Author: Ron Graham
Encourage One Another
This lesson is about the command, "Encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13).
1 The Need for Encouragement
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.
2 The Meaning of Encouraqement
The New Testament word for "encourage" is παρακαλεω (parakaleo), which means to entreat, appeal, exhort, urge.
The word parakaleo 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."
3 The Target of Encouragement
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, as the need and opportunity arises, 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;
- 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 not unknown for 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.
Such women are expected to submit to men who won't sacrifice themselves in return. Women are 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 or made uncomfortable 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.
When that occurs, it is both a symptom and a source of great discouragement, to the Lord and his people.
4 The Source of Encouragement
I may sound oddly pessimistic about encouragement, but not so. I have spent almost sixty 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 mostly 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...
- Firstly, the Lord Jesus never lets you down, so he is always a source of encouragement. Have faith in him. (Hebrews 13:5-6). Look forward to his “Well done you good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
- Secondly, your own assessment of yourself and your ministry is a constant source of encouragement. Don't measure yourself by the negative assessment, and false standards, of poorly motivated people. Be honest with yourself, and find a true and realistic standard to measure yourself and your ministry by (2Corinthians 10:12).
- Thirdly, don't look for encouragement from others, but rather look for others to encourage. Don't withdraw, but widen your circle with care, and you'll find people who will appreciate your encouragement, and in turn be a source of encouragement to you. Then you'll be the Hebrews 3:13 sort of person.