Encouragement

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:1-7, NLT

1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
2 Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone, nor led anyone astray, nor taken advantage of anyone.
3 I’m not saying this to condemn you. I said before that you are in our hearts, and we live or die together with you.
4 I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.
5 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.
6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.
7 His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!

INTRODUCTION

Life on this earth is beset with problems. Moses stated it well in Psalms 90, “Seventy years is about all we have, perhaps eighty if you are healthy, yet these days upon earth are filled with trouble and sorrow, then life is over and we are gone.” {Psalm 90:10, JEV} We all have problems, there is no exception. It is true that some seem to have far less problems.


In Psalm 73, David confesses, “I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening? Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.” The key word is ‘seem.’


 

Corinth had problems and Paul wanted to help them.

When we attempt to help others with their problems: we must first examine our hearts and motives. In verse 1 Paul says, “Let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” In helping others, we need to ask ourselves some questions:

  1. What are my motives?

  2. Where is this leading? To benefit me or the other person?

  3. Who am I trying to please? Is this what God wants me to do?


If our motives are pure, our help will be blessed


So…I want to talk about Encouragement


#1…We all Need Encouragement

Let me do a little background [2 Corinthians 2].  Paul is in Troas where Christ has opened a door of opportunity but Paul can not rest. He is filled with anxiety, worried about the situation at Corinth. When the problem arose [made sleeping with his step-mother], Paul made a brief and painful visit, rebuking the man and the church. His rebuke was ineffective so later he writes a painful letter. Now he is on a Mission Trip but he cannot get the problem at Corinth off his mind. He has sent Titus to find out what is going on but Titus is on the other side of the Aegean Sea. Paul is so restless and frustrated that he is dysfunctional so he leaves Troas and sails to Macedonia where he meets Titus.


Paul says in verses 4-5

I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.
5 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.

NOTE:

  1. Paul troubles–You made me happy despite all our troubles.

  2. Restlessness–There was no rest for us

  3. Struggles–conflict from every direction…Battles on the outside

  4. Anxiety– fear on the inside.


     

     

     

    Paul was an outstanding Christian but sometimes we paint him larger than life. We think of him as being perfect and he was not. There are times when we think that outstanding people like Paul have no problems, at least none that get them down but this is mythical thinking. Paul had the same kind of troubles and struggles that you and I have. The great apostle was so anxious that he couldn’t function. He left a place of ministry due to this extreme anxiety.

There are times when it is encouraging to think about the imperfection of the Saints:

  • Abraham lied to protect his own hyde.
  • Jacob conned his own father.
  • Joseph was a fascist.
  • Moses had a bad temper and even killed a man in rage.
  • Samuel judged Saul by his appearance.
  • Elijah ran from Jezebel.
  • Jeremiah got discouraged often.
  • Jonah was a bigot.
  • Hosea wife was a harlot.
  • David had an affair.
  • John the Baptist wrestled with doubt.
  • Peter denied Christ.

There is only one perfect person and that is Christ Himself. We all have problems, we all have struggles and anxieties. You are not riding a white horse; you are not alone–we all share your pain so be encouraged.

#2…We all need to be Encouragers

Notice the chain of events: Paul sends Titus to encourage Corinth and Corinth surprizely encourages Titus who relays the good news to Paul which encourages Paul. When everyone is an encourager, everyone gets encouraged. The Corinthians church repented–how encouraging. Titus delivered a message. Paul sits down an writes a letter. There are many ways that we can encourage others…let think about some of them.

  1. Titus encourages Paul with his PRESENCE. Look at verse 7….His presence was a joy. Wow, do you realize that you can encourage people with your ‘presence’. I love to study and to preach and your presence here tonight encourages me. Hebrewss 10:25 is one of my favorite verses….And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Again, here is this concept of mutual encouragement. One of the first things I did when I got right with God was move to the front. I’ve been sitting on the front pew since I was 17 years old and most of that time I have spent alone. I tell people, I have my own pew. One of my motivations for moving up front was so I could encourage my pastor. Baptist fight over the back seats, not the front. How encouraging would it be if the front pews filled first! I’m not complaining, I am dreaming…What if 50% of our members came to the GATHERING. You know that our Wednesday night music is great but what an encouragement it would be to see the house filled on Wednesday night. I don’t know if you have noticed or not but fewer and fewer people are attending night services, even leaders. Do you know what that is for me and you? It is discouraging. We would be encouraged if people just showed up. YOUR PRESENCE CAN BE ENCOURAGING.
  2. Paul was encouraged by Titus presence but also by his “WORDS,” Titus brought good news. Words are powerful which is why we are to be careful and not careless is our use of words. I have learned over the years that kind words have to be crafted, we have to think before we speak. Many of us have the tendency to approach things from a negative point of view and our words discourage others. In my first pastorate out of seminary I discouraged a new convert without realizing what I had done. I rained on this man’s parade because he suggested something that was not Baptistic. The principle behind my words was correct but I didn’t think it through before I spoke. Looking back, I could have handled it in a positive way and perhaps the man would not have gotten discouraged. God will use us to encourage others if we will let Him but the devil will use us to discourage if we are not careful. As a young preacher [19] I wanted and needed affirmation especially from family. A great uncle came to hear me preach and I couldn’t wait to hear his appraisal, this is what he said, “Boy you don’t know how to preach. You never rolled up your sleeves. A real preacher leaves the pulpit hoarse and soaking wet from sweat.” I stood there stunned but thank God my mother was eave dropping. She waited for him to walk away and then she said, “Don’t pay any attention to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about and if you ever preach to please him, I will not come and hear you.” Words can hurt, they can sting to the bone and the devil knows it. We must be careful to encourage with our words, not discourage.
  3. Paul was encouraged by the Corinthians LOYALTY and LