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What's the Secret?

What’s the Secret? Hebrews 3:12-14

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13)

August is my birth month... as many of you know. My birthday is August 4th - and I was humbled by all the cards, and emails... texts messages and posts that I received. I even had a few people wish me happy birthday in person, believe it or not! AND not only did I enjoy a delicious steak for FREE at Milano’s... but Tammy and I were both surprised when the waitress came to us “mid-meal” and told us that another couple in the restaurant paid for our entire meal! It was a happy birthday indeed.

But one of the birthday cards I received (from an upstanding member of this congregation, no less) made my day.

The card had an image of a tall mountain on the front cover... with a climber who’d finally reached the summit... to find a wise sage with a long grey beard sitting on top.

The mountain climber said to the sage, “Tell me, wise one - what is the secret of a long life?” To which the sage replied, “Oh, that’s easy...” And when you opened up the card... it revealed the Sage’s answer: “Keep breathing as long as possible!”

That’s pretty good advice, isn’t it? Keep breathing as long as possible.

Advice comes to us from all kinds of places... some of it’s solicited and welcomed... and some of it... well, not so much.

But I’ve found, that, most of the time... the good advice that you and I receive comes to us, in the form of encouragement.

People who love us encourage us: they try to promote the positive and further the good in our lives.

*Zoe’ has been encouraging Greyson to eat fruits and vegetables... hoping and praying that good eating habits established early in life, will pay benefits later in life.

*When an actor takes the stage, it’s not uncommon to offer encouragement by saying, “Break a leg!”

*We may tell a baseball player to “knock it out of the park!”

We offer encouragement in a 1000 different ways!

But ultimately... my point is... when we pat others on the back... when we offer a word of motivation or encouragement... we’re doing so because we care! Encouragement is really nothing less than expressions of love, of care, of compassion... we encourage the people we love and care about, don’t we?

Of course, God’s Word is filled with verse after verse of encouragement! Reminding us that Jesus cares for us... that God loves us...

And when it comes to the Church... the body of Christ... the importance of encouragement simply can’t be understated. Encouragement is like oxygen in the life of a church. It gives us life and perseverance... it inspires our hearts, minds and hands to keep serving... to keep on keeping on, even when we may want to quit!

Of course, because encouragement is so extremely important in the church, God’s Word comes to us in the form of instruction: not just recommending encouragement (not just saying we “ought” to encourage one another)... but explicitly commanding it!

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13)

This world certainly has a way of “hardening” us... doesn’t it? Sometimes we become calloused or cold or indifferent... Maybe we get that way because of the way we’ve been treated... or maybe it’s because we’ve tried time-and-time again to be nice, to be generous, and gracious... and people have taken advantage of our graciousness, our kindness. So we put up walls. We protect ourselves from further abuse and disappointment.

Our experiences and/or circumstances in life tend to make us either better... or bitter. It happens to all of us...

And God knows that: so God commanded that his people... encourage one another! In the Gospel of John, Jesus even said, “in this world you will have trouble” - but he DIDN’T stop there... we went on to encourage us by saying - “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

We live in a broken world (that shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us!). Just about everything in this life calls us towards selfishness and hopelessness.

Sin steals joy, our bodies break down due to age and disease, our plans fall apart, our dreams die, our resolves weaken, our perspective dims. Life brings to all of us a certainly degree of grief and pain... and as Christians, life even brings the threat of persecution (John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12), and trials of various kinds (James 1:2-3). None of us are immune.

So, when encouragement is lacking among God’s people... or when it’s absent from the life of a church... people begin to feel unloved, unimportant, useless, and forgotten. We all need grace-filled reminders of who and Whose we are, don’t we? So God’s Word calls us to encourage each other every day.

Have you encouraged someone today? Have you shared hope, and love, and grace?

Now don’t misunderstand: Biblical encouragement isn’t just about complimenting someone’s outfit or telling them how good their homemade pound cake tastes. That kind of encouragement is important! And it’s needed! But the encouragement the Scripture refers to is overtly Christian encouragement.

Encouragement is shared with the hopes that it will lift someone’s heart toward the Lord (Col. 4:8). It points out evidences of grace in another person’s life to help them see that God is using them to touch others. It points us to God’s promises that assure us that everything we face is under his control.

The New Testament shows us that encouragement was a regular part of the early church’s life together (Acts 13:15, 16:40, 18:27, 20:1-2, 27:36). They shared Scripture with each other to spur one another on in faith (Acts 14:22), hope (Rom. 15:4), unity (Rom. 15:5; Col. 2:2), joy (Acts 15:31), strength (Acts 15:32), fruitfulness (Heb. 10:24-25), faithfulness (1 Thess. 2:12), perseverance (Heb. 10:25), and the certainty of Christ’s return (1 Thess. 4:18).

Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other.

And there’s no “right way” to encourage, but there are a couple of things we can all do... to be better encouragers...

First of all: pray! Pray for God to grant you a “spirit of encouragement” - ask God to give you the ability to touch others with the life giving Good News of Christ... and pray to be a light, guiding others to the uplifting power of God’s Spirit!

And then, pray for others... and let them know you’re praying for them! I’m never been more encouraged, more empowered or inspired... than when someone tells me (when they let me know) they’re praying for me! That’s the best encouragement a Christian can hope to receive.

And finally, be intentional when it comes to encouraging others. You and I should be deliberate when it comes to encouragement. Being an encourager should be a natural part of who we are, as followers of Christ... but it doesn’t always come naturally. You have to work at it. You have to make it part of your daily walk of discipleship... as you seek out ways to share the grace of Christ with others.

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13)

May you and I do no less...


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