Lasting Hope

Part 3 of a series on encouragement. Click here (for Part 1) and here (for Part 2).

Hope in Jesus

The author of Hebrews reminded his readers that because of who Jesus was and what Jesus did, we now have real and lasting hope. It’s not what we sometimes call hope, which is really nothing more than wishful thinking, like “hoping” your team wins the big game this year. Instead, it’s a hope more akin to an absolute fact because it’s grounded in the work of Christ and the promises of God.

This Jesus, the writer encouragingly reminded his readers, is supreme over our problems, our circumstances, and whatever else is weighing us down. Jesus is where those early believers were directed to place their hope. It’s where we too are called to place our hope.

These Three Things

The writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers to do three things. The first thing he said was, because of who Jesus is and what Jesus did, and because God’s promises are true,

Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Emphasis Added)

In other words, we don’t have to stand at a distance from God. We can come close to God and know him. We can have assurance that he loves us and that he’ll keep his promises.

The second thing he says to is,

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Emphasis Added)

We have hope because God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. It is that God in whom we place our trust and hope. We therefore can and should hold to it unswervingly.

The last thing the writer encourages his readers to do is this:

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. [25] Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Emphasis Added)

Encouraged to be Encouragers

In these two verses we’re encouraged to be encouragers. The underlying point is we can’t encourage one another if we don’t often see each other, if we don’t meet together, if we don’t participate in worship and other forms of fellowship together, if we don’t know each other. Whether it’s Sunday morning worship, a Sunday school class, a Bible study or small group, an accountability group, or a close Christian friend, you are unlikely to know what’s going on in someone’s life if you are not meeting together. Others will not be able to know how to encourage you if you stop meeting with them.

Christians Need One Another

Christians need to be with each other to encourage one another. This was the heart and soul of how John Wesley understood discipleship. This is what it means to watch over one another in love.

But How?

What does it mean to encourage one another? We often think of encouragement as simply a pep talk or the power of positive thinking. It includes a little of both of those. But it’s far more than those. Here are some ways the word “encouragement” is translated in the New Testament: Beg, comfort, desire, pray, plead, console. As previously mentioned, it literally means, “to come alongside another person to help out.” That’s what Barnabas did!

Panic!

During my last year of seminary, it finally started to dawn on me I would soon be graduating without any actual pastoral experience. I had never done a funeral. I had never performed a wedding. I had preached a total of two or three times in my whole life. I had not even led a worship service. And they were actually going to appoint me to a church? Had they lost their minds? I thought so.  

Thankfully, there was a wonderful and godly professor who took me under his wing and met with me once a week to help me. He encouraged me by telling me I wasn’t the first baby bird to be kicked out of the nest.

He encouraged me by building me up. He encouraged me by investing his time and effort in me. He encouraged me by giving some practical “how to” help as well. And, he encouraged me by giving me a little pep talk from time to time. Like Barnabas, he came alongside me to help me when I needed it most.

Who Do You Know?

Who do you know who is discouraged, depressed, scared, or hurting? Who do you know who has lost their way or is struggling with something serious in their life? Who do you know who seems to be stagnating in their faith or even moving in the wrong direction?

Friends, they need your encouragement. They need a timely word. Will you encourage them? Who will if you won’t?

Maybe It’s You

Maybe you are the person wrestling with one of those things. Are you connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ? How else will they know you are in need if you are not regularly meeting together? How can they encourage you, strengthen you, comfort you, and help you if they do not know what is going on in your life?

Our Ultimate Encourager

It is true we need each other. Yet we must never forget that our hope is in God. Psalm 10:17 says,

Psalm 10:17 – You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry

By all means encourage one another. By all means allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to be encouraged by others. We need each other. But never forget our ultimate encouragement comes from the person and work of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in God’s promises. The encouragement we offer others ought to primarily point them to their real Hope.

Walking Points

  • Who do you know who needs encouragement? What are you doing to come alongside them, like Barnabas, and encourage them?
  • How about you? What’s going on in your life? Where are you struggling and hurting? Who is encouraging you?
  • Do you regularly meet with a group of Christian friends? If not, find a group to join this week.
  • Are you already part of such a group? Then why not find another person to encourage and invite him or her to join you.

