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Discovering God in the Psalms: God is Still Doing Wonders

O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures for ever;  to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures for ever.  Ps. 136:2-4 (NRS)

Does God still do great wonders today? When we read the Bible, it’s hard to ignore the mighty wonders of God in Creation, The Exodus, and His plan of salvation. His wonders are clearly demonstrated from Genesis to Revelation, as He reveals Himself to His creature, man.

I choose to differentiate between God’s wonders and His miracles. I view miracles as God’s favor demonstrated in a particular incident, circumstance, or time. Wonders, on the other hand, include all the acts of God’s goodness and greatness, transcending time and circumstance.

Psalm 136 is entitled, “A Litany of God’s Wonders”. In each verse, the Psalmist captures the wonders of God in the history of Israel. The Psalmists begins and ends this psalm by declaring the need to give thanks for God’s mercy. Mercy (checed) is translated as “favor and loving kindness.” It is in the context of His mercy that God’s wonders are performed. In verse 4, the Psalmist reminds us of two key facts.

God alone does wonders. It is in the remembrance of God’s wonders that He sought Israel’s faithfulness and trust. That remembrance of God’s wonders is even more critical for us today as we tend to minimize God’s ability and glorify man’s accomplishments.

God’s mercy endures forever. God lives in eternity and therefore, is not limited to the confines of “time”. God’s forever includes both “chronological time” and “the social times” in which we find ourselves. God’s mercy, favor, and loving kindness are always available.

While God has done great wonders in the past, He is still doing wonders today. Perhaps we miss God’s wonders in our lives by crediting them to luck or as happenstance. Perhaps we attribute His wonders to our own abilities or to our social networks and connections. All the above are foolish thinking. It is God alone Who stands ready to “show Himself strong” on behalf of man (2 Chronicles 16:9).

It has been said that we are one generation away from losing our belief in God. The result is a country that minimizes the supernatural power of the Most Holy God. One minister observed, “Man has humanized God and deified himself.” Let us continue to share the many wonders of God–those in the Bible and in our lives. This includes the greatest wonder of all, our salvation.

As I view our nation and the challenges we face, it is evident that our future lies not in political leadership, technological breakthrough, nor financial health. We’ve tried them all. Our future lies with “the God of gods, the Lord of lords; to Him who alone does great wonders” (Ps. 136:4).

Discovering God in the Psalms: Victory over Darkness

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Psalm 139:12 (NKJ)

Children are typically afraid of the dark. It is in the dark where “things go bang in the night” and where unseen dangers may lie. Darkness is defined as the absence of visible light. Darkness is changed only by the introduction of light. One can never fully appreciate the value of light until they have experienced the unsettling feeling of being “in the dark.”

Although children fear the darkness, there is one time when they ignore that fear—when it’s time to play “hide and seek.” Darkness provides the “perfect condition” for its execution; it is in the darkness that a person can remain unseen as they blend into the trees’ shadows and the surrounding houses. If, however, this game were to be played with God, one would find themselves at a marked disadvantage. Why? Because darkness and light are alike to Him—the night shines as the day. It is God’s omnipresence that provides the believer the “perfect condition” for victory over darkness.

Light and darkness are a natural phenomenon associated with day and night. People also use the terms metaphorically, especially in Scripture where the two are given theological significance. In the Old Testament, God acted at Creation to separate and distinguish between darkness and light, night and day (Gen. 1:4, 5, 18). Darkness was also associated with judgment and distress (Ex.10:21; Ps. 91:6), God’s hiddenness (Dt. 4:11; 5:23) and divine intervention (Isa. 9:2; Ps. 18:28). Darkness is a powerful New Testament image. While darkness is used as a moral metaphor to describe sinful acts and sinful life style (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11), it also used to describe the evil power, holding people in its dominion (Col. 1:13).

