Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

January 05, 2004

Encouragement (2):

To encourage is to give hope. That's the nuts-and-bolts definition, and it works for me. We know that encouragement is important not only because we have experienced its virtue in our own lives, but becaue the Apostle Paul includes it on a by-no-means comprehensive list of Spiritual gifts in Romans 12:3-8. The gifts listed in are: 1) prophesy, 2) service, 3) teaching, 4) encouraging, 5) giving, 6) leadership, and 7) mercy.

Now, this is lofty company. Paul obviously regarded encouragement as a high calling indeed. Although it may well be said that all believers should be encouragers, some (this passage implies) are specially called and anointed for the role of encouragers. The members of the body were going to need encouragement, it seems, every bit as much as prophesy (the revelation of the mind of God) or service or mercy or any of the others. Encouragement! The giving of hope.

Another way that we can be sure that encouragement is important to God is by recognizing the importance of hope. It doesn't take a Biblical scholar to see that the Bible is essentially a book of hope. A book of assurance. From first to last, God's intention throughout His Word seems to be to remind us that He is who He says He is and will do what He has always said He would do. Paul's letters often have multiple agendas, but one that is primary is the giving of hope.

In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul says that three things abide--that is, while everything else will have its season and pass, these three things will last--"faith, hope, love." Again the lofty company. To be givers of hope, then, is something not to be taken lightly.

I would like to spend some time in the coming days speaking more about encouragement. Looking more closely at key Biblical passages, and perhaps considering in a more deliberate fashion just how we might "walk out" the gift of encouragement.


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