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Continue to Encourage One Another

Hebrews 10: 19-24

Today we get to the end of our One Another Passages, and I thought that we should go back to where we started. In the beginning of the Summer I told you that we were in the process of putting together a book of God Moments that we could use to encourage folks who were going through a difficult time. I want to encourage you to continue to write your stories down so that we can share them with others. Let’s face it we all understand what it is to be beat down and discouraged by the world we live in. That’s why we need to look at the call to Encourage One another again. 

Less than 15 years ago in a church less than 1,000 miles from here a young man was getting ready to graduate from high school. 13 years of school was coming to an end and the family was understandably excited; aunts, and uncles, cousins, and grandparents all made plans for the big day. But in the midst of all of the excitement there was a small complication.  

For some reason, that no one could figure out, it was decided that Graduation would be held a 6:30 on Wednesday night. The small church where this family had attended for years offered to move their mid-week services to either Tuesday or Tuesday night so that the family and the rest of the church could all be present at this mile marker event without feeling guilty. It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

The young man’s grandparents, who held considerable power, vetoed the change. The church decided years ago that they would have a mid week service and that decision would not change for any reason. And on that Graduation night, at that small little church, services were held as they have been for the last 50 years or so at 7:00 where the grandparents could be found in their pew. Meanwhile across town their grandson received his diploma without their support and without their blessing.

That night two different sets of people went to bed. The grandparents went to bed confident in their compliance to Hebrews 10:25. While their grandson went to bed that night confused about whether or not his grandparents really cared about him at all.

You know what Hebrews 10:25 is don't you? It's the "go to church or else” passage. It reads Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Or as most of us learned it, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is."

Many of us grew up with a rather limited understanding of that verse. We were taught that the Hebrew writer simply wanted to say, "You need to go to church every time the doors are opened. Don't be like some, who skip church go fishing or watch the Superbowl or some other poor excuse." And so, church attendance became one more notch on our Bibles. We thought if we went three times a week, we were in compliance with this passage.

Now while I believe that church attendance is important, and obviously that is a part of what this text says. But like so many other passages we have made sure that we make technical compliance and then we still miss the meaning. Church, technical compliance is a poor substitute for the intent of the command. The intent of this command is not church attendance; it is encouragement. Now you cannot encourage folks who you are not around, so presence is important. But your presence should bring encouragement. 

There are a lot of discouraging things that happen to people every day. Newton's third law of motion says, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I would like to offer another law for you; for every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism. We live in a discouraging world.

Will Rogers once said, “We can't all be heroes because someone has to stand on the sidelines and clap for them.” That’s what encouragement is. It’s standing on the sidelines clapping for others. So if we are to be encouragers how do we develop the habit of encouraging one another? If the point of Hebrews 10:25 is encouragement, doesn't it make sense that the rest of the passage might help us understand how to do that?  Let’s read what the writer is saying before we get to verse 25. If you have your Bibles please look with me at Hebrews 10:19-24. (Read Text)

Today I want you to leave here with three things everyone needs to know about encouragement.

First we see that Encouragement flows from godly confidence.

In verse 19, the writer affirms that we can enter the Most Holy Place, the presence of God, with confidence. The writer is talking about Godly confidence, not that type of confidence that notches a Bible every time we think we've mastered a particular command. Godly confidence is confidence based on what God has done, not on our performance.

When we think back on our lives, we can remember how great and powerful the God we serve is, and how He has gone to extreme lengths to bring us back home to Him. It is those memories of what God has done that should instill confidence in our lives.

In vs. 20, he says we confidently enter the Most Holy Place by a new a living way opened for us through the body of Christ. That is a reference to the crucifixion. Once again when we think back to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we are reminded how deep His love is for us.

In vs. 22 he says we can draw near to God with a guilt free conscience. We approach him guilt free not because we haven't done anything wrong, but because our hearts have been sprinkled and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

That is a reference to baptism. You see we remember how God has provided for us in the past, we remember the sacrifice that was made, and we remember our Baptism we understand how great God’s love for us truly is and that’s what gives us confidence.

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-39 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? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;  we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is the source. Our confidence comes through what God has done for us, He’s the power in our corner.

So how does having godly confidence enable us to be encouragers? Well to answer that first we must ask ourselves if we have ever known anyone who was insecure and able to affirm others?

I haven’t. If we're insecure in our ability to perform some activity, we're not going to celebrate the success of others. We're going to envy that success. And come up with all kinds of reasons why they can do it better than we can. We're going to find as much wrong with what they do and how they do it as we can.

