If ever there was a need for encouragement, suffice it to say, it is today! Here’s how important encouragement is in the church: The proof text of public worship calls for it (Heb. 10:24,25).
Mark Twain said, “I can go two months on one compliment,” yet most people go two months without anyone encouraging them.
I recently received a photocopy of a note I had written to a young man back in 1985. At that time, he was serving as part-time youth minister at the rural church I was pastoring in southern Oklahoma. In the note, I told him how well he had led, that he was a gifted leader, how he had made a difference and how his future could be incredible if he remained faithful. He said, “I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have pulled this note out and read it. You just need to know how much it has meant to me.”
It seems encouragement has a long shelf life.
The church at Philippi was founded by the Apostle Paul. He knew the church well. He wrote about his gratitude for their financial assistance while he was under house arrest in Rome. But he also addressed a problem that had become chronic: disunity and strife. That problem still is pandemic in churches today. Here Paul declares that encouragement can help resolve these tensions and can be the antidote for dissention and disunity.
- A Call for Encouragement (v.1). First, the call is that there is encouragement in Christ. The word ‘encouragement’ is parakaleo (para=to the side, kaleo=to call), so encouragement is when we come alongside someone with the distinct purpose of exhorting them and spurring them on.
- The Source of our Encouragement: “in Christ.” Our relationship with Jesus Christ should compel us to come along side others. God himself is called the God of patience and encouragement (Rom. 15:5)
“Encourage one another while it’s still called today, lest any of you become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” It seems when we are neglectful of encouraging, it affects people spiritually.
- The Supply: “Fellowship in Spirit.” We are in this together, participating and partnering together. We draw strength from one another and, more importantly, from the Spirit of God dwelling in us. When Christ becomes our Savior, we get God as our Father and the Holy Spirit as our teacher, guide, enabler and completer, and we have the equipping for this good work.
- The Shame. Paul relates how his joy could be restored and revived if the church would be like-minded and of one accord; however, there would be grief and shame if their disunity continued (Phil. 2:14).
In Chapter 4, we read of Euodia and Syntyche and how they were at each other’s throats, and he called for his true companion to be the peace maker.
The thing that kills the joy in any church is conflict when things are volatile. The resolve is not to help people see their faults, why they’re wrong, what was really said or why their point of view is skewed. While correction can help, encouragement always will do more.
The Characteristics for the Encourager
There needs to be a humble evaluation if this conflict is to be resolved. The first mandate is to live:
- Unselfishly (vv. 3-4) There will be a need to esteem others and stop the selfish ambition and quit being conceited. He’s teaching them about the critical need of being in submission to one another. Perhaps the most operative word in the Christian faith is ‘submit’ (Luke 9:23, Rom. 13:1, Eph. 5:21).
The whole scope of Jesus ministry was about submitting to the Father, so submission is not about inequality or inferiority, it’s about choosing to please God by responding in humility.
Barnabas was known as “the Son of Encouragement.” His story tells of his unselfishness (Acts 4).
- Understanding (v.1). We read, “if there is any affection or tenderness”— traits that come from empathy and a compassionate person. Arrogant people are like selfish people, they aren’t going to encourage anyone because they’re too narcissistic.
We see Barnabas once again with an understanding heart toward John Mark, as Paul refused to include him in the second missionary trip because he had left and returned home. Barnabas, however, would decide to take John Mark with him, and they took the gospel one direction, while Paul and Silas went the other direction (Rom. 8:28). We read that ultimately Mark and Paul are reconciled. Little doubt it was through the work of an encourager named Barnabas (2 Tim. 4).
The Consequences of Encouraging
Here’s the way it works in God’s economy, whatever we give away, it soon comes back to us. It’s called the law of the harvest, reaping what you sow (Gal. 6:7-8). We see this in the way we give (Luke 6:38), the way we speak (Prov. 15:1), the way we judge (Matt. 7:1) — and it will be the same in your encouragement as well.
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. That fateful night, he had five things in his possession: a handkerchief monogramed with “A. Lincoln,” a small pocketknife, a spectacles case (bound with string), a $5 bill (Confederate money) and a wrinkled newspaper article written by the British statesman, John Bright, saying, “Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men of all time”.
There is something sad about the President of the United States sitting in the Oval Office, so discouraged that he would pull out a newspaper article to remind himself that someone said he was great. Whether you are a part-time youth minister or President of the United States, we all are longing to be encouraged.
Published September 18, 2020