1/25/2017

Encouraged Enough


As American Christians, we are gluttons for encouraging words. 

And on any given Sunday, we are likely to hear a lot of them. 

Just put your faith in Jesus and He'll help you be more than a conqueror!  God's got your back just like He did when David slew Goliath!  You can overcome your troubles by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony!  God is the God of infinite supply, and just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes from some kid's lunch, so God too can take your little and turn it into a lot!  And if you just have enough faith, you can tell the mountains in your life to move, and they shall listen to you!  Just keep your eyes on Jesus, and you too can walk on water!

O boy! 

If you are like me, you probably know a thousand other such clich├ęd phrases and messages that center around such themes.  Which is all fine and good.  These sermons are perfectly Biblical, and who doesn't need a good pick-me-up every now and then? 

My only problem is that for many, this is just about all they ever hear week after week, year after year.  Which is pretty odd considering how "well off" we are in America compared to most other parts of the world.  Why are we always so down and out?  You would think we would truly be encouraged by now after all the wonderful messages we've heard.  It's almost like such words aren't really helping us out, and they aren't really transforming our lives.  At best they seem to help us cope.  Like a drug, they give us a fix, but always leave us coming back for more.

It is my contention that as American Christians we have heard enough encouraging words.  Indeed, if I go the rest of my life without hearing another sermon designed to pump me up, I will be good.  And the chances are, so would you.  I believe we have individually heard more sermons designed to encourage us than Jesus and all the apostles ever preached in all of their ministries combined. 

Instead of another weekly pep rally "ra-ra-ra" type speech that tries to build up our fragile self-esteem, to help us overcome our problems and our fears, and make us feel good about our odds of making it in a cruel and dangerous world, I believe we would do well to encourage people in other ways. 

I believe we need to encourage people to love more radically.

I believe we need to encourage people to treat others like they want to be treated.

I believe we need to encourage people to be kind to those who treat them harshly.

I believe we need to encourage people to turn the other cheek.

I believe we need to encourage people to practice hospitality.

I believe we need to encourage people to give to the needy.

I believe we need to encourage people to practice mercy towards those who have wronged them.

I believe we need to encourage people to think of others before thinking of themselves.

I believe we need to encourage people to look after the rights of the marginalized in our society.

Such preaching is not likely to get a super large following, and will probably keep many ministers working second jobs. 

But, I believe in my heart of hearts that if we would encourage people to do these things more and more, that is, simply living out the teachings of Jesus in our daily lives, then we would find ourselves suddenly equipped to deal with all the trials that come our way. 

Instead of needing to feel constantly lifted up week after week, and seeking out preachers who do nothing but that (i.e. the T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Steven Furtick's of the world), we would simply be able to encourage ourselves through the regular up and down rhythms of life.  Their never ending sermons about feel good stuff simply would not be needed, and we would find them magically "speaking to our lives" less and less. 

Instead, we would become like the psalmist, and would be able to speak to our own soul and encourage it whenever we hit the occasional rough patch.  And, instead of being in regularly need for a sermon that helps you cope for a few days, we would among those who can not only lift up our spirits, but we would also be among those who can truly strengthen the knees of those who are truly weak. 

That's not to say won't need the occasional reminder of how good God is, and how awesome His love is towards us, and how He can take us under the shadow of His wings, and protect us through even the harshest of storms. 

But such a thing will only be needed on special occasions. 

For through putting the teachings of Jesus to work in your life on a regular basis, you will form the character and the humble confidence necessary to live out your life with faith and boldness.  By putting the words of Jesus into action, you'll develop spiritual muscle, and the things that used to weigh you down, you will suddenly find you have the strength to carry on.  Instead, you will know how to live that abundant life that Jesus talked about, even when facing adversity.

So, if we are going to encourage each other all the more as the day of the Lord draws near, as Scripture teaches, let us encourage one another to do the things Jesus encourages us to do in our day to day lives.  We've had more than enough of the other type of encouragement.  And that kind of encouragement often leads us up a creek without a paddle.

So long as we have the opportunity, let us encourage one another to do good works.  And if we do those things, the rest will sort itself out quite naturally. 

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