On May 1, 1999 Forty thousand fans were on hand in the Oakland stadium when Rickey Henderson stole second and broke Lou Brock's career stolen base record. According to USA Today Lou, who had left baseball in 1979, had followed Henderson's career and was excited about his success. The day before the game Lou was asked what he thought about someone breaking his record. Brock said, "I'll be there. Do you think I'm going to miss it now? Rickey did in 12 years what took me 19. He's amazing."

That kind of encouragement can only come from someone who has asked the question, "Am I okay?" And answered it with, "Yes." The reason many of us fail to encourage others is because we answered the question, "Am I okay with God," with something other than, "absolutely." We say maybe, or I hope so, or I think so, or No.

We can't celebrate someone else's success, we can't cheer for them to succeed, if we don't think we already wear God's victory crown.

Mark this down; the degree to which a church is populated with encouragers is directly related to the degree to which they believe in the grace of God. Encouragement flows from godly confidence.

Next we see that This passage teaches that encouragement is rooted in God's faithfulness.

That’s what the writer says in verse 23. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” If you can trust God to be true to his promises, then you will be an encouraging person. The writer of Hebrews actually models the principal I'm talking about.

Look down a few verses to verse 36. "You need to persevere." Stop right there. He could go in a lot of different directions with that statement. Here's where goes. "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay. '"

The writer bases his encouragement on the faithfulness of God. He operates by a very simple formula: Your perseverance + His faithfulness = reception of His promises.

He's writing like a man who has experienced the faithfulness of God. Almost like he's saying, "I've been where you are. I was in a tough circumstance and God delivered me. If you follow through, he'll deliver you, too."

Encouragement isn't simply minimizing the negatives and focusing only on the positives. The writer doesn't shy away from warning. He gets very specific and very graphic in verses 26 - 31 where he ends by saying, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." But that isn't final note. That isn't the dominant theme of this chapter.

The final note is in verse 39. "But we are of those who believe and are saved." There's the formula again. We believe. He saves.

Finally, encouragement is focused on celebrating success.

Look at verse 24. "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."  Instead of trying to catch people making a mistake, the writer urges us to look for opportunities, to consider, ways to celebrate and spur people on toward loving relationships and righteous living.

You might feel superior when you take the opportunity to find some one in a fault and let them know about it, but you won’t feel better long. Because no one does everything wrong. But if you get the opportunity to praise someone for doing something good then neither of you will be disappointed. You always get more mileage out of catching people doing something right. And a simple thank you always get’s more mileage that a criticism. 

When we lived in Atlanta the Taco Bell closest to our house was having trouble keeping their store clean. Folks would just walk out of the store and leave their trays, wrappers, and trash all over the tables and floors.  It was frustrating for the staff and customers looking for a place to sit down and eat. They tried hiring folks to keep the dining area clean but the problem continued.

But one day we walked in the store and noticed that all of the tables were clean. It was half way through the meal that we noticed what caused the change. When you would take your trash to the can the door would automatically open and then it would say “Thank You.” Every time we went to that Taco Bell after that folks were throwing away their trash or letting small kids make 20 trips to the garbage cans. All because of a trash can that said thank you.

Saying thank you probably won’t cause world peace, but it’s a great place to start. Here's another place where the writer models this very principal. Look at verses 32 - 34. (Read).

He remembers and celebrates a time when they did exactly what they needed to be doing now. Standing firm. Instead of griping at them because of what they were not doing, he celebrates what they had done in the past.

It comes down to this. Most of the time when we fuss and gripe at people, when we are negative or nagging, we really do want to help. We are trying to motivate them to better living. We just get frustrated. And we've been programmed to fuss. But negative criticism just doesn't work as well as positive encouragement.

Marion Gordon tells the story about one day when she opened the door to get the newspaper and was surprised to see a strange little dog with her paper in his mouth. Delighted with this unexpected "delivery service," she went to the kitchen and got the puppy some treats.

But the following morning she was horrified to see the same dog sitting in front of her door, wagging his tail, surrounded by eight newspapers. She said that it took her the rest of that morning trying to find the rightful owners and returning their papers.

All she had to do was turn the paper on the dog and that dog would never have returned. It works that way with our relationships, too. We swat people one time too many and they don't come back to us emotionally. They may still be there in body, but they'll be somewhere else in spirit. If you've tried everything else, try encouragement. It not only works, it's God's will.

 

Questions To Consider

 

What is the difference between confidence and Godly confidence?

How do we gain Godly confidence?

How does Godly confidence help us encourage others?

Faith is a component of encouraging others. How does my faithfulness help encourage others?

Why can we find more comfort from folks who have walked in the same valley you are walking through? 

How does Romans 12:7-8 fit into this discussion?

If encouragement is a gift of the Spirit, can it be developed? 

How do you like to be encouraged?

How does Luke 6:31 fit into this discussion?    



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