Darkness in our scripture text references the oppressive nature of darkness. “Hide” in Hebrew means to “to crush or bruise.” In the Old Testament it is used only here and in Genesis 3:15 and Job 9:17. Even believers feel spiritual darkness’ crushing power as it attempts to control them through their unredeemed flesh (Rom. 7:17-25). It is here that God’s omnipresence can lead believers to victory through darkness.

Darkness cannot hide. It is God’s presence (through His indwelling Spirit) that exposes and dispels darkness. Believers are rescued from the realm of darkness to become children of the light (Eph. 5:8, 14). They share a place in God’s kingdom of light (Col. 1:12) and even act as light in this dark world (Mat.5:14-16). The believer’s life reflects Jesus’ light and ultimately declare his praises (1 Pet. 2:9). It is in Christ that we have victory over darkness. Jesus Christ was the “change agent” that was introduced into darkness (Mat. 4:16) giving life and light to all who would receive it (Ps. 36:9).

The prophets promised that one day God Himself would live among men to replace the sun as their “everlasting light.” Isaiah 60:19-20 reads:

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended.”

Praise God for His Light.

Discovering God in the Psalms: Take Time to Praise

“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness,
and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Psalm 107:8 (NKJ)

Our text for today’s WordBytes comes from the 107th division of the Psalms. There is nothing more gratifying to the soul than to praise the Lord during private devotions. It is the soul’s release which allows our innermost being to render tokens of gratitude and adoration to the Lord.  That power is multiplied when experienced in corporate worship with other believers.

The psalms found in this fifth division lend themselves to an overall liturgical purpose befitting public worship for the Jewish people of that time and for us today.

Sometimes, however, we become so entangled with the events of our lives that we forget to take time to praise. We overlook the fact that our praise and worship is not only pleasing to God, but it’s also the quickest way to access the power and provision of the Lord. Why is that true? Because the Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3). This imperative to “praise the LORD” is repeated four times (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31).  In this psalm it is to impress its importance as we journey through this life.

Oh that men would praise the LORD. Men must be reminded to praise God. They become bound to personal agendas and circumstances, leaving little room or time to praise God. Praise is squandered on mortal man with his accomplishments, often forgetting that God created the universe, thrones, principalities and powers. All things were created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16).  To praise God for His greatness is to acknowledge His authority and sovereign rule. It’s interesting to observe that the angels are not commanded to praise God–they do it willingly (Rev. 5:11-14; 7:11-12).

For His goodness. To say, “God is good”, is to trivialize His true nature and character. Goodness (hesed) in Hebrew means “unfailing, loyal love.” It is often based on a prior relationship, in this case, our covenant relationship with God. As believers, we have entered into an everlasting covenant with God, through His Son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This New Covenant promises us restoration of our relationship with God (Rom. 5:1), forgiveness of sin (Matt. 26:27-28), sonship (1 John 3:1-2), and an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15).

For His wonderful works to the children of men. In reading Psalm 107, God’s “wonderful works” are His acts of mercy to those whom He had entered into covenant relationship with. These wonderful works are amazing and cause us to be astounded as God intervened on behalf of mankind. After men “cried unto the LORD” (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28) and had come to “their wits’ end” (27), it was God who “led them out and brought them forth.” It was God who “healed and restored, delivered and saved.” Then men lifted their voices in worship and praise (vv. 22, 32).

As believers, we have much to praise God for each day. We should praise Him for the “works” He performs on our behalf–for protection and provision and for grace and mercy. God is worthy of our praise for His love, for salvation and for eternal life. We ought to enter into perpetual praise throughout the day, as the angels do in heaven. We have even more reason to praise God than the angels in that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10).

Discovering God in the Psalms: The Silence of God

 

“These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.”  Psalm 50:21 (NKJ)

As I survey current events, my heart weeps. Crime against mankind continues to escalate. Abuse of the poor and defenseless, witness to the selfishness of the society we now live in.  Even the “heavens and the earth” suffer from the blatant disregard of man for God’s creation (Titus 3:3).

