A Bible Study from Our Pastor

“Encourage One Another

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love will be with you.

I Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

I Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

I Thessalonians 5:14 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak; be patient with them all. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast to what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Romans 1:12 That is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.

1.       There is no doubt that we Christians in a congregation are to encourage one another.  That is one of the main reasons we are to go to church and be active in a congregation.  The Bible tells us that we go to church so we can encourage one another.  We each need to have some encouragers in our lives, and we each need to be an encourager to others. 

2.     More particularly, we need to have specific people who encourage us.  To these people, whom we trust, we have given permission and authority to gently and lovingly nudge us forward on the issues in our lives where a graceful nudge will be most helpful to us.

3.         I Thessalonians 5:14 says we are to “encourage the fainthearted.”  The truth is that we all have areas in our lives where we are fainthearted and hesitant to move forward in our calling. These trusted encouragers will help us become what God wants us to become and do what God wants us to do.  Therefore, when we give someone authority to encourage us, it means we need to share our heart with them every so often, and we need to honestly let them know the places in our lives where we need courage the most to move forward.

4.       By the same token, we each need to commit to intentionally, actively, and methodically, encourage others.  They have requested, and we have agreed, to deliberately serve as their encouragers for the things that matter the most in their lives.  We will not tell them where they need a nudge, we wait for them to tell us where they want a nudge forward.  When we are encouraging someone else, we ask them what the future will look like when they have succeeded, and we encourage them to achieve their vision as they understand it from God.  

5.       It is not our vision, or our answer for what their life should look like, that is not encouraging them that is overwhelming them.  It is also not our task to do it for them.  The Greek word for encouragement means “to call” or speak to someone “from behind.”  In other words, they are to be out in front, in the lead, deciding the direction as they believe God is giving it to them.  We encourage them by standing behind them.  “I am behind you all the way!”   We nudge them forward, so they do what they want to do, and go where they want to go. We bless them as they move toward their God-given goals. 

6.      An encourager could be a mentor, a coach, but we are not to abandon our responsibility to go where God is calling us, and our encourager is not the one who tells us what we are to do. 

7.       In Acts 4:36-37, we first encounter a man who had a special gift of encouraging others.  “Thus Joseph, who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas, (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” 

8.     The second time we encounter Barnabas is in Acts 9:27-28.  After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and later received the Holy Spirit, he returned to Jerusalem and attempted to connect with the disciples, but they were still afraid of him because they did not believe he had really become a disciple.  “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke with him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of the Lord. So, he went in and out among them at Jerusalem.”  Barnabas, the encourager, got to know Paul and served as his connection to the body of believers.  

9.      The third time we encounter Barnabas is in Acts 11:19-26.  When the report reached the apostles in Jerusalem that a great number of people were turning to the Lord in Antioch, the apostles sent Barnabas to lead the ministry in Antioch.  Many more came to Jesus under his preaching and leadership, and Barnabas felt he needed help, so he went to Troas looking for Paul, and when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch to help with the ministry there.  They ministered there for a whole year and the church at Antioch became large.  It was there that disciples first were called Christians. Then we read in Acts 13:1-3, that the church in Antioch became a center of ministry and continued to grow with several prophets and teachers being listed there.  During a time of worship and fasting the Holy Spirit called for Barnabas and Paul to begin mission journeys together to other cities. As a result of this Gentiles began coming to faith in Christ.  

10.    This led to the Jerusalem Council, which Barnabas and Paul attended and explained to the apostles how the Holy Spirit was working signs and wonders among the Gentiles.  Later, in Acts 15:35, we find that Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch, and they along with many others were preaching and teaching the word of the Lord together in Antioch.  This is when Antioch became the major center of Christianity. So, Barnabas and Paul’s partnership was intact at that point.  In I Corinthians 9:6, we read that Paul and Barnabas not only did ministry together they each paid for their own living expenses so as not to put a financial burden on their hosts. 

11.  But then, in Acts 15:36-41, we find that Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement with each other and dissolved their ministry partnership and went on to do ministry in different directions, each taking new partners to work with.  Their disagreement was about whether or not to take John Mark with them on their next ministry trip. Paul did not yet trust John Mark to go with them due to his deserting them on a previous mission trip when Paul was shifting his ministry more to the Gentiles.  However, Barnabas the encourager, was ready to give John Mark a second chance.  So, Paul and Barnabas went different directions.  Barnabas took John Mark with him, and Paul took Silas with him, and the ministry of the kingdom of God continued to expand and go in more directions.  Throughout all of these events we see how Joseph Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement was a key figure in welcoming people into the church, winning people to Christ, teaching and partnering and mentoring and encouraging others in difficult situations. 