Called to Encourage

Part 2 in the series on encouragement

Called to Encourage

Barnabas seems to have had the spiritual gift of encouragement. Yet, though there are those with that particular gift, all Christians are called to encourage others.

Can you think of anything quite as meaningful and as powerful as a well-timed word of encouragement from a family member or close friend? Encouraging and comforting words are like balm to the soul. They’re healing. Observe how the book of Proverbs describes encouraging words.

Proverbs 15:23 – A man finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!

Proverbs 25:11 – A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver

Is that your experience?

Who Encourages You?

Who is the person in your life you want to hear from more than anyone else when you’re scared or discouraged or depressed or hurting? When your world is crumbling all around you, who is the one person you know will have a word of encouragement for you? What is it they do or say that makes them such an encouragement in your life?

Who Do You Encourage?

Who in your life would say that you are that person for them? Are you an encourager? Do you seek to build people up with your words and presence, or tear them down? James puts it this way in James 3:9-10,

James 3:9-10 – With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. [10] Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be

Indeed, it shouldn’t be. Sadly, however, it often is.

Encouraged and Encouraging

The testimony of the Book of Hebrews is that we need to be both encouraged and encouragers.

We don’t know who wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know it was written primarily to a group of Jewish followers of Christ who needed to be encouraged. They were being persecuted and were losing hope. Many were being tempted to fall away from their faith and go back to previous ways of life.

Jesus is Supreme

Therefore, in order to encourage those believers not to lose hope, but to persevere to the end, the writer exalted the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all things. Jesus, the author made clear, had no equals. He was superior to Moses and the angels. His covenant was superior to the old covenant. His priesthood was superior to the old priesthood.

Through most of Hebrews, the writer showed how and why Jesus was supreme. And then, toward the end of the letter, the author revealed why the supremacy of Jesus matters.

Stay tuned for Part 3

Son of Encouragement

A Man Named Joseph

Joseph was a Jewish Christian who lived in the first century. While he wasn’t extremely rich, he was a landowner. He lived in a time and place in which many of the early Christians were greatly persecuted.

One of the things Joseph did to help his fellow Christians was to sell his land and give the money he made to the group of believers in Jerusalem. However, not only were the early Christians being stripped of their money, their very lives were being threatened for following Jesus. Therefore, Joseph traveled the land to encourage those believers and to persuade them to keep on keeping on in their commitment to Christ.

He was much loved and though you’ve probably never heard Joseph’s name, the early church knew him well. He was highly regarded among them. In fact, he was so highly considered that the leaders of the early church assigned him the job of teaming up with a recent convert to the faith, a fellow who had been known for stirring up a great deal of trouble against the early church.

This new convert had been a great persecutor of the early church, but now, seemingly out of nowhere, was a disciple of Jesus. Understandably, the men and women of the early church found it difficult to trust this man.

What this new convert needed desperately was for someone greatly loved and trusted to come alongside him and help him build bridges to the rest of the early church. That’s exactly what Joseph did. In fact, Joseph did such a thorough job that he was eventually eclipsed by the mighty work God did in and through the life of this new disciple. This new disciple of Jesus became one of the most influential missionaries and theologians the Church, in any age, has ever seen.

Perhaps you have figured out who that “new convert” was. It was Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul. However, you may not be quite as sure of Joseph’s identity. Maybe you know him by his nickname: Barnabas. The name “Barnabas” meant, “Son of Encouragement,” and that’s exactly who Barnabas was. He was a great encourager.

Come Alongside Of

One of the primary definitions of the word, “encourage,” is “to come alongside of.” That’s exactly what Barnabas did.

He came alongside those in the early church when they needed money. He sold his land and gave the profits to the early church in Jerusalem.

He came alongside the persecuted believers and lifted their spirits with the message of the Gospel and by reminding them of the hope they had in God.

He came alongside Paul when he was distrusted and disliked by so many folks and helped to bring reconciliation and trust between Paul and the early churches.


Stay tuned for Part 2