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Encouraged To Be Disciples

Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye. -Acts 20:1(NIV)

Some years ago, I attended a conference at Asbury Theological Seminary.  I don’t know if the conference leaders had consulted with one another or not.  But there was a recurring theme that I didn’t really notice at first.

After the week was over and I returned to the church where I was pastor.  And on Monday morning I met the jarring reality of everyday life—Council Meeting, etc. It was a typical Sunday/Monday morning syndrome of pastoral life.

It “so happened” (God’s work) my daily reading was in the book of Acts.  And one day something caught my attention: “Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by…”

Something started to stir—first, just a little bubble.  I’m dense, but God is equal to the task!  Without me knowing it, for two weeks God had been putting something together.  The recurring theme—encouraged, strengthened, Barnabus (Son of encouragement?).   And then I remembered Jesus’ charge to His disciples, what we call “The Great Commission”: “Make disciples.”  But it was the final words: “I’m with you,” which brought it together.

Encouragement of his people is a priority for God.  He knows about the Sunday/Monday morning syndrome, the wear and tear of the battle, the discouragement brought by the deceitfulness of sin, the failures of our weakness. 

            The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit  (Psalm 34:18)

            Encouragement is also a key element in discipleship, both in the being and the making.  We tend to loose sight of this element, perhaps in the excitement of new people coming into the church.  But later, as the apostles return from their missions, their ministry to the Christians is encouragement. 

God’s method of encouragement is that human beings filled with His Spirit, stand with one another to encourage and strengthen.  In the book of Hebrews we are told to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13).

Bothers/Sisters God has made provision for Monday morning, for the discouragement that lurks around the corner, for the draining effect of the battle. 

That is the primary ministry that we are to have to one another.  Any consideration of the way we shape our lives together must keep that in focus.

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