraging, building, and lifting others up.
The prophet Isaiah said this, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear, your God will come…” (Isaiah 35:3-4). And I wonder this morning, how many of you feel as if your hands are weak, your steps are insecure, and your hearts are fearful. For many of us this describes our lives right now. You know, you didn’t expect that. You didn’t see it coming. You’re afraid of what’s going to happen. You’re anxious and there are battles all around, yet God encourages those who are discouraged.
I love these words of Paul to the church in Corinth. Listen to these words in second Corinthians as Paul pleads for them to welcome him back. You see, they knew him, but false teachers had come in and accused him of exploiting the church, and so he’s trying to assure the church of his love and his desire to fellowship with them again. And he says in verse two,
“Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever” (2 Corinthians 7:2-7).
Paul says, we had conflicts on the outside and fears within, but I love verse six, these two words change everything, “But God.” When you’re facing troubles and problems, when you’re hurting and you don’t know which way to go. When you’ve got challenges at work, challenges at home, maybe financial or health challenges, and you’re hurting and you’re feeling discouraged, the Bible says “But God.” You see we have a God who loves to encourage those who are discouraged.
Look at what God did to encourage Paul, verse six, “God… comforted us by the coming of Titus.” God comforted Paul by sending Titus. Paul attributed the arrival of Titus to be a message from heaven sent by God to encourage him. He understood that what others might see as a coincidence, was his God encouraging him. God sent someone who cared, because God is a God who encourages those who are discouraged.
And today we’re going to look at three things, three ways that I want to encourage you to be an encourager because you have no idea how much a word of encouragement can change a life. What may seem to you as a little thing can be an incredibly big deal to someone else as they receive it as a gift of encouragement from heaven. Today if you have the eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to receive, you will receive encouragement from our God, because we serve a God who encourages those who are discouraged. Therefore we too can be a voice of encouragement in a world full of discouragement. And so today we’re going to look at three ways you can make a difference.
The first thing I want to encourage you to do is “Encourage One Another Daily”. That’s exactly what the Bible tells us in Hebrews chapter 3, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness” (3:13). The Bible says to encourage one another today. Every single day we should be a voice of encouragement to others, because the voice of discouragement is like a drippy faucet with its continual, constant expression of disapproval. You know, it’s like you didn’t clean up after yourself again, we can’t afford that, you’re not good enough, and it’s this constant nagging of inadequacy.
And it says “so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”. That’s why our fellowship Sunday after church and Wednesdays is so important, because we get to consistently encourage one another in the things of God. And if we stay out of fellowship with other believers, stay out of church, our spiritual enemy beats us down. But here’s what God says in Hebrews chapter 10, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (24-25).
So any time I think of anything good, I’m going to say it, text it, or post it, because I want to be a blessing to somebody else. Any time we think something good, or pray about somebody else, we should turn it into a word of encouragement. Paul says this in Romans chapter 1, “God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith” (9-12).
And so it’s not that we need to be sitting around thinking, “How can I encourage you?“ But we need to adopt a mindset that’s prepared to seize every opportunity, and all the more so, as you see the Day approaching. And then number two we’re going to “be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
As we gather together, as we encourage one another, as we spur one another on toward love and good deeds, we find ourselves mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. That’s why we should never give up meeting together. We want to help others grow strong in the Lord, we want them to be strengthened in the faith, we want to be an encouragement to them, but we also want to be encouraged by each other’s faith. That’s the reason why our midweek groups are so important, because without them we’re not naturally around people who are encouraging. And so after a couple of days I want to be around people that encourage me, that strengthen me, and keeps me going.
As we come together in Christian fellowship we develop healthy ways to depend on each other as we learn to give and to receive. As the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:25, “There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” And so the heart of fellowship is mutually building relationships, sharing responsibilities, and helping one another. As the Bible says here in Romans chapter 1, verse 12, “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
We’re all more consistent in our faith when others walk with us and encourage us. The Bible commands mutual accountability, encouragement, serving, and the honoring of one another. Over 50 times in the New Testament were commanded to do different things for one another or each other. The Bible says in Romans chapter 14, "Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (14:19). Seeking the good in others will bring out the best both in them and you.
