Continue to Encourage
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
What is the difference
between confidence and Godly confidence?
How do we gain Godly
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
How does Luke 6:31 fit into