We are blessed so we can be a blessing
The second word in our BEG series that challenges us to BUILD others up, ENCOURAGE others, and GRACE others is Encourage.
It is interesting to me how many of our prized cultural stories and our movies are about the importance of encouragement. Recent movie hits such as Antoine Fisher, I Walk the Line, Gifted Hands, and Good Will Hunting all focus on various aspects of encouragement.
The general public is very familiar with these famous encouragers. On Sunday during the teaching, I showed a slide of Helen Keller and most people in the room knew who she was, decades after she died. Why? Because Helen was such an encouragement—not only did she accomplish things that seemed impossible, but she encouraged society to increase our attention to disability rights and needs.
The church at Corinth was full of problems that seem pretty familiar to any modern fellowship: economic/class tensions; tensions around which spiritual gifts are really the important ones; tensions involving both legalism and license; tensions with the current idolatries of the culture; and tensions about just how important is the promise of resurrection. On top of all of this, they now hear that their first teacher, Paul, is being harassed by the Roman legal system and religious leaders of his day. Sounds like it could be a pretty discouraging climate, doesn’t it?
Paul begins his 2nd letter to Corinth this way:
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement 4who encourages us in all our troubles, so that we can encourage those in any trouble with the encouragement we ourselves receive from God. 5For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of the Messiah, so also our encouragement abounds through the Messiah. 6If we are distressed, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our encouragement.
Three things are pretty clear from this passage:
1) Since Paul uses the word “encouragement” (all forms of the Greek parakaleo) 9 times in this short paragraph, he must think it is pretty important.
2) Paul believes we can only give to others what we are first willing to receive, so his prayer is that we will receive more encouragement from God.
3) And Paul certainly believes that God does in fact want to encourage each of us, so that we can have the resources to be an encouragement to others.
Are you willing to open yourself right now to God’s encouraging presence? And would you commit yourself to sharing any encouragement you receive from God with others? We are blessed to be a blessing.
Grace and peace to you,