Last week in our “Guard Your Heart” series we warned about the inherent dangers of spiritual arteriosclerosis, which, if left unchecked and untreated would harden our hearts and turn us away from the Living God. Just as hard heartedness, caused by chronic unbelief, costs the first generation of Israelites the Promised Land, so too will it cost us entrance into the ultimate Promised Land, heaven itself. Two of the best therapeutics to combat unbelief are: (1) Constantly fill our hearts with faith, which comes from the Word of God. (2) Ask God for a spiritual heart transplant which he is exceptionally good at according to Ezekiel 36:26
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Today we head back to anti-arteriosclerosis passage of Hebrews 3:12-13, to discover another treatment against hard-heartedness
12 See to it that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
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.
Fight the Good Fight of Faith In Your Mind
How many do you know that golf is a hard sport to play? Even its greatest players, like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, are quick to point out that no one ever masters it. However, the hardest course one will ever play is not found in historic places like Augusta or Pebble Beach but the fairway between one’s ears. This means that the mental aspects of the golf are just as difficult, if not more so, than the physical ones. Clutter your brain with swing thoughts and watch your golf scores sky-rocket. Believe me, I can attest to this truth!
Fight the Good Fight of Faith Together
Like golf, much of our faith is lived out in that six-inch space between our ears. So when Paul talks about “Fighting the good fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12) he means we must constantly preach to ourselves about the person and promises of God. This is one of the best remedies to prevent a bad case of spiritual arteriosclerosis and subsequent hard heartedness. Although our battle against unbelief is often fought within our squishy brain matter, not all of it is. It’s also fought in another place and that place is together.
The pastor of the Hebrew congregation encourages his people to make sure they do one thing really, really well-
Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.
This encouragement command is a mutually reciprocal one, which demonstrates that our faith is not to be lived out individualistically but with one another. This encouragement also echoes the fact that when Christ calls us to faith in him he simultaneously calls us into his faith community with one another. What is one of the best ways we can serve one another within our faith community? Encouragement! How often and how long are we to encourage one another? The Hebrew pastor says, “Daily” and as long as it is called “Today” meaning as long as we are on this planet, on this side of eternity, in this age before Jesus’ 2nd Coming.
The word for encouragement stems from the Greek term parakalew. It means to instill courage, to console and to comfort. In John 14:26 Jesus used an almost identical word “Paracletos” to name and describe the person and work of the HS:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Encourager
The 3rd Person of the Trinity is first and foremost an encourager and his primary ministry is to encourage the people of God. As JD Walt puts it,
Encouragement is the language of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit encourages.
Amazingly, the Holy Spirit is not the only member of the Trinity that is committed to the ministry of encouragement. So too are the Father and Son. Listen to Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:16
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us
and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope…
Let that sink in for a moment. If the entire Trinity is dedicated to the ministry of encouragement doesn’t that tell us necessary encouragement is and that we need it every day until the Lord’s return? The saying, “Encouragement is oxygen for the soul” may be true but it is definitely oxygen for the faith. But how do the Divine Encouragers encourage? Through the body of Christ! They encourage us so that we can encourage one another. One of the most satisfying and easiest ways to be used by God is to encourage others in their faith.
The absolute necessity of a Niagara flow of encouragement in the Body of Christ prompted Paul to send Tychicus to the church of Ephesus (6:22)
I am sending him to you for this very purpose… that he may encourage you.
Because of his encouraging heart the early church leader Barnabas was nicknamed “Son of Encouragement” in Acts 4:36. Paul himself specialized in the ministry of encouragement. Listen to Acts 20:1-2
1 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.
2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people…
Romans 15:4 tells us that one reason why God gave us the Bible in the first place was to encourage us
Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
I could go on and on but why all this encouragement? Because life is hard and living the Christian life is harder. Because the devil is always nipping at our heals. Because unbelief is always knocking on the door of our hearts and we are always susceptible to hard heartedness. Because we need it every day if we are going to be all that God wants us to be and do all that God wants us to do.
Conclusion: Encouragement Hotspots
One way we fulfill our vision of “Creating irresistible churches everyone enjoys” is to flood our souls with encouragement and then spread it. How do we do that? We do that by creating hotspots of encouragement! And where are those? We call these hotspots “Together” groups where we gather in various places throughout the week and encourage each other to live out our faith the best way we can. It was easier for the early church to encourage one another because they met daily in small house groups. They knew how to encourage one another because they knew each other so well. Do we? Can we really encourage one another by meeting once a week for one hour? I don’t think so. Where, and to whom, do we go to encourage and be encouraged? Who GETS way too much encouragement? Who GIVES way too much encouragement? Who loves to be AROUND encouragers? Our Together Groups, which we will be launching in December will ensure we get all the encouragement we need. More details are forthcoming.