Author: Ron Graham
This lesson is about the command, "Encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13).
Some churches have what I call the “Gethsemane problem”. Jesus was praying in the garden, as the hour of his cruel death drew near. He was in agony, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling upon the ground. Who was there to encourage our Saviour? "An angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him." An angel from heaven! What of his earthly friends, his mortal brothers? "He found them sleeping from sorrow" (Luke 22:43-45). The disciples were so discouraged and upset by the events unfolding, that they were unable to encourage the Lord when he needed strength.
Discouragement feeds on itself. We must break this truly vicious circle, else it will surely break us.
The New Testament word for "encourage" is parakaleo, which means to entreat, appeal, exhort, urge. The word consists of two parts: para means beside or with, and kaleo means call. So parakaleo means literally "to call alongside" as a comforter and helper.
Many Christians are reluctant to "exhort" or "urge" one another because they think it involves some kind of confrontation. But exhorting, and urging is not about confrontation. It is about "calling alongside". It is about encouraging. It is an attitude of, "Let's press on together."
Everyone in the church needs encouragement in some way. The elderly may be concerned at changes made by the next generation of Christians. Young people may find difficulty in relating basic gospel teaching to the humanism they encounter in higher education, the ethics of the business world they enter, and the "New Age" beliefs of their friends. And, of course, the poor, the weak, the lonely, the sick, the abandoned, are always with us. They need to be visited with encouragement day after day. It takes everyone to engage in a sufficiency of encouragement in the body of Christ. The term "one another" implies everyone encouraging everyone else.
Church leaders need daily encouragement. Instead they often get all kinds of obstacles and frustrations. For instance, the refusal to appoint elders and deacons for proper church organization and government; over-emphasis upon mutual ministry without due regard to vocation and ability; the practice of giving token support instead of proper wages. Other possibilities include the expectation of work performance without the necessary programs and facilities; a constant undercurrent of opposition for no clear reason; or a simple lack of respect and esteem. These may not be common problems, but neither are they rare.
Church women need daily encouragement. The Lord has made every woman of God a "king", a "priest", a "son", an "heir" of heaven (Revelation 1:5-6, Romans 8:14-17). I cannot think of any stronger way that the Holy Spirit could tells us that in the church of Christ men and women are equals. Instead it is the common experience of women in the churches of Christ to be dominated, silenced, marginalised in the ministry of the word, not consulted in the business of the church, expected to submit to men who won't sacrifice themselves in return, and made to feel that the "weaker vessel" is the inferior and not the finer vessel. It is time women were freed from this oppression and encouraged to take up their rightful partnership and the ministry God has given to women. Though it differs in some respects from the ministry God has given to men, it is by no means a lesser ministry.
Christian neighbours have a special opportunity to "encourage one another daily". In some cities, however, Christian neighbours don't visit one another during the week, and on Sundays they drive past the local churches preferring to meet in some distant suburb, spurning their local brethren, or having been spurned by them. Visiting other churches to encourage them, and be encouraged by them, is a good thing in its time and place. But it is outlandish that supposedly "local" congregations tend to be composed of non-local people, because Christians in the same neighbourhood avoid fellowship. That is both a symptom and a source of great discouragement, to the Lord and his people.
I may sound oddly pessimistic about encouragement, but not so. I have spent more than fifty years in the ministry among churches of Christ in Australia. Like any other preacher, I've had some rough treatment and some difficult times. On the other hand I have been well encouraged and supported by faithful brethren.
Even if others are not encouraging you, there is no need to give up your faith and ministry...