As social and religious groups unite in prayer to regain their community and their country, many ask the question, “Where is God?” They want to know if He hears…does He see. Why does God remain silent when there is so much injustice and wrongdoing? God does hear and see. He will not remain silent forever. He will set His house in order.

Of the many attributes of God, the one most misunderstood is His justice. Believers are quick to acknowledge God’s moral attributes–grace, mercy, and love, but His justice seems out of character with who they believe Him to be.

Perhaps these misinformed believers hope that His moral qualities will “ignore or overlook” their obvious disregard for His laws and commandments. God administers His kingdom in accordance with His law and expects His moral agents, believers, to adhere to the standards of justice which He has established. (Micah 6:8)

At times the rule of God does not appear to be “just.” Evil flourishes and everything continues as it always has (2 Pet. 3:4). Sin appears unpunished and righteousness seems to go unrewarded (Psalm 73:3-12). C. S. Lewis, acclaimed novelist and lay theologian, helps us keep God’s justice in perspective:

The justice of God must not be evaluated on a short-term basis. Within this life it will often appear incomplete or imperfect. Earthly life is not all there is, however. There is a life beyond and in the scope of all eternity; God’s justice will be complete.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day suffered from both hypocrisy and rebellion. They refused the Living Word who lived among them. Today God has given us both His Word and His Holy Spirit to lead us into truth and righteousness. Do not turn Him away. “… the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

In His silence, God is speaking loudly. God’s longsuffering and grace should never be looked upon as indifference (2 Peter 3:3-10).  He has already dealt with sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and He will deal with the last vestiges of rebellion and disobedience. God does hear (Psalm 55:19).

Discovering God in the Psalms: Forget Not God

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Psalm 103:2 (KJV)

Memories of a person, place, or thing affect our beliefs and habits.  Every aspect of our lives is influenced by our memory. That’s why it’s so important to remember all that God has done, is doing, and will do for us.

The 103rd Psalm is a general praise psalm written to magnify the name of God and boast of His greatness. It is arranged in three parts: (1) call to praise, (2) cause for praise, and (3) conclusion with new exhortation to praise the Lord. In this psalm, readers are told not to forget the benefits God has extended to His covenant people. These same benefits are ours today, in the twenty-first century.

  • Forgiveness of iniquities. Who other than God can forgive sin? Through Christ’s sacrifice and atoning blood, not only are our sins forgiven but our “sin nature” has been rendered “inoperative” (Rom. 6:14; Heb. 2:14-15). If we “fall short”, we need only confess and God faithfully forgives us (1 John 1:9). He then removes remembrance of them to the furthest points of existence-even to the heavens (Ps. 103:11-12). There is no other god or religion that offers such forgiveness.
  • Healing of diseases. Disease is the result of sin’s entrance into the world. It was not part of God’s original plan for His beloved creation. Yet God, within His providential will, provides physical healing-both on this side and the “other side” (2 Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:4). Spiritual healing is now available to release us from anger, shame, guilt, and unforgiveness. After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit and spoke these words in the synagogue in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:14-19). Jesus is our Healer today.
  • Redemption of life from destruction. In Hebrew, destruction or sahat, is translated pit or dungeon; corruption or decay. Before God’s intervention (through Jesus Christ) we were “in a hole, destined to die.” The sin of one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17) God will continually save us from the world, Satan, and our “old nature.” He is our Preserver (Ps. 145:14-20).
  • Crowning with lovingkindness and tender mercies. God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies are evidenced from Genesis to Revelation, as He provides and protects His covenant people. Through our confession of faith in Christ, lovingkindness was extended to us, as Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (Gal. 3:29). The literal translation of tendermercies is “tender and compassion.” It expresses love of a superior for an inferior; this love is seen in the deep feelings that move the superior to help. While we were without strength to save ourselves Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6).
  • Satisfaction with “good things”. The NIV rendering of this verse is “He satisfies your desires with good things.” When we are obedient to God, we are in the center of His will. He will give us what is best for our life-even when we don’t see it. The result is renewal of hope and trust and the ability to continue our walk of faith. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)
Regardless of our schedules and priorities, we must never forget all of God’s benefits. He has given us so much. Who could ever forget?

