If this isn't already on your To-Do list, go ahead and move it to the top. While you are at it, just pencil it in every day -- for the rest of your life. Cheering and challenging your brothers and sisters in Christ is not only a Monday must, it is mandatory for every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! This is what God says:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV
"Exhort one another every day." The assignment is not optional. It is not "if I feel like it," "if I have time for it," or "if I am being treated well." If we are breathing we should be encouraging!
Why is this so important?
D.A. Carson reminds me that exhortation is critical precisely because it is God's antidote to the relentless, pernicious, and deceptive dealings of sin. Sin will wreak havoc in my life, your life, and in every life in the church. Encouragement helps keep it at bay.
What does the word mean?
Our English word "exhort" is a translation of the Greek PARAKALEO, itself a compound word: PARA, "to the side of," and KALEO, "to call." Depending on the context it means "to call for or upon someone for help," or "to call upon someone to do something, to entreat, to exhort, or to encourage." Exhorting and encouraging is the idea in Hebrews 3:13. Times were tough. Persecution was real. Believers were drifting from God. They needed to be encouraged.
People today need encouragement too. And those two words "E-V-E-R-Y D-A-Y" got me thinking about how I can encourage the people of God to stay true to the Lord, his Word and his people. I can:
- Use my eyes to look for someone in need.
- Use my ears for attentive listening.
- Use my arms to wrap someone in a hug.
- Use my hands to lend some help.
- Use my knees to get down and pray.
- Use my feet to pursue the wanderer. (James 5:19-20)
- Use my voice to encourage others with the promises of God.
Think about your "voice" for a moment. You can use your voice to encourage through a text message, by sending a note, emailing, making a phone call, or engaging in personal conversation. Imagine the impact of encouraging one person every day every month.
If such a task seems daunting here is a little help, 31 promises of God you can use to lift a friend:
- Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5-6
- God knows no impossibilities. Mark 9:23; 10:27; 11:22-24
- You are God's masterpiece. Ephesians 2:9-10
- God will finish the good work he started in you. Philippians 1:6
- You must work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12-17
- Jesus wins. Philippians 2:5-11
- God never grows weak or weary. He's got the strength you need. Isaiah 40:27-31
- God delights in using weak people. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
- God helps you in your suffering and will use it to help others who are suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
- Let go of your worries, God has your back. Romans 8:26-29
- Go ahead and bless the jerk. God really is "bigger than that." Romans 12:14-21
- Don't give up. It is worth it to pursue rebels. James 5:19-20
- God will help you overcome temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13
- God is ALWAYS faithful. Lamentations 3:22-23
- The gospel is God's dynamite. It can change the hardest heart. Romans 1:16
- Drop the excess baggage. Travel light. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 1:1-2
- The peace of God will guard your heart and mind in the storms of life. Philippians 4:6-7
- False teachers abound. Contend for the faith. Jude 3
- God knows your tears. Psalm 56:8
- God IS in control of the governmental authorities. Romans 13:1-7
- You need not fear. God cares. He has every hair of your head numbered. Matthew 10:26-33
- You need not be in control. Jesus already has the entire universe in his hands. Hebrews 1:1-4
- You need not complain. Jesus is faithful. Hebrews 13:8
- Keep believing God. Remember that faith brings commendation. Hebrews 11:1-2
- You need not live in guilt. Jesus forgives fully. Psalm 103:12
- Hang on. The day of Christ's return is at hand. Romans 13:11-14
- Hang on. The heavenly celebration is going to be out of this world. Revelation 5:6-14
- Steward your life well. Live to please the God before whom you will give an account. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
- Things will get better. Jesus guarantees it. Revelation 21:1-8
- You don't need more ______. You simply need more of God's love. Ephesians 3:14-21
- Be a reconciler. That's Jesus' way. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
We can talk about it or we can do it. In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship Of The Ring, Gandalf's words to Frodo are apropos for each of us:
The first step to exhorting someone every day is to start today! Who is on your Encouragement To Do list today?
"D.A. Carson reminds me . . . " from New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Heb 3:7–4:13). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
"Our English word 'exhort' . . ." from Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
Gandalf's words to Frodo explained: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/fellowship/quotes.html (Accessed February 1, 2016).