Encouragement: the powerful Daily need and Responsibility
Over the 46 years that by God’s grace I’ve walked with Him, I’ve become convinced of a few important things. One of them is our daily need for biblical encouragement from other Christians and our daily responsibility to give biblical encouragement to other Christians. Perhaps the clearest single verse on this in the Bible is Hebrews 3:13:
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (NASB)
It’s revealing to see that the main action that we’re called to is not to hold each other accountable. It is rather to encourage. There is certainly a role for accountability in Christian community, but accountability tends to have a limited effectiveness in inhibiting sin. It also tends to focus on what not to do, rather than to aspirationally call us forward to what we are to do and to be. I believe that men tend toward holding each other accountable because by our nature we like to count things (“Did you or didn’t you this week?”) rather than to get into each other’s minds and hearts and prayerfully learn how to encourage each other to be the man, in this moment, that God has called us to be.
It’s compelling to see the insistency on the daily urgency for encouragement that this verse gives. “Day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today.’” I know of no other command in Scripture that is given with such insistency and urgency. I think that the reason for this is because of the impact that this verse says that God gives to biblical encouragement. It keeps us from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The voice of temptation says to every man, “You’re not going to be truly happy, fulfilled, or significant unless you do this, have this, or grab for this.” And when we go after that which temptation calls us to, that which is not of the Lord and not done in faith, we not only sin, but we have also been deceived by sin. We fall for its lie. As we see ourselves do this on a regular basis, then a cynical, defeated, and deadening hardening comes into our hearts that distances us from God, His people, and His means of grace. This is a dark and deadly place to be – and we’ve all been there.
According to Hebrews 3:13, it is biblical encouragement that is the preventative from this hardening – and we need to give and receive it every day.
I think that the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer gets at what this means and what it looks like between Christian brothers.
The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer . . . It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden underfoot by those who have the gift every day . . . Among earnest Christians in the Church today there is a growing desire to meet together with other Christians in the rest periods of their work for common life under the Word. Communal life is again being recognized by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary, the "roses and lilies" of the Christian life. (Life Together, 8–10)
If somebody asks [a Christian], Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him of salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to this Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word . . .
But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain; his brother's is sure. (Life Together, 11–12)
The Leadership Edge Personal Vision Statement is: By God’s grace, to step forward as God’s man/woman, in my spheres of influence, to serve His purposes, for His glory.
Every day one of the purposes God calls us to serve in our spheres of influence is to prayerfully consider how we can work with God to put courage in our brothers' and sisters' hearts, to keep them from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. This is not put forward as optional and only relevant to days in which you have a lot of free time on your hands. As the Word says, it is to be day after day, as long as it is still called today. In my 46 years of knowing God and walking with Him, the giving and receiving of Biblical encouragement has been one of the most important and powerful experiences of my life. It has strengthened me as a Christian leader in my marriage, family, career, community and church. And it has given me a way to help good Christian men and women to stay in the battle for Christian influence when they are tempted to give up or give in. And in all of this, by God’s grace, it has brought glory to God, as we have all kept our trust and dependence in Him alone, and continued to step forward, day after day, as long as it is still called today.
Copyright © 2018 John L Hawkins. All rights reserved.