God’s desire to encourage us is evident in the scriptures and tangibly lived out in the work of the Holy Spirit who lives in all believers.
- 2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
- Psalm 10:17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.
- Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
- Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Perhaps the greatest example of God’s desire to encourage us is evident in the scriptures that acknowledge that the Christian life is not plain sailing and we can be fearful and get discouraged.
God encouraged Joshua initially through the mentorship of Moses.
- Deuteronomy 1:38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it.
- Deuteronomy 3:28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”
After Moses’ death God continued to personally encourage Joshua as he stepped out on the journey God had planned for him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.
- Joshua 1:5-6 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
- Joshua 1:7-8 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful
- Joshua 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
It is not an easy task to step out into the plans you believe God has for you. Joshua knew that all too well but here we read that God understood Joshua’s fears. Three times in nine verses God encourages Joshua letting him know that he is not alone and that He is with him. Those words are as relevant to us today as they were to Joshua. The Father heart of God is to encourage us.
- Psalm 10:17 You LORD hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them and you listen to their cry.
Christ understands our struggles and through his redeeming work on the cross we can come before God with confidence and find help in our struggles.
- Hebrews 4:15-16 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were getting discouraged and wanted to give up and that struggle is as relevant today as it was then.
- Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Just as we receive encouragement from God – we in turn need to encourage others. One of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans Chapter 12 is encouragement.
- Romans 12:8 … if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;
However regardless of our gifts or training we are called to encourage one another.
- 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.
We live in a secular world where sadly we are a minority and it is tough to live out our Christian faith. Discouragement is a legitimate feeling in difficult circumstances. Part of the role of the church is the encouragement of other believers.
“As Christians regardless of our gifts or training, we are called upon to encourage our brothers and sisters. Whatever the direction in which our particular congregation is moving, church life will include spending time in the presence of other Christians. And when we meet together as God’s people, we are to encourage one another, to say and do things that stimulate others to a deeper appreciation of Christ and to a stronger commitment to our relationship with him and with each other.”
Larry Crabb from Encouragement – The Unexpected Power of Building Others Up.
We need to be a church community that encourages one another to persevere in the race that God has marked out for us.
Options for further reflection and encouragement