Discovering God in the Psalms: Desperately Seeking God

 

0 God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is.  Psalm 63:1 (KJV)

Recent news featured several individuals who were lost in the wilderness.

One story told of a young boy who became separated from his family when he left them in search of mushrooms. In another story, a hiker who left her team experienced a dangerous fall. With a badly broken leg she crawled miles through the woods until she was discovered. In both stories, their separation from others resulted in fear and despair until they were rescued from their dire situation.

In Psalm 63, its author, David, conveys his feelings of despair as he finds himself separated from the presence of Almighty God. It is in this Psalm that we find David desperately seeking God.

The historical context for this psalm can be found in 2 Samuel 15. David’s despair is the result of his son Absalom’s conspiracy to steal the kingdom from his father. Fearful of the potential shift in power, David vacates his throne in Jerusalem and heads to the wilderness of Judah:

And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, all the people crossed over toward the way of the wilderness. (2 Sam. 15:23).

While David was in fact, in a physical wilderness, the wilderness he speaks of in Psalm 63 describes metaphorically his desperate longing for God’s presence.  His need to spiritually reconnect with God took on the characteristics of a person physically suffering great thirst in a dry and parched wasteland.

David’s desire for God became the first thing he sought when he rose in the morning. His soul (his mind, will and emotions) thirsted for God. His flesh responded to this insatiable thirst in a strong longing to be with God.  “To long” in Hebrew (kamahn) means “to faint with longing.” David was faint from longing for his God.

David’s emotional response in the wilderness mirrored what he probably heard while worshiping in the sanctuary in Jerusalem:

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Ps. 42:1-2).

David now knew what it felt like to experience thirst for the Living God.

Though David had never seen God physically, he had personally experienced God’s power and glory through His nature and attributes. He knew God’s love and mercy as he tended to his father’s sheep as a young boy (Ps. 23).

David was witness to God’s protection as he faced the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17:49-51). David knew the source of his success in battle against Israel’s enemies (1 Sam. 18:5, 7). David knew the power of God’s presence.

Remembrance of those times gave David confident assurance that God would graciously hear and answer His call (Isa. 30:19). It was in God’s presence only that David would find spiritual relief for his thirst.

In today’s society people are desperately seeking relief for their spiritual thirst. They are searching for life options they feel will satisfy their needs through hedonistic pursuits, spiritual experimentation, and material gain.

These efforts unfortunately never satisfy and often result in further despair and darkness. God our Father and Creator knows and possesses what is needed for spiritual dryness. Only He can truly satisfy man’s needs. Let us, like David, seek greater intimacy with God, driven by an unquenchable thirst for His presence. Let us desperately seek God!

Tools for Encouragement

Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.  Romans 15:2 (KJV)

As In The Word Ministries moves into its second decade of service, we will be launching a new program entitled Contending for Children (CFC).   While we declare that “children are our future”, unfortunately there are still gaps in services leaving our children victims of violence, neglect, and abuse.   It is our opinion that in order to live victoriously as individuals, both women and their children need to be included in our ministry efforts.

That being the case, my radar is continually in search of trends and new thinking concerning children.

In researching the topic of encouragement, I was introduced to an article by Dr. Timothy Evans entitled, “The Tools of Encouragement”.  While its focus is children, I found “spiritual fodder” for our series on encouragement for 21st century living.

Encouragement versus Discouragement

In his article, Dr. Evans cites attitudes and behaviors that compare encouragement to discouragement.  For space sake, I have listed below at few which, I feel, may fit with our discussion of encouragement.  I challenge you to review the total list  as an “informal assessment” of your personal “encouragement style” with others God has placed in your life.   

