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Encouraged To Follow Jesus

Encourage one another daily. -Hebrews 3:13

Isn’t it interesting how we sometimes miss things that are right in front of us? Often it’s because something else has the focus of our attention. The book of Acts in the New Testament provides an example.

Christians, churches are directed to Acts to learn about the early Christian movement and what how it relates today. We rightly are often awed by the explosive growth of the early Christianity community (3000 added in one day). We see the miracles of healing, of deliverance from dangerous situations and other exciting happenings. But there is something else which we might miss.

During my daily reading in Acts one day, something caught my attention: “Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by.” I wondered—“encouraging them…?” As I skimmed Acts (14:22; 15:41; 16:5; 16:40; 18:23; 20:1-2, 12, 32; 27:22, 36; 28:15), it became like a refrain—“encouraged,” “strengthened.” One of the prominent disciples was Barnabas meaning “son of encouragement” (4:36).

Then I remembered the Great Commission: “Make disciples…I’m with you.” And finally a light went on. Encouragement of his people is a priority for God. Having pastored a church, I’m well acquainted with the Sunday/Monday syndrome—a spiritual high followed by a letdown. There’s also the wear and tear of the battle. But the Psalmist declares “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

But encouragement is also about helping a person toward a goal. It is to assist one for effectiveness and achievement. Jesus promises a helper (paraclete=one who stands along side to help), the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Years ago Iowa was beaten by Duke in the NCAA basketball tournament. I remember the Iowa players’ reaction after the game. Of the Duke players they said, “They’re always encouraging each other.”

Encouragement is a key element in discipleship, both being and making. We tend to lose sight of this element, perhaps in the excitement of evangelism and new people coming into the church in Acts. Later, as the apostles return to places where many have come to follow Jesus, their ministry to those Christians is encouragement.

God’s method of encouragement is that human beings filled with His Spirit, stand with one another to encourage and strengthen. We are directed 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. It is encouragement. 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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