Earl E. Robertson
Xenia, Ohio

We use this word often in describing persons who lose heart and wish to drop out, or quit, living the Christian life. However, this word is used just one time in the New Testament (1 Thess. 5:14) The King James translation uses the word "feebleminded." This adjective is a compound being made up of oligos, meaning little or small, and psuche, soul; thus, small-soul or little-soul. It is used by the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians to encourage them to not lose heart but to hold the line. Such exhortation urges the Christian to remain faithful to the Lord regardless of its consequences. A problem over the resurrection of the dead had arisen in Thessalonica and Paul had written to correct this evil. Now it makes no difference how little this doctrine had been taught, some of the brethren had become fainthearted, and needed encouragement. "So encourage one another with these words"{1 Thess. 4:18).

Many are the times that we all need encouragement! Victory for truth is always a result of struggle. We must be longsuffering and patient in our efforts in the Lord's name.

Elders need encouragement.

The elders of Ephesus were exhorted by Paul to be faithful: first, of themselves to the Lord, and second, to the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them bishops (Acts 20: 28). Disorderly elements try the patience of bishops. But hold out with them, the apostle would urge. This is holding fast the faithful word (Titus 1:9). Elders should be encouraged (and prayed for) to have the ability with sound doctrine to convince and exhort gainsayers (Titus 1:9). Members of the body of Christ should realize the duties of elders and so live and conduct themselves in a manner that becomes the gospel of Christ, and thereby make the load easier borne by elders! The work of elders is an uphill climb. Some are lazy and unconcerned about the work; others want to see the cause of Christ grow scripturally. In their efforts for such growth they are frequently criticized. This criticism usually stems from a part of the congregation who are always satisfied with the condition of the church if it doesn't cost them any THING -- time, money, preparation, etc. Elders must be ready to not only withstand this type of criticism, but to surge on in spite of dispositions. They must give account (Heb. 13:17).

Christians need encouragement.

It must be recognized that by inspiration, Paul states plainly that some children of God are FAINTHEARTED. Just as there were some "small-soul" brethren in the first century, so there are some now. Words of encouragement and prayers to God should be offered for the despondent lest he be lost forever. The Septuagint gives Isaiah 57:15, saying the Most High giveth "patience to the faint-hearted. This is a very good way in which the word is used. It implies that the faint-hearted accepted the better way and thus was rescued. The lesson for us is that when the Christian falls he must not continue to lie in the mire of sin, but by the grace of God (which he may see through the efforts of brethren to exhort and correct him, Gal. 6:1), arise and rectify himself according to the scriptures, and thereby become reconciled to God and the brethren.

There is another way in which this word is used: "A wise servant calms a man's anger; but who can endure a faint-hearted man?" (Prov. 18:14.) This gives emphasis to the fact that all God's children must be alert to our own conditions. A wounded spirit can
crush the entire man. When one's spirit has become "fainthearted" his power to love, to enjoy and to hope is gone. The Homiletic Commentary says when such energy has been lost "there is nothing to lift him up, and existence becomes an intolerable burden. The spirit can sustain the body under its trials, but sensual gratifications and physical comforts can do nothing towards alleviating spiritual distress." (Vol. 13, p. 547)

Preachers need encouragement.

Preachers must preach the word (2 Tim. 4: 2). The whole truth must be preached and this takes belief and strong conviction. Just as some elders shrink for lack of courage, and some Christians fail themselves and God, preachers fail to preach the whole truth in love as we are commanded (Eph. 4:15). Paul asked Christians to pray for him that he may speak boldly as he ought to speak (Eph. 6:20). Disciples prayed to God that preachers would speak with boldness the word of God (Acts 4:23-30). When we consider that some preachers are no more than "ear scratchers" (2 Tim. 4; 1-4), we should be intelligent enough to know that the possibility of failure in our work as a preacher of Jesus' gospel is ever lurking at our door. Preachers lives should measure up to their message, and their message must be the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16, 27).

It doesn't do anyone any good to preach the gospel and not live it (1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Cor. 9: 27). Preachers must live the gospel, preach the gospel and contend earnestly for it (Jude 3; Phillippians 1:7, 17). Some preachers are afraid to do this! Some taking issues with me are quick to let me know that they do not want me to "let it out" that they are even discussing the issues of liberalism and modernism with me. Perhaps they fear the cost with the congregation with which they are identified. Rather than the liberal preachers being encouraged to contend earnestly for the faith, many are forbidden to even preach it in their own pulpits. Many have signed agreements with the brethren that they would not preach on certain subjects! It just might be that if they had the right kind of encouragement they might also have the right kind of conviction. So, do not forget to pray for the preacher. Pray that he will study the word of God diligently; pray that he will preach it faithfully with concern for fallen humanity.


November 20, 1969