12.  Romans 15:5 tells us that God gives encouragement to people: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”  God’s every action is an act of perfect love for God is love.  His beloved Son Jesus Christ, who is the perfect image of God, has made him known.  As we look at the Koinonia Commands we are looking into the kaleidoscope of Jesus’ love and see the ever-changing and always beautiful patterns of ways Christ’s people are to show love to one another.  When Christ’s people love each other, we reflect the light and life of the living God. When we encourage one another, we are seeing a beautiful aspect of God’s perfect love revealed through Christ and transplanted into his people.  To encourage as God does, is to love in a very practical and real way. 

13.   James Bryan Smith, in his book, The Good and Beautiful Community, spends a chapter talking about how the community of Christians are to encourage one another to live the love of God to each other. Smith writes, “One of my favorite verses is found in Hebrews.  It offers a clear call to challenge one another to live as apprentices of Jesus. ‘Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’(Hebrews 10:24-25). Notice the phrase ‘let us consider.’ We need to think about how we could encourage our fellow Christ-followers—literally, ‘provoke one another’—to love and good deeds. We need people around us who can encourage us to become the kinds of people Christ has called us to be. 

14. “All of this sounds good on paper, but in real life this kind of enterprise involves many ups and downs, successes and failures, happy surprises and deep disappointments. Accountability involves the art of encouragement and admonishment. Encouragement is needed when we begin to lose sight or strength to keep fighting the good fight.  We need someone in our corner to strengthen and encourage us, just as Paul and his fellow workers did when they visited the churches Paul had planted: ‘They returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith’(Acts 14:21-22). In the next chapter of Acts, Judas and Silas do the same: ‘Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers’(Acts 15:32).” 

15. Let us now examine more carefully the verse in paragraph #13 above. Romans 15:5 tells us “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”  Notice that this is a prayer to the God who gives endurance and encouragement.  Notice that the prayer is for God to give us the same attitude of mind, the same way of thinking about other people that Jesus had.  Jesus was an encourager and we are to be encouragers.  Encouragement flowed out of Jesus to the people around him.  Likewise, encouragement should flow out of us to the people around us. 

16.   Think of how encouraging Jesus was!  In story after story from the Gospels, we find evidence that Jesus was the most loving and encouraging person who ever walked the earth. Let us look at some of those stories! 

17.    Matthew 14:22-33 is the account of Jesus walking on the sea and Peter getting out of the boat and joining him.  In this event we find five distinct and transformative encouragements that Jesus gave.  Let us look at them one by one.  First, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him to the other side of the sea.  He was sending them forward to do ministry in his absence, showing that he trusted them.  Second, when the storm came against them and stopped their progress out on the sea, and the boat was “many furlongs distant from the land,” and “the wind was against them” Jesus came walking out to them on the sea. They were stuck and he had come to help.  Third, his arrival caused them extreme fear: “But when the disciples saw him, they were terrified thinking he was a ghost.  And they cried out with fear.” What did Jesus do in response to their fear?  He encouraged them by saying to them, “Take heart, it is I, have no fear.” Relieving their fear was a tremendous act of emotional encouragement. Fourth, as is true in much of life, the story then takes an unexpected twist.  Peter wants to join Jesus on the sea, and without thinking it through, calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come and join you on the sea.”  Jesus could have rebuked him for his brashness, or he could have said, “Do you want to think about this first?” or “Do you at least want to know what you are getting yourself into?”  Instead, Jesus probably grinned at his exuberance and simply said to him, “Well! Come on out here!” That itself was an amazing act of encouragement. He invited Peter to join him in the walk of new possibilities, doing something utterly miraculous, walking where no human except himself had ever walked before. Fifth, not surprisingly, after several steps out on the surface, Peter became aware of how utterly different this was. He was experiencing what no one ever has, he was trying to walk on a constantly shifting, flowing, fluctuating surface that was rising and falling beneath his feet and was not a firm surface like the ground is!  The Bible puts it this way: “Seeing the waves” he was filled with fear.  “Seeing the waves,” meant he began to be dominated by impossibility thinking and he immediately began to sink and cried out to Jesus for help.  Jesus, could have scolded him, could have given him a sermon on faith, could have coached him, but instead, he simply went to him, took his hand and lifted him back to standing on the surface of the rolling sea. He did not see Peter’s lack of faith that caused him to sink. Instead, he saw, Peter’s amazing faith that led him to try it in the first place and to successfully walk as far as he did. All five of these distinct acts of encouragement reveal Jesus’ heart that believed in people more than they believed in themselves!  That is what encouragement does! 

18.    Another time we see Jesus’ character of encouragement resulted in his first miracle.  This event, in John 2:1-11, was the turning of water into wine at a wedding. The young groom had run out of wine for his guests (maybe because he had not counted on Jesus and disciples all showing up!).  This lack of wine would have been embarrassing for the groom, his family, and new bride, and would have disappointed the guests.  Jesus’ mother realizes that the only solution would be a miraculous intervention from Jesus. While Jesus initially told his mother that his time had not yet come to do such a miracle, his mother nevertheless went ahead and told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do!  So, he told them to fill the six large water jars with water, then draw some out and serve it. The water then became the best of wines. Who was encouraged by this gracious act? The groom, of course, and his bride and family.  Also, frankly, Jesus’ mother was encouraged, for she had ignored Jesus’ gentle rebuke and told the servants to go ahead and get ready for Jesus to do a miracle.  His first miracle was an act of compassion and encouragement and honoring his mother!  

