By John F. Hughbanks
Because of our human nature, man from time to time needs to be reassured and encouraged in all facets of his life. Mankind can find help from different sources, both good and bad. I doubt anyone reading this article has not been discouraged at some time in their life.
We all feel frustrated at times and maybe get to the point of saying, “What’s the use? Why go on and keep trying?” Or we might develop an attitude that no one else is trying so “Why should I?” In being in such a state we might feel justified in cutting back on work we need to be doing more than ever.
In times like these we need encouragement to go on and do our job even when others aren’t fulfilling theirs completely or not at all. If we were to define and put in words the meaning of encouragement, it might be, “to give courage, hope, or confidence, to give support to; help.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). What I would like to do in this article is to note some ways we can be encouraged to go on and be about our Fathers business.
I believe that mankind needs to recognize first and foremost that God cares for you and does not want you to be discouraged all the time. Think for a moment with me about the following examples we can learn from and draw courage and confidence from. From Genesis 21:10-21, Abraham was told by God to listen to Sarah’s voice and cast out the bond-woman and his child by her. This would be a grievous thing for anyone to do, but God promised and reassured Abraham that good would come out of this. God promised Abraham that Ishmael would become a great nation. We see the fulfilling of this in the Arab states today. I know it also had to be discouraging to Hagar as she traveled with her son in the Wilderness of Beersheba, no longer in the midst of security of numbers to protect her and then running out of water from the skins. When the water was gone she sat opposite the boy and said, “Let me not see the death of the boy” (v. 16). As she sat in the depth of despair, while lifting her voice, crying, and weeping, feeling deserted and alone, God heard the voice of the lad. Again we see God’s care for those afflicted by circumstances. In verses 17 and 18 we see an angel of God calling to Hagar out of heaven, and saying to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.”
We can glean many lessons from this account, but the one we need to see here is that regardless of what situation you might be forced to deal with, there is a God of heaven who cares and is concerned always for your state of being. You are not alone, you are not! God’s umbrella of concern is always covering you. Our Father gives us encouragement through many avenues, if we just reach for them, including instructions and encouragement through the scriptures, both old and new. He gave us a channel to talk to him through prayer. We can gain encouragement by association with those of like precious faith and as we worship on the Lord’s day (Acts 20:7).
Our Lord is a constant companion and friend for the lonely pilgrim on his journey of life experiences. He is an encouraging and protecting God. Reflect with me a moment from Hebrews 13:5b-6. “. . . For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: `The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”‘ (cf. Deut. 31:6, 8; Psa. 118:6)
In society today there are those who would prosecute us when we stand for the truth, when we practice what I Peter 4:11 teaches “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.” When we learn God’s will in the question of whether or not to be involved in the social gospel appeals, the teachings on marriage divorce and remarriage, or the uniqueness of the church we will encounter those who will not stand for sound doctrine (Isa. 30:10). Paul warned Timothy of those who would be guilty of this in his day (2 Tim. 4:3), so it should not amaze us that this same thing can and does happen in our generation.
To the warrior (soldier) of Christ, fighting the fight of faith, he is our strength and shield. Let us learn the lesson of old time by the King of Israel as David stated, “But you, Oh Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head” (Ps. 3:3).
Yes my friends, on this storm-filled sea of life we will be rocked and discouraged, but God will encourage us and protect us. Be not afraid, God will lighten our paths and give us encouragement.
Up to this time I have addressed my thoughts primarily toward those who are God’s elect (those saints and faithful brethren in Christ, cf. Acts 2:47,38). But there are those who have never obeyed Jesus as the New Testament outlines. They are as Isaiah describes separated from God, his face hidden from you and your hands are defiled, your fingers with evil or iniquity: your lips have spoken lies (Isa. 59:1-3).
