Words of Encouragement

by Scarlett Stough

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Do Not Be Discouraged.

In the apostle Paul's journeys taking the gospel throughout the Roman Empire, he was opposed everywhere he preached. He was beaten, imprisoned and left for dead among other hardships. But he didn't give up because he had met the risen Christ and knew without a shadow of a doubt Jesus had died and had returned to life. He put his hope in God as he continued to carry out the mission he was given. He kept on, not just because he expected or hoped for a better outcome for himself, but because it was the right thing to do. He kept on because he loved God and he wanted others to know the God he loved. He would have given up, if it were possible, his own inheritance from God to accomplish this goal (Romans 9:1-7).

He periodically returned to encourage those who had believed the message he brought them. Before he left Ephesus, after a mob riot had been calmed by a city official, Paul encouraged the disciples there.

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people….
Acts 20:1-2

His encouragement wasn't simply a pat on the back; the encouragement* he gave included telling them about the obstacles they would face.

On his way to Jerusalem, he sent out a call to the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in Miletus because he did not expect to see them again. His words to them gave them instructions and warnings along with a reminder of God's grace and the inheritance promised to those God had sanctified (Acts 20:17-38).

The letters Paul wrote Timothy also contain warnings along with encouragement and instructions. Paul's words are as relevant, and even more so, in our own age and societies today. The self-centeredness, greed, pride and arrogance, abuse and bullying, brutality, and people calling evil things good and good things evil have become an integral part of our society today. People would rather worship science, entertainers, athletes and politicians than our Creator God (2 Timothy 3:1-17).

Christians as much as ever and even more so, need to cry out to God for courage to face and endure the opposition to faith in the living God. We need to hear the words of Psalm 146:3. "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save…."

Our praise, along with trust and obedience motivated by love, ought to be toward the God who rules forever, who is able and willing to sustain those who look to him. He is able to frustrate the ways of the wicked (Psalm 146:1-10). Even if we do not receive the relief we hope for now, we need the courage to continue putting love toward God ahead of our personal comfort.

People faithful to God through the ages were commended for their faith, their faith to continue to trust and obey God, even though life was brutal for some of them (Hebrews 11:35-40).

Those who scoff at and mock God and faith in him may think they can keep on doing as they please, but God will bring relief and justice for all those who persevere to the end of this mortal life, or Christ's return (Revelation 1:4-8).

The church at Ephesus did persevere, but was admonished by Jesus to repent of losing their first love (Revelation 2:1-7; Luke 10:25-28).

Because we have trouble in our lives, as all men do, we need the courage to face them. "…Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). God alone is our hope.

*According to The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, copyright 2006, 2000, the English word encourage means: 1. To inspire with hope, courage or confidence, hearten 2. To give support to; foster 3. To stimulate; spur.

Volume 18 Issue 01 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation

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