ENCOURAGEMENT DISCOURAGEMENT
Hopeful view of people’s nature Hopeless view of people’s nature
Individual’s behavior is purposeful Individual’s behavior is caused by outside forces and victimization in the past
Influence without strings Control, force, and fear
Equality as human beings Superiority-sitting in judgment
Chatting-talking with Advising-telling to
Being ourselves, fine as we are Pleasing and proving
Recognizes effort and improvement Recognizes only tasks well done
Courage to be imperfect Fear of mistakes

 After a review of the behaviors, I found that many of the actions I had believed to be “helpful” could have instead been discouraging to those whom I had hoped to assist.

I now better understand that encouragement needs to flow from a heart that “stands with” the person in need of support.  Its end result should reflect renewed hope and confidence.   Jesus understood this dynamic and demonstrates for us the best model for encouragement.         

The Master Encourager:  Inspiration to hope and service

By His very nature, Jesus was the greatest of all encouragers.   Whether with His disciples or with the crowds, Jesus’ words spoke life and possibilities to those in need of support and confidence.

Jesus encouraged others to an expectant hope.  Jesus comforted His disciples with living hope—hope found in the promise of His resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3).  Jesus told them not to have their hearts troubled because “if they believed and trusted in the true and living God, they could also believe and trust in Him” (John 14:1).  Hope was fostered by the fact that God had a purposeful future planned for them including a place in heaven.

Jesus encouraged others in preparation for service.  Jesus spent His closing days with His disciples ensuring them that He would not leave them as orphans but instead promised the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, would come alongside them to help fulfill their purpose and their service to mankind (John 14:16-18).  The Holy Spirit now indwells each of us in the 21st century to do the very same thing.

Encouragement—RECAST  

Although we as Christians may not experience overt persecution or hatred, we do feel the pressures and disappointment that comes from living in this fallen world.  Discouragement is not an uncommon human experience.  Therefore encouragement is needed.  

For the recipient, encouragement helps individuals manage through times of trials and spiritual discipline.  It undergirds them when they may feel like giving up (Heb. 12:5). Encouragement gives hope and helps believers to continue their walk of faith (Rom. 15:4).

For the donor, encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (1 Cor. 13:4-7). It takes attention away from self and refocuses on the needs of others (1 Thess. 5:11).  Encouragement of believers ultimately supports the Great Commission—the advancement of God’s kingdom.

I’d like to close this series with as acrostic that will help to remind us of the importance and purpose of encourage.  The word is HOPE:  Helping Others’ Purpose Evolve.   As believers we are to follow the example of Christ in encouraging other to pursue their purpose outlined before the foundations of the world (Eph. 2:10); to accomplish the days fashioned for them before they existed (Ps. 139:16).

The Encouragement Challenge

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,

just as you are doing.  1 Thess.  5:11 (NRS)

Are you an encourager?  Do your words and actions move others  toward their God-given purpose?  Or do they cause others to “wilt in the sun”?

Relational tension, strife, dysfunction

Loneliness, disconnectedness

Depression, hopelessness, suicide

These conditions of mankind call for more than a “pat on the back”.  They require an intentional plan to come along side individuals God places in our lives.  Believers in Christ are being called to step-up to the encouragement challenge.   

The Spiritual Gift of Encouragement

The spiritual gift of encouragement is listed in Romans 12:8.  While specific spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Rom. 12:6-8) are given  by the Holy Spirit “to prepare God’s people for works of service”, all Christians are called to encourage others (1 Thess. 5:11).

In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded to encourage Joshua who would be the leader to take the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deut. 1:38). King Josiah helped return his people to the Lord through his encouragement to the priests (2 Chron. 35:2).