19.    Another occasion where Jesus revealed his encouraging heart, was when he was a guest in the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany.  He was teaching his disciples and Mary sat down with the disciples and listened to his teaching, learning along with them.  However, her sister, Martha, believed that Mary was behaving inappropriately under the circumstances, and told Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her serve.  But instead Jesus defended Mary, saying that she had chosen the good portion.  This could have happened very publicly. But it is also possible that due to the arrangement of the room and how people were crowded in, that Martha whispered to Jesus who was a friend of hers and was close at hand, to please let Mary know her help was needed by Martha.  But whether it was public or private, Jesus affirmed what Mary had done the good thing as she broke the cultural expectations, by sitting with the disciples.  

20.     How encouraging Jesus was! In John 8:1-11 when a woman who was caught in adultery was brought to him for judgement, Jesus said that the person without any sin needed to cast the first stone.  Then he told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus was an encourager, offering new hope, fresh starts, and a new identity. 

21.    After the resurrection, two disciples were going to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-36). They were discouraged and confused, disconsolate and looking downcast, having left the disciples who were gathered in Jerusalem.  Jesus came to them, but they did not recognize him. He engaged them, opened the scriptures to them, fellowshipped with them, broke bread with them.  Then they recognized him, saying to one another, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us.”  Sometimes our hearts are warmed by encouragement, but sometimes they are set freshly on fire! After he was taken from their midst, the two immediately returned to the other disciples. As soon as they told the others what had happened, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them all and said, “Peace be with you!”  Such is the power of encouragement to rekindle our flame and change the direction we travel.

22.     When Jesus was first assembling the twelve disciples, Philip went to Nathaniel and told him they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (John 1:44-50). But, Nathaniel, holding nothing back, freely showed his skepticism that anything good could come out of Nazareth.  When they took him to Jesus, however, Jesus did not return fire, and said, “Oh, here is an Israelite who says exactly what he thinks.” Nathaniel was stunned by this and said to Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus then said, “Before Philip called you, I was seeing you while you were sitting under the fig tree.”  At this, Nathaniel knew that Jesus was aware, not only of what he was doing before Philip talked to him, but also knew very well what he had said about him and his parentage and town. Nathaniel then declared, “You ARE the Son of God and the King of Israel.”  Jesus could have put Nathaniel in his place for what he had said in private, but instead he encouraged him where someone lesser may have taken offense.  This encouraging spirit opened the door for Nathaniel to become one of the most influential men in the early church. Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  Jesus’ encouragement helped Nathaniel move past his sarcastic comment about him and prepared Nathaniel to see the heavenly realm.   

23.     When a woman named Mary went into the house of Simon and poured costly perfume all over Jesus, the aroma filled the house. People immediately began to condemn her for her extravagance and wastefulness.  This money, they said, could have been used to do good, to feed the poor, but she wasted it!  But Jesus replied that she had done a beautiful thing for him, had anointed him beforehand for his burial, while he could still enjoy the aroma, and that whenever the Gospel is preached throughout all history, what she had done for him would be told.  Jesus’ encouragement took one who was being criticized and saw the love and good in her action, and for all time in the future, she would be seen and understood not as others saw her but as Jesus saw her.  This is the truest encouragement of all, we will be remembered throughout eternity, not as our critics see us, but as Jesus does.

24.      There are so many examples of Jesus’ encouraging spirit and outlook that almost every story in Gospel has evidence of his love for people that flowed forth from him in encouragement. Think of how when Jairus daughter died, Jesus told him not to fear, and announced, she is not dead, just asleep. When the people laughed at Jesus, he raised the girl up.  Think of how the man who had been filled with a legion of demons, was told by Jesus to go and tell others who knew him how much Jesus had done for him. Jesus believed in the man’s new future.  Think of how after Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus told him three times to go feed Jesus’ sheep.  Repeated denials and self-loathing do not overshadow the encouragement of Jesus for those who have erred against him.

25.      As we see from the life of Jesus, encouragement is an act of love that transforms.  It is not a surprise that encouragement is one of the Koinonia Commands that we find repeatedly in the New Testament.  2 Corinthians 13:11 says, “Finally brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love will be with you. 

26.      The Koinonia Command teach us not only that we are to love one another in the church as Jesus did, but also how we are to love one another in the church.  The Koinonia Commands are the New Testament’s guides for how the people of the church are supposed to behave towards each other.  We are to encourage one another just as Jesus was an encourager.  

27.      May the God of encouragement bless our church and help the people of our congregation become what God has in mind for a church to be.  May God help us become Christlike toward one another in our actions, loving each other, encouraging one another so that all move forward to become all that God wants us to be.