Encouragement – God’s Preventative Medicine

Athens Church of Christ, Spring 2011

Class Notes by Lisa Sawhill and Sam Laing

For Discussion: What is preventative medicine?  How do we practice it in a physical way?

Now let’s think spiritually…

Hebrews 3:12-13 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.   But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

Encouragement is, by design, God’s preventative medicine to protect our hearts.

To protect us from what? Being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness so that we lose our confidence.

To understand how encouragement prevents a hardened heart, let’s first look at the thoughts and feelings we have in various situations.

What are situations in which we need encouragement?

  • Work pressure, deadlines, financial hardships, family responsibilities, life decisions to be made, etc.
  • Weariness from doing right and good, but not seeing results, losing hope
  • Experience of loss, death, divorce, separation
  • Loneliness or sadness
  • Failure or failing at a task
  • Illness or absence from the fellowship for extended periods
  • Having a loved one in spiritual trouble
  • Experience of anxiety, worry, fearfulness
  • Being the “caregiver” person who is always giving, caring and or working behind the scenes

What are our discouraging thought processes in those situations?

  • Pressure:  “I can’t do this, I’m going to ruin my life, What if I mess up? No one will love or respect me anymore.” These thoughts not directed by encouragement can lead to – “They shouldn’t demand this of me, This is unfair, If they hadn’t done this everything would be OK. It’s their fault I’m in this predicament. No one loves me or listens to what I say.”
  • Weariness:  “I can’t keep this up, I’m so tired, what does it matter? Nothing good will happen anyway. I’m not making a difference, there is no hope. I quit!”
  • Loss:  “I feel so alone, so sad.  Does God care?  Does anyone care?”  Leads to – “I am alone.  God doesn’t care or notice.  No one cares or notices.  They are all too busy to notice. They don’t understand what I’m going through so why should I talk to them.”
  • Failing:  “I don’t know how to do this.  I feel like I’m in over my head.  I need help.”  Can lead to: “I’m a failure.  I can’t do this.  No one will help me. They will think I’m stupid if I tell them. I’m not good for anything. How can God love me?”
  • Illness: “ I miss the fellowship. I’m so tired of hurting or feeling bad. God, please heal me.”  These can lead to: “I’m not missed, no one cares, I’ll never get better, God isn’t powerful enough to help me or doesn’t care enough to help me.”
  • Spiritual trouble of a loved one:  “I’m praying for them, praying for God to put them on people’s hearts to reach out to them, I’m talking to them, trying to set an example.”  Can lead to: “If only the brothers or sisters would reach out to them, spend more time with them, They’d do better if only people would reach out to them” or “It’s all my fault because of mistakes I made.”
  • Anxiety, Worry, Fearfulness:  “How can this work out? What’s going to happen? I don’t see how God can fix this or help.”  Leads to – “God can’t handle this.  I don’t see anything happening so I’ve got to do _____,  I can’t do it because it won’t work, bad things will happen.”
  • The caregiver or worker behind the scenes: “I feel so badly for _____. Their problems are worse than mine.”  Leads to – “I don’t want to add to that person’s problems with my own.  I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.  Does anyone care about me the way I care for them?  Does anyone notice what I do?”

Encouragement is the counterbalance for each of these situations.  Encouragement given and received at the right time corrects and guides our thoughts with truth; it is not just giving compliments.  Encouragement keeps us from “stinking thinking”— from distorted, deceived thinking.   Our distorted thoughts and emotions feel true; encouragement uses God’s truth to correct our misguided thinking and protect us from getting discouraged.

How can we encourage one another?

  1. 1. Consider the other person and their situation. Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” What would you need in a similar situation?  What would encourage you? Phil 2:1-4 “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better

than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

  1. 2. Use scripture.  Romans 15:4-6 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Use scriptures in fellowship, in phone messages, in texts and cards to help each other focus again on God – his love, power, strength, promises, fatherhood, etc. and of your love and support, your belief in them.   Look up scriptures that would help you in each of the above-mentioned situations.  Scriptures build our faith, which helps us endure.

  1. 3. Affection and Service.  Affection and service also help us endure through hard times.  Love not only covers a multitude of sins, but can help keep us faithful.  Greet one another in fellowship.  Give hugs.  Smile.  Give eye contact. Romans 12:10 (ESV) “Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”   1 Peter 5:14 (ESV) “Greet one another with the kiss of love.” Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Romans 12:13 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” John 13:35 “Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Galatians 5: 6b “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
  1. 4. Prayer.  Prayer is powerful.  2 Corinthians 1:10b, 11 “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.”  James 5:16b “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Conclusion:  Encouragement is powerful!  Encouragement helps us keep our confidence in God and one another.  We all need it, and God says we need it daily!

For further study and thought:

  1. What are some of my personal experiences of being encouraged?  How did that encouragement help me?
  2. What talents, personality traits or material goods do I have that can be used to encourage others?
  3. What have I learned about my thought processes and how they can lead to being deceived?
  4. What is the difference between giving compliments and encouraging one another?
  5. In the following situations, how did encouragement act as preventative medicine?
    1. Barnabas and Paul: Acts 9:26-28
    2. Jonathan and David: 1 Sam 18-20; 2 Sam 1:26
    3. Timothy and Paul: Phil. 2:19-22; 1 Cor. 4:16-17
    4. Paul and Philippians: Phil. 4:14-19