Yesterday's blog post dealt with a reality of our Christian experience that can make us feel like we are walking alone. While our journey towards righteousness will inevitably offend someone, and we often find ourselves offended when another Believer doesn't agree with us, the antidote to such discouraging seasons is to find encouragement; in the Word and in the Father's love for us.
But I also want to focus this message on the importance of giving encouragement and receiving it. This is a message that is heavy on my heart today because my spirit is sensing that we are in a season of growing spiritual attack against the Body of Christ. Just this morning, my phone exploded with text messages asking for prayer for several strong Believers. And even my own husband was under attack. All the attacks centered around worry and anxiety over the care and protection of family and loved ones. Christians who are on the front lines of spiritual battle suddenly find themselves with concerns and fears and, yes, even doubts, that they are up to their assignments.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, And everything I’ve
taught you is so that the peace which is in Me will be in you and will
give you great confidence as you rest in Me. For in this unbelieving
world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be
courageous, for I have conquered the world! That should be our greatest encouragement! But there are times we need to come alongside our Brothers and Sisters in Christ and confirm that Word from our Lord. And there are times we need it to be confirmed to us.
The Bible speaks to us of the many forms of encouragement: building one another up; stirring one another up to love and good works; meeting together; giving grace to each other; bearing one another's burdens; standing with others and Christ on behalf of another; gently encouraging those who feel themselves inadequate; encouraging others by teaching the Word and admonishing one another in all wisdom; singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; strengthening each other to endure; helping each other to renew our minds in Christ; teaching and exhorting and equipping each other to do the works of ministry; urging each other to stand on our faith; promoting God's Truth that He will carry our burdens and anxieties because He cares for us; and reminding each other that the favor of God is upon all those He calls His children.
Encouragement is such an explicit part of our walk with the Lord. In this carnal world, if we lack encouragement we will feel unloved, unimportant, worthless, and abandoned. And if we don't receive encouragement from soaking in the Word, our spirits will be dry, unproductive, and powerless. Either way, we are vulnerable to the attacks of the Enemy. Encouragement is vital! And God knows we need to not only give it, but receive it, as well.
But if you are like me, there are times I just don't feel up to the task. I don't have the right words or my spirit is struggling itself. That's when I have to set aside my self-interests and ask the Holy Spirit to counsel me exactly how the person needs to be blessed with encouragement. Most of the time I have a sincere and convicted heart of the promises the Lord has given us, but just can't seem to convey them in my own words. That's when I have to be still and let the Holy Spirit take over. My words don't need to be long or lofty; I just listen to the prompting of the Spirit and He will share the riches of God's grace with me.
But what about the times that we need encouragement? Is it hard for you to receive it? That's exactly what the Enemy wants -- to convince you that either you have to handle your battle by yourself; or that you are unworthy of asking for help. That is a lie! First of all, our Lord and Savior promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. But the Enemy will try to convince us that He, too, will let us down, like so many others in our lives. That isolation is one of the most debilitating tactics of the devil. When he can keep you secluded from Jesus and fellow Believers -- especially if it is your spouse or family -- then he is free to whisper his lies as you struggle to keep from drowning in self-condemnation. Stay focused on Jesus and reach out for encouragement! There is not one of us who has not suffered an attack from the Father of Lies. Even Peter, who was perhaps the most outspoken when it came to declaring Jesus's promises, took his eyes off His Savior as he walked on water, and the result was he began to sink!
I want to point us back to John 16:33. Jesus tells us it is inevitable that we will undergo troubles and sorrows in this world. But it is important that we retain our Identity. We are the Sons and Daughters of Him that conquered this world! In view of our eternal life with Jesus, these short-lived troubles are platforms to come together for our mutual enrichment. Whether we are the one giving encouragement, or the one receiving it, it allows for God's marvelous grace to spread among more and more people, resulting in an even greater increase of praise towards God, and bringing Him even more glory! So, whether we are the Encourager or the Encouraged, let us focus our attention not on what is seen or the lies whispered in our ear, but focus on what is unseen; in the promises of our Lord to be with us through this temporary life. Remember, whatever is seen before your carnal eyes is also temporary. The promises of Jesus are eternal. He has taken away the power this world has to defeat us, and has conquered it for us. Let us be encouraged in the Peace He offers us, and encourage others to rest in His victory!
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Because [Jesus gave His life for us], encourage the hearts of your fellow believers and support one another, just as you have already been doing.