Thanks, I Needed That

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,
 and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

-Hebrews 10:24-25

LIFE IS SOMETIMES HARD.  Storms and challenges seem to rise out of nowhere.  Sometimes the rains are gentle and sometimes the skies open wide and pour out torrents, much like the rains we experienced in town just this past week—at least over my house.

Then there are seasons that leave us dry and parched, and a single spark would threaten to destroy us.  

The raging fires that consumed life and everything in their paths in Arizona in 2013, and the fires that are currently blazing in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon are a picture of how we may feel.

In the midst of such trials and challenges we all need encouragement.  Those of you who have the gift of encouragement may even feel this need more profoundly than the rest of us, for you know how vital it is for your own well-being, and yet may receive it the least, for you are dependent on encouragement from those of us whose primary gift is not encouragement.

The words “encourage” or “encouragement” are used over 35 times in the New Testament from the book of Acts through Revelation alone.  What does it mean to “encourage” anyway?   It is far more than giving a smile or a slap on the back with a generic greeting of “How’s it going?” or “Looking good!”  To encourage someone is to bolster another’s courage, or to give them hope.  To encourage is to lighten the heart of another, or to lend tangible support.  When you have been truly encouraged by someone you have been given the gift of boldness and the strength to take one more step, climb one more mountain, face one more daunting challenge.

To give another person genuine encouragement is to give a gift of tremendous value.  I cannot survive long without it.  Through the years my greatest encourager has been, and remains, my wife, Jean.  I cannot imagine life without her.  The strength that I have received from her is beyond measure.  It is a gift that I pray I will one day be able to return in far greater measure than I have yet done.  She has taught me much, and what I know of compassion and encouragement I have learned primarily from her.

Just over 5 years ago I stepped into the Lead Minister position at The Hillsboro Church of Christ. It has not always been easy.  There have been times that I have second guessed that decision and times I wonder how long God intends for me to hold it.  The challenge of leading a congregation into seasons of change in the middle of the cultural fog that engulfs us is daunting indeed.  I feel the weight of it well.  But through those seasons of struggle and challenge I have been consistently blessed by the encouragement of the church family God has given me.  Those words of encouragement have most often come at just the right time.

None of us sees clearly the future.  Jesus may return before the day is done.  What I know for sure is that each of us is to hold onto truth, remain faithful to our calling in Christ at all times and in all circumstances, and give constant encouragement to the Family of Faith.   

Don’t ever underestimate the importance of a phone call, the impact of a handwritten note, or the power a kind word or appropriate hug.  Someone is in need of this kind of gift from you.  No one else can give it.  It must come from you.  Don’t ever hesitate to lighten the load of another, or to breathe a word of courage into a faltering, storms-of-life-beaten-warrior.  Your word, your touch may be the only thing to restrain them from utter despair.

The battle is raging, and souls are being lost daily to the fires of hell.  Let us strengthen and re-strengthen one another, engage and reengage the enemy in this ongoing battle for the souls of men.  Give to another today the gift of encouragement.  You just may save a life.

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