Just imagine how Peter felt when Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas"(John 1:42). Which when translated is Peter in the Greek and means “a rock”. A little later Jesus called him to be his disciple, and after Peter’s great confession that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus said to him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). What a word of encouragement, what confidence Jesus expressed in an uneducated fisherman who would later deny him three times. And Jesus does the same thing with us, he’s faithful to you, he has entrusted you with his message, he’s gifted you to serve, and blessed you in countless ways. Are you trustworthy? Maybe not quite… but his trust sure does give you something to live up to doesn’t it?
And we can do this all the time to one another. Speaking blessing over one another, encouraging one another, and what you’re doing is simply taking something normal and bringing God into it, encouraging others spiritually. And then number three, this is important, encourage yourself in the Lord.
You see, every now and then you need to just encourage yourself in the Lord your God. When there are conflicts on the outside and fears within, when the voices of discouragement beat you down, you can find strength in the Lord your God. In fact, there is a powerful example of this in first Samuel, chapter 30 at verse six. The context is that David was having a really bad day. Here’s what it says in 1 Samuel 30:6.
“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
Everyone was bad mouthing his family, men were discussing killing him with rocks, and David was greatly distressed. Yet the end of verse six says, “But David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). You see, there are times in each of our lives, and I’ve been there, when you get to the point where there’s only you, you’re all alone and it’s scary. But when you get to the point where there’s only you, and you know that God is with you, you have all you need.
There’s an old saying that emphasizes a major biblical truth. “You and God are a majority.” And so for you to get better and your situation to get better you must encourage yourself in the Lord. Now this isn’t just a theory of mine but it’s a practice of mine that I’ve used encouraging myself over the years.
Here are some ways you can encourage yourself. When you're discouraged just tell yourself “My God is going to work this out. My God will supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory. If my God is for me who can be against me? My God says I’m an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and by the words of my testimony. My God is working all things together for good, so what the devil meant for evil, my God’s going to turn into good.” And so sometimes you just need to preach to yourself.
And here’s another thing you can do to encourage yourself. Again this is something I do all the time. I write down my prayers, I write down responses to prayers, and I write down how God answered those prayers. You know, here’s my request, here’s the difficulty, the problem, the struggle, and here’s the good thing that God did helping me get through it. And so maybe right now, you can’t see what’s going to happen, but you know that your God is going to work it out, because that’s who your God is, and so you can encourage yourself in the Lord.
Today if you’re here you need this, because maybe you walked in carrying the weight of the world. You know, there’s that little voice that’s telling you, “You’re not going to make it. You can’t do it. There’s not enough of you. You’re never going to get through this. Your kids are going to continue going the wrong way. You’re always going to struggle financially. Your health is going to get worse. You’re never going to have a good day. And on and on and on. And so when there’s conflicts on the outside and fears within, you embrace your God who encourages those who are discouraged. And as God starts to encourage you, you become a gift to other people, you encourage others, because we all need it, and so we strengthen each other in the things of God.
We ourselves become the voice, the embrace, and the hands of God. We encourage others spiritually, just like Paul was encouraged by the arrival of Titus saying, this was encouragement from God. And so maybe when you texted me and told me you were praying for me I was encouraged in the Lord my God. When you called me by name I was reminded how much more God remembers my name. When you stopped to listen to me it was as if God sent you because I needed someone to listen to me.
And so when you’re down and discouraged, you encourage yourself in the Lord your God. When everyone is telling you what you’re not and what you can’t do, you become a voice of encouragement. You encourage others daily. You encourage them in their faith. And you encourage yourself in the Lord your God, because the best thing you can do in a world that’s negative is to stay positive and be a voice of encouragement to lift up those who are down.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
January 17, 2016