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Encouraged and Encouraging

August 25th, 2015

“That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12 NIV.

Encouragement is evidenced in conviction, confidence, and courage.

Never Give Up

My thoughts and comments today are about being “encouraged and encouraging.”

Someone rightly observed, “Misery loves company.” Misery tends to choose similar company. Trust me; they will not be profitable for you and you aren’t helpful to them. Their depleted emotions further diminish yours. Encouragement is less about emotions and more about positive actions. Encouragement is evidenced in your conviction, confidence, and courage. I suggest three practical sources of encouragement.

Learn to encourage yourself in God and His Word. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:15-17 NKJV. Betrayed, deposed, and driven from Jerusalem by his rebellious son, Absalom, “David was greatly distressed . . but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. The Word of God has power to heal your emotions, calm your fears, and refresh your heart. Read Psalm 19:7-10 NLT.

The Word of God and the grace of God is sufficient whatever your season or circumstance. The Apostle Paul describes such moments, “May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, Who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. The Scriptures refocus your attention on Jesus; Jesus is the great Encourager. See Romans 15:4-5 NIV.

Choose to be an encourager to others. “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.” Romans 1:11-12 NIV. Is there anything you give others more valued and mutually rewarding than the gift of encouragement? You can’t encourage others when you are discouraged. Sow encouragement; reap encouragement. Encouragement returns from those you have encouraged. There is a familiar, but often misapplied, Biblical principle of generosity that is true in every application. “If you give, you will receive . . Whatever measure you use in giving – large or small – it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” Read Luke 6:37-38 NLT. Notice that the surrounding context is relational rather than monetary.

Seek the company of those whose lifestyle and fellowship encourage you. “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, Philemon, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Philemon 1:7 NIV. Everyone needs fresh courage for the day and its demands. Life can be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleting, leaving you empty of energy and optimism. Days, even seasons, can feel disheartening. At such times, people who are emotionally and spiritually healthy refresh your courage. “And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 NIV. Also see Hebrews 10:25 NIV.

Today, I pray that you will aspire to be an encourager, and refreshed in doing so.

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Courage and Confidence

April 29th, 2015

“Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.“ 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV.

Face your fear or your present fear will control your future.

My thoughts and comments today are about “courage and confidence.”

Years earlier, there had been a difficult and disappointing church situation, and I was not sure what the outcome might be in many people’s lives, people that I pastored and for which I was responsible. Feeling embattled, I envisioned a favorite Bible story of personal courage, the battlefield scene between David and Goliath. See 1 Samuel 17:1-25.

As I read Samuel’s description of the occasion, “As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.” (1 Sam 17:48 NLT), I could “see” David with only a simple, shepherd’s sling, yet running with abandon directly toward the towering, armor-clad warrior that all others feared. In my heart, I knew the Lord was speaking directly to me about courage and confidence. My situation seemed to require more courage and confidence than I was experiencing.

David story captures one’s imagination – young David against Goliath, a seasoned warrior. Because of its larger than life storybook ending, the phrase “David against Goliath” has even become a part of secular speech. Though an actual event, it also provides a powerful metaphor of times and situations that you will face, where the odds of success are clearly unfavorable and the ultimate outcome questionable to everyone, except you and God.

God seems to love those kinds of real life stories. Moses against powerful Pharaoh. Joseph betrayed by his brothers. Three Hebrew captives righteously defying a Persian King and his fiery furnace. Daniel facing ravenous lions. Elijah facing down the 450 prophets of Baal. Paul staring at a treacherous storm at sea and declaring, “Fear not, be of good cheer.” Read Hebrews 11.

In just such times, you must first face the fear to move forward with courage, to do what needs to be done without hesitation, to do what others will not do and doubt that you can. At such times, your faith has to overpower every fear and uncertainty. Read 1 Samuel 17:8-11. The natural inclination is to run the opposite direction, away from the confrontation and danger. But if you do, your fear will chase and haunt you forever. Face your fear or your present fear will control your future.

Without hesitation, “David quickly ran out to meet [Goliath].” The sight of this diminutive shepherd boy coming his way did not frighten Goliath, but he must have been momentarily startled to see the preposterous sight, startled just long enough for David to seal Goliath’s fate forever. As he was known to do on other occasions, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. I suggest two practical things that strengthened David’s courage.

(1) David had experience with God. “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine.” Read 1 Samuel 17:32-37. If God has not failed you before, your God will not fail you now. If God has always provided your needs before, He will still provide for you. His Word promises you, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11. Look past the size of your fear; remember the size of your God.

(2) David had courage for God’s honor and others’ well-being. “Who is this pagan Philistine that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?. . the God of the armies of Israel that you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:26 and 45 NLT. The situation I faced was not of a scale such as David’s, but I found courage for similar reasons. I had God’s honor to uphold, and people who depended on me to lead with courage and confidence. Courage is not about your safety. True courage is rallied for God’s honor and others’ well-being. “Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.“ 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV. Being encouraged is volitional more than emotional.

Today, my prayer for you is that you will show courage when time and circumstance require.

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Irrepressible Joy

July 8th, 2013

“I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no [boundaries].” 2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV

When you reside secure in Christ, His joy becomes resident in you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “irrepressible joy.”

Without some redeeming measure of joy, daily life can be drudgery. Life can be soul-wearying if circumstances are allowed to preempt joy. I think the problem is a misunderstanding of joy, settling for similar emotions that offer some respite from life’s burdens but fall short of joy. Joy abides; emotional substitutes don’t. God’s intent for you is bigger and better. “I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no [boundaries].” 2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV.

How would your life be different if you had a joy that was undiscourageable? “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 NIV. Jesus wants real joy to be your experience permanently not periodically. But how is that possible and practical? Jesus said, “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11 NIV. Jesus explained from His personal experience and example, “. . just as I have obeyed and remain in His love.”

The Bible consistently connects joy with love, and love with obedience. Jesus sets the order this way: obedience evidences love; love establishes the source and substance of joy. Joy resides naturally in Christ. When you reside secure and continually in Christ, His joy becomes resident in you. John understood Jesus to promise, “. . that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Imagine! His joy becomes your joy, full and complete, indescribable and irrepressible. “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV. What the Bible calls “inexpressible,” I call “irrepressible joy” – joy you cannot keep to yourself.

Happiness is wonderful, but do not confuse its fickle emotion with joy. The derivation of the word, “happiness,” relates to “happening, circumstance, or happenstance – a chance occurrence.” Joy has little to do with chance or circumstance. Those things vary from moment to moment and situation to situation, as will your happiness. Joy is directly related to your security in Christ – unshakable and unchangeable. Joy does not come because good things are happening, nor leave when difficult things happen. Read Romans 8:37-39 NIV. Your mood and emotions may suppress joyful feelings for a moment, but joy resides in the heart occupied with Jesus, whatever its present surroundings or circumstance.

The Apostle Paul’s life was neither predictable nor trouble-free. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NKJV. To the Christ-followers in Philippi who were suffering persecution, Paul wrote a letter that is all about inexpressible joy that is found in Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! . . Be joyful always.” Philippians 4:4-8 NIV/1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you live with irrepressible and inexpressible joy.

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