The Gift of Encouragement

But I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus—my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need.  (Philippians 2:25)

Some people know just what to say and do to encourage others who are going through difficult times. Their words give strength to those who are discouraged and comfort to those who are grieving.

These people are sensitive to God’s voice. They are not self-centered or unaware of the struggles of those around them. They are the ones we immediately seek when we enter a crisis. They are welcome visitors when we are in distress, for their presence sustains us.

Scripture testifies of many whom God enabled to encourage others.

  • When Moses was overwhelmed by his work, Jethro went to him and encouraged him. Jethro gave Moses wise counsel that eased his strain (Exod. 18:1–27).
  • When Paul was imprisoned far from those who loved him, Epaphroditus risked his health and safety in order to go to Paul and minister to him (Phil. 2:25–30).
  • Later, Paul urged Timothy to come and visit him, for Paul found strength and encouragement in Timothy (2 Tim. 4:9; Phil. 2:19–20).
  • Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark also. Mark was the kind of friend Paul needed when he was enduring hardship (2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24).
  • Paul also relied on Luke for encouragement. When everyone else was absent or preoccupied, Luke could be found with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11).

Paul experienced trials throughout his life, but God sustained him by placing godly friends around him who provided support in practical and sacrificial ways. God wants to develop you into the kind of friend who can strengthen others. The words you share and the things you do can bring comfort and encouragement to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.

I am thankful, because I have been encouraged this week by family and friends.  Think of someone in your circle of influence and search for a way to encourage them during this Christmas season.

Does God Seem Far Away?

 

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!—James 4:8

There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him.

God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20).

Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions:

  1. You must cleanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right.
  2. You are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God’s eyes and are in harmony with God’s word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him.

If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.

God Is Teaching You

Read this verse slowly and allow it to settle in your spirit.

Then God spoke to Moses, telling him, “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but I did not make My name Yahweh known to them.”—Exodus 6:2–3

As God has walked with His people through the generations, He has progressively revealed His nature according to His purposes and the needs of His people.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew Him as God Almighty, because they needed His mighty power to protect them from their enemies. Moses and the Israelites learned that God was Lord, Master over every nation and every thing. God not only delivered them from the most powerful ruler in the world, but also brought them into the Promised Land. They came to experience Him as Lord, preeminently powerful over the pagan gods of their day.

God will continue to reveal His character to you according to your needs and according to His purposes. You will come to know more and more about Him as you obey Him.

* When you grieve, He will come to you as the Comforter.
* When you are in need, He will demonstrate that He is the Provider.
* When you face a serious challenge, He will reveal that He is God Almighty.

Your understanding of God’s character ought to be greater now than when you first became a Christian. You ought to know Him today better than you did five years ago. Sadly, some Christians continue to live year after year with the same basic knowledge of God that they had when they first began walking with him.

Personally, I believe God loves us too much to leave us as we are!

Therefore, whatever your present situation, view it in the light of what God is teaching you, through circumstances, about Himself and you will come to know God in dimensions you have never known Him before.

Jesus Was First To Say, “Follow Me.”

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Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers . . . . Then He said to them, “Follow Me.” —Matthew 4:18-19

I love to walk the Western North Carolina mountain trails and enjoy its grandeur and picturesque beauty. I’m often reminded that these treks are symbolic of our spiritual journey, for the Christian life is simply walking—with Jesus alongside as our companion and guide. He walked through the land of Israel from one end to the other, gathering disciples, saying to them, “Follow Me” (Matt. 4:19).

The journey is not always easy. Sometimes giving up seems easier than going on, but when things get difficult, we can rest a while and renew our strength. In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes the arbor on Hill Difficulty where Christian caught his breath before continuing the climb. His scroll provided comfort, reminding him of the Lord’s continual presence and sustaining power. He got a second wind so he could walk a few more miles.

Only God knows where the path will take us, but we have our Lord’s assurance, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). This is not a metaphor or other figure of speech. He is real company. There is not one hour without His presence, not one mile without His companionship. Knowing He’s with us makes the journey lighter.

When life becomes a heavy load,
An upward climb, a winding road,
In daily tasks, Lord, let me see
That with me You will always be.
—D. De Haan

As you travel life’s weary road, let Jesus lift your heavy load
.