May God bless you and keep you!  What a wonderful sentiment!  Knowing that we have a God that blesses and watches over us can stimulate us on to greater things.  Encouragement may be the greatest method we have in staying the course in our Christian walk, yet it is often the thing we either neglect or minimize in our efforts. 

Both Sunday lessons looked at this aspect of our lives and how we are affected one way or the other.  The first thing we need to consider is what is meant by encouragement.  Simply stated, encourage means to build up stronger.  That would indicate that something is hindering our strength or not allowing us to grow in certain areas.  What could be doing that?  John clearly states in his first letter that the world has a tremendous attraction for us, and his instruction is that we are not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2).  In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus understood the trials that this world offers when He said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

In Jesus’ statement we see the undeniable truth about the world, but we also receive encouragement from Him as well.  God has always been a tremendous source of encouragement to those seeking Him.  In 2 Kings 6, we see the seemingly desperate situation with Elisha and his servant surrounded by the Arameans.  When Elisha prayed to have the eyes of his servant opened that he might see the spiritual armies that outnumbered the Arameans, God answered his prayer and provided the encouragement he needed.  God also provides encouragement to us through His indwelling spirit we receive at our baptism and through His word that we have available to us.  Paul wrote to the church at Rome saying, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans15:4) While Paul wrote that to them, I believe that we can apply that same sentiment to our own lives today with all the Scriptures.

While we are greatly encouraged by God, the most readily available source of encouragement should be our own brothers and sisters in faith.  There are a number of examples of encouragement provided by God’s children to God’s children as well as instructions to encourage each other.  For a few examples, look at these scriptures; Colossians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5:11 and 5:14.

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter

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