In the New Testament, Paul sought to encourage believers through his visits, his many letters, and his prayers (Acts 20:2). Other encouragers included Silas (Acts 15:32), Tychicus (Col. 4:8) and Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2).

Some believers are “especially gifted” to be encouragers.  One of the strongest examples found in the New Testament is Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). He would become known as a son of encouragement and later help bring Paul into the church as a leader.

Encouragement and Sanctification

Encouragement is positive feedback that focuses primarily on effort or improvement rather than outcomes.[1]

This is important for “mature” Christians to know as they work with new Christians who need more encouragement and less “correction” to help them grow in their faith.

In addition, sanctification (being conformed to the image of Christ) is accelerated through use of encouragement.   Encouragement helps believers strive for “improvement” each day being fully aware  that we will never reach perfection until heaven.

Also Read, “Help the Stragglers”

Why is Encouragement important?

Encouragement is the vehicle God uses to help believers live out  their purpose and true identity in Christ.  In addition, encouragement helps believers to:

    • Navigate in the 21st century.  The belief that we areOne nation under God” is  no longer true as key institutions are dismantled (church and family) and Christian beliefs are diminished (respect for others and the value of life).  Individuals feel devalued, hopeless, and powerless.   Encouragement builds inner resiliency and hope (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
    • Equip the saints. The Bible instructs believers to “examine themselves” (2 Cor. 13:5) and “grow in faith” (Eph. 4:15).  Encouragers are needed to help other believers become spiritually mature and ready for service.  This does not give us authority to meddle in  others’ lives.  It should, however, cause us to “be on the watch” for God’s divine opportunities to provide encouragement.  Encouragement provides needed support for spiritual growth and maturity (Rom. 15:1).
    • Build the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God came with the arrival of Jesus Christ.  He has charged every believer to expand His kingdom by sharing the Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).  Our lives and service to mankind are to be “living testimonies” to  God’s goodness and His greatness.  Encouragement draws nonbelievers to God and citizenship in His kingdom (Eph. 2:19).

Are You Up for the Encouragement Challenge?

Encouragement is not only the action of giving someone support or confidence but it is also about giving inspiration for hope and service.

Encouragement is a social imperative that can radically reverse the pattern of  despair we face in our communities, in this country and the world.

Encouragement is a principle from God that originates from His love and grace (Is. 41:10).  It is how the Kingdom of God increases and how its citizens are to operate in this fallen world.   Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)

[1]   The Tools of Encouragement,  Dr. Timothy D. Evans

Encourage Yourself

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.   Joshua 1:6 (NKJ)

Donald Lawrence, gospel music songwriter and producer recorded a song that should resonate with believers living in the 21st century.  It is entitled “Encourage Yourself”.  Each verse and chorus repeats the need to continue moving forward when everything (and everyone) is pushing you back or holding you down.   

Sometimes you have to encourage yourself

Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test

And no matter how you feel

Speak the word and you will be healed

Speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord.

I know we typically think of encouragement as coming from outside ourselves, but it’s important to remember that we, as believers have a personal responsibility to “speak over and encourage ourselves in the Lord.”  How do we do that?  By speaking the truth—that which we “know” by faith.   In our text, Joshua had reason to lose courage.  Moses was dead and he now must lead over 2.5 million Israelites into the Promised Land.  And who would be there to encourage him?  The Lord and Joshua himself (Josh. 1:5).

Satan—our model for discouragement

 During times of weakness, Satan will use his favorite “tools” to wreck our confidence.  He will use discouragement, deception, and disappointment to thwart our efforts to move toward God and His purpose for our life (Jer. 29:11).  Discouragement is by far his favorite.  The base word for discourage means to deprive of or cause to lose courage (des- “away” (see dis-) + coragier, from corage “spirit”).  It is Satan’s plan to lead us away from a “spirit of courage”.

 It’s what “we know” that makes the difference

So what do we need to know that will help us encourage ourselves?  I will define each point with selected scripture you can memorize to combat Satan’s attacks.