Even in this state of enslaved sinner, he gives pardon and release from the shackles that bind him. Our Saviour gives peace, salvation, assurances of eternal life. This my friends and brethren is the greatest encouragement anyone can possess (Matt. 11:28-30; Mk. 16:16; Rev. 2:10). “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27; cf. Phil. 4:7)
I want to change our thoughts from what God will do to encourage us to areas each of us are charged to be doing toward our service to God and our fellow man. As Christians, we have a duty (command) to encourage men, women, and children to stay strong. Your next question might be; How do we accomplish this? First, as Jesus taught by precept and example that persecutions will come and be prepared for them (John 15:18-16:4). We who might be stronger in the faith have an obligation not only to warn but to encourage the weaker ones (Gal. 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” But my brethren this is not a one way street. Both the “strong” and the “weak” are to encourage one another.
I believe we can see even our Messiah desired the sympathetic understanding of his fellow man. Jesus, even while divine on earth took on a fleshly body (John 1:14; Luke 22:42-45; Matt. 26:40), needed encouragement for the ordeal awaiting him. After his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What, could you not watch with me one hour?” If our Saviour desired it as good and needful, shouldn’t we also look upon it in the same way?
It has been my experience that any person, whether leader or not needs encouragement. Not only during times of hardship and persecutions but also the good times. When was the last time you encouraged your elders, deacons, preacher, Bible class teachers or anyone who takes a lead in the local congregation. Believe me brethren, they need it as you need it, so do it!
Secondly, the older should encourage the younger. Toward the end of David’s life he instructed Solomon concerning certain things and encouraged him (1 Kgs. 2:1-4). David wanted to impress on his son that he should walk in God’s paths and do his will. If Solomon did this, the kingdom would prosper. If not, it would face vast problems. We also read of Paul encouraging young Timothy, assuring him of love and prayers (nothing is more heartening and needed, 2 Tim. 1:2-3). To the older brethren of the kingdom, you know you won’t be here forever. Brothers and sisters fulfill your obligation (or in many cases continue doing it) toward those who are younger. They need your wisdom and guidance. They need to hear of life experiences that you overcame and triumphed over. Young people need the encouragement that you can offer. Please share it with them so they can be stronger and live for Christ.
The flip side is also true. Thirdly, the young should encourage the older or the aged. May it never be said of any young person the latter part of this verse: “A wise son makes a glad father; But a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Prov. 10:1).
Young folks can encourage their parents by honor and obedience to the things taught them. I’m reminded of the Chinese culture and I’m sure of others which put great stock in the older. Respect and reverence are part of the young people’s attitudes toward the older wise family members. They realize that a vast fountain of wisdom is there to be tapped. Any reasonable person today would benefit from such. As young adults or children, society can benefit from godly advice. From 1 Kings 12:6, 13 we learn that Rehoboam didn’t listen to the elders of the kingdom and as a result the United Kingdom split into two kingdoms. What a sad account! Young people, listen to godly wisdom from older brethren. It not only will benefit you in the years to come but also encourage and fulfill a need as older brethren need to feel appreciated, loved and wanted.
While God encourages us and our brethren, also we need to remember with this encouragement, help, hope and confidence comes our turn to encourage ourselves. This might sound strange to many, but we have an obligation to prime our pumps also. If we aren’t very careful in our troubles we can start to think that everyone else should help us and I don’t need to do anything myself to overcome discouragement. We can get into a self-pity party, become over sensitive and go off on a tantrum or some sort of depression. If this happens we have asked and expect too much of our fellow servants. It is the responsibility of each Christian to encourage us and get us on the track, no matter how long it takes. But once we are on the track (right course) we are obligated to run ourselves in order to help others that have been temporarily derailed by frustration or hardship. The general admonitions are these: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). Consider the passage in the book of Ephesians written by Paul. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10). Let each of us individually fulfill our obligation to this end.
My brethren, discouragement is a reality in life. If you live long enough you will get your share of it, but the reassuring news is that with the proper attitude we can overcome it. Remember these words and believe them always. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Friends, use all the avenues available to you to over-come discouragements and you will find it easier to be faithful to God. He gives the tools, pick them up and overcome. God loves you (John 3:16). He proved it. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Draw encouragement from that. Our brethren are concerned. Draw strength from this source. Ask for help and I believe you will see flood-gates of help delivered to you for your problem. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:16b).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 20, p. 21-22
October 21, 1993