I wish I were more of an encourager. I tend to nitpick and complain about things. It takes a lot to be able to stay positive and I work on it a lot. Sometimes I have to get off on my own and ask God to get my mind back to what helps Him most. I know that when I don’t give encouragement, and I have a negative attitude, that I pollute other people around me, and it hurts the efforts of God’s Spirit. I have to self-evaluate my thoughts and actions to make sure what I’m doing and saying is coming across in the best way possible. As a congregation, we need to make sure we are about encouraging others. We are a small congregation that is made up of mostly older saints, and we need to make sure we are encouraging the younger ones coming up, so that they will keep the congregation going after we’re gone. Younger saints need to encourage the older saints, because it’s hard to get older and not be able to do as much as when you were younger. Basically, we all need to be about encouraging each other.
In the church during times of persecution for believing in Christ, the Hebrews writer encourages the Hebrew saints in the church this way: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” Heb 10:23-25. I don’t know what it means by “Day”. When it is capitalized like this in the interpretation, it usually means a significant time, like when the Lord comes again. An encouragement that, that day could come at any time. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that; it could be when our life comes to an end or any special day that may be coming in the future. The message is that we need to be about encouraging each other, loving each other, and stirring each other up to good works.
Are you really encouraging others and leading them to good works? Sometimes, we think we might be, but in reality, it is coming off as discouragement. Look at how Paul put it when he was instructing the church how they ought to encourage each other: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” Eph 4:29. Don’t say things that tear down others and the church. Only say things that build up others and the church. Look for the right occasion to give your encouraging words so that those who hear it (witness it) see grace being given. Sometimes we have bad timing. Sometimes we don’t say the right thing. Sometimes it’s said in a joking way, but it still stings or even hurts. Let’s be encouragers who show grace (kindness, forgiveness), and help build others up, not saying things that make us feel good to get attention.
In our daily Scripture reading that is in the bulletin, Moses gives encouragement to Joshua, as Moses in getting ready to step down to be with the Lord. Let me tell you, it’s not easy following a leader who is strong and popular. Everything you do and say is going to be compared to your predecessor. About the only way you are going to be effective, is if your predecessor hands the baton off to you in the presence of the people you are going to lead. That’s showing grace to the one coming after you, who needs to lead, and keep the group that has been assembled going in the best possible way. This is what Moses did and said: “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed’” Deut 31:7-8. Notice what Moses didn’t say: “Here’s Joshua, and he will be a great leader with time, so have patience with him until then” or “Well, you’ve been an obstinate group to lead, and I hope you’ll follow Joshua, because he’s going to need all the help he can get.” Hmm, did that sound like some of the encouragement we give at times? Yeah, I’ve been there, too.
If you notice what Moses did say, it was telling Joshua to be strong and courageous, not that he hadn’t been, but an affirmation that Joshua is the leader now, and he is going to need strength and courage to lead. But also, Joshua is not on his own, just as Moses wasn’t, and the Lord will be with Joshua. “Don’t worry Joshua, know that the Lord is still in control, and He will help you lead.” We need to understand, the Lord is faithful all the time and will not let us down, as long as we obey and follow the Lord and His ways, He will bless us and we will prosper.
Will our congregation grow and keep going? Yes, it will, if we follow the Lord the best we can, and allow the Lord to work in and through us. We will have leaders step down and leaders who will step up. We will have times of uncertainty and times of joy and growth. What we need to realize, as Paul did in his first letter to the church in Corinth (3:5-8), some will plant seeds, others will nourish the seed planted, but it is God who gives the increase. He will always give us increase if we share our faith with others, encourage those around us, and give glory to the One who makes it all possible. Praise be the God who knows all, sees all, and leads all who have faith in Him. May we encourage each other to have the faith of Moses, Joshua, and Paul, and all the other great leaders in the Bible. I love you all, Doug.