We need to know Who God is.

  • You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
  • The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
  • Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

We need to know who we are—our identity in Christ.

  • The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)
  • Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
  • But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) 

We need to know our citizenship.

  • For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
  • For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
  • “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Encouragement for believers is more than a pat on the back or a hearty “at-a-boy”.  Encouragement is the discipline of building endurance and resolve for the journey God has set before us.   Although encouragement often comes from our families and our “tribes” (communities), it is in those quiet moments of doubt or desperation, we need to “speak words” (God’s Word) that “heal” and can cause “giants to fall”.

A Call to Encouragement

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  Hebrew 3:13 (NIV)

When I think of encouragement, George Nance comes to mind.  George “adopted me” as a new manager with Southwestern Bell (SWB).  George “came along side me” and coached me on how to navigate this new and foreign job of managing one of SWB’s million dollar account.  It was hard and I often thought of returning to teaching but I held on because George was there to encourage me.

Throughout my life, there has always been someone who stood with me to encourage me to be all that I could be.  Little did I know then that it was God at work (through my friends and family) keeping me moving forward to the purpose He had established for my life (Ep. 2:10).

Such is the role of one called to the side of one in order to teach, comfort, strengthen or “push them” to act in a certain way (as George did for me).  There are other words in the Bible that have similar meaning such as exhort, warn, and admonish.  The context of the Scripture will dictate what best describes the meaning for that situation.

Encouragement is defined as the action of giving someone support or confidence.  I would like to expand that definition by saying that encouragement is also “inspiration to hope and service.”

Encouragement Basics

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words translate encourage to mean “strengthen” (Deut. 31:6; Joshua 1:7, 9).  The basic New Testament word for encourage is paraklesis which interpreted means a calling to one’s aid.  In John 14:16, Jesus promised to send the Disciples another just like Himself (The Holy Spirit) who would walk with them; in this case “comfort” is the intended meaning of encourage.  “Exhort” is also used to mean encourage.  Its purpose is to build endurance and “spiritual doggedness” during times of trial and testing.  Such was the case in our text today.

The Need for Encouragement

The recipients of this letter were believers who had come to faith through the testimony of eyewitnesses of Christ. They were not novices and they had successfully endured hardships because of their stand for the gospel (Heb. 10:32-34).  Unfortunately, they had become “dull of hearing” and were in danger of drifting away.  This made them particularly susceptible to the renewed persecutions that were coming upon them and the author of Hebrews found it necessary to check the downward spiral with “the word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22).

“Today” referred to social and political pressures that potentially threatened their faith walk and Christian witness. “Sin’s deceitfulness” speaks to satanic attacks to simply “give in” to the external pressures versus standing firm in the faith.  In this case, it meant returning to Judaism.   

Fast forward to the 21st Century 

Our “Today” mirrors that of the writer of Hebrews.  Our faith is being challenged and with each day we are persecuted for our Christian beliefs and practices.  And what is the Church’s response?  What is our individual response?

In many case we have become dull of hearing and drifting away.  “Sin’s deceitfulness” has lured believers (and non-believers) into a false sense of “rightness” resulting in willful disobedience and depraved immorality.  Ruin is the outcome for those who continue on this path.

Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

The prophets give false prophecies, and the priests rule with an iron hand. And worse yet, my people like it that way! But what will you do when the end comes? Jeremiah 5:31

People think they are wise following the ways of the world, but in reality, they have become fools (Rom. 1:21-22).

Read:  Prayer Delivered in Kansas State Legislature

Encouragement in its basic form is a call to move people to hope and service for the Lord.  It is meant to incent believers to pursue God’s divine purpose for their life (Jer. 29:11).  Whether we strengthen, comfort, or exhort, every believer has a part to play in the spiritual success of those individuals God places in our path.  It’s time for a “word of encouragement.”