We Are Encouragers
“I can’t keep going. I want this to end now!”
These are the words that circled in my mind during a brutal staff PT session at Flagstaff Gardens.
Once a month we head out together at 8am for exercise. I like to think that the team that sweats stays together. So far so good; we’ve tried a photo scavenger hunt, jogging, netball, and my personal favourite – lane-way soccer! This month we were introduced to something new – cross-fit. I’m pretty sure 'cross-fit’ is Greek for ‘gut wrenching pain!'
For what seemed like forever, we were face down in the mud doing push-ups, lunges, squats, and burpees. One after the other – on repeat.
I don’t like to give up. But this workout had me beat. I was cold, grumpy, and exhausted. In a word I was done. Yet, one thing kept me going and helped me persevere. It was the encouragement of the team, who sought to spur each other on with cheers, claps, and words of motivation.
The encouragement was purposeful, personal, and powerful.
Encouragement looks at an almost insurmountable hill and makes the climb possible. It lifts us out of the mud and moves us forward. Encouragement is required in the midst of a tough workout, a difficult day in the office, and of course in the game we call life.
This is especially true for Christians. In addition to the everyday challenges of this world, we are surrounded by all kinds of temptations and trials that seek to keep our faith stagnant and our feet stuck in the mud.
As Christians, we are called to embrace ‘gospel encouragement’.
Gospel encouragement is motivating someone to greater dependence, maturity, confidence, and hope in Christ. In contrast to the world, which often orientates encouragement around self, gospel encouragement is sustained and centred on Jesus.
Why gospel encouragement?
We are encouragers because God himself is an encourager.
In the opening chapter of Joshua we read of God’s strengthening word to young Joshua:
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (…) Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5-9)
In Psalm 10:17, the writer declares:
“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted, you will strengthen their heart”
And Romans 15:4-6 says:
“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.”
In the midst of pressure, hardship, challenge, and adversity we meet the God who encourages. He encourages us to greater dependence, maturity, confidence, and hope in Christ.
And as children made in His image, we’re not only called to receive that encouragement, but to mirror it. In other words, we – like our Father – are to be encouragers.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul says:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
We at City on a Hill are thankful for every good gift we have in Christ. And in light of our identity in him and our call to live like him, we will encourage. We will be a church that celebrates God’s grace at work in each one of us. We will comfort the downcast. We will bring strength to the weary. We will offer counsel to the struggling. We will celebrate the glory and beauty that has been infused by God in each one of us. Together we will run the race and fight the fight of faith.
How can we encourage others?
The bible affords us great freedom in the area of encouragement. Here are a few forms of encouragement that have been a blessing in my life.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
Our lives need to be saturated by the good news of Jesus who is the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). In practice this involves reminding others of our true identity and inheritance to come (Ephesians 1:3-14). We are built up and spurred on by the promise that in Christ we have his eternal love, acceptance and reward.
Words of honour and appreciation
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:2)
Isn’t it true that we believe very affirming things about each other, but so often fail to let each other know?
In harmony with gospel truths we want to build one another up with words of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4). Whether with a card or over coffee, telling someone that they matter is an encouraging blessing for all.
Acts of Service
In Philippians 2:1-4 we read:
“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
We reflect the generosity of Christ and encourage others when we look to their needs and respond with acts of service. Whether that is offering to help build an IKEA shelf, deliver a meal to a new mother, or help someone move house, God can use our practical help to lift others up.
In Acts 4:37, we read that Barnabas (‘son of encouragement’), “having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.” Barnabas saw a need and was moved to meet it. His gesture encouraged everyone.
A gift (no matter how big or small) can serve as a tremendous blessing of encouragement.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians he writes, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
In our culture, time has become the most scarce and valuable of all commodities. This is why sharing our time can be tremendously encouraging. A meeting over coffee, a walk through the city, or an invitation to spend the evening over dinner are all wonderfully practical and enjoyable ways to say ‘I care about you’. Let us steward our time well by being generous in practical and personal ways.
What I am encouraged by at City on a Hill?
As I shared in my message “We are Valued” I want you to know that I love you and appreciate you. We are a family of remarkable men and women redeemed by Christ and reconciled to each other. I am thankful that in His providence and grace, God is building a healthy, diverse, courageous, and unified family.
I am encouraged to see that God’s word is bearing fruit in the life of His church. Every week, our people are engaging with the Scriptures and applying God’s truth to their lives. Following our evening service the other week I spoke and prayed with a long line of people ready to confront, confess, and cast their sin to Jesus. I am also thankful for the stories of grace in our West and Geelong sites. In God’s grace the word is going out, and it is not returning empty (Isaiah 55:11).
In addition, a great number of people are stepping up and serving. In Geelong, West, and Melbourne there are many opportunities for volunteers to help us work together for the cause of knowing Jesus and making Jesus known. In Melbourne last week we were encouraged to see 50 people sign up in one day to serve and help out! Praise God for your generosity.
Lastly, I am encouraged by the ‘missional DNA’ that is alive at City on a Hill. God called us to be a church planting church. This requires sacrifice, dependence and Christ-centred courage. In the past six to nine months we commissioned Pastor Andrew Grills, who is now leading our very first church plant City on a Hill: Geelong; we’ve helped train and support Pastor Sam Wright, who was sent to establish Redemption Church; and most recently, Pastor Luke Nelson started City on a Hill: West.
Across Melbourne, Geelong, and West we are seeing evidences of God’s grace as He builds His kingdom, through His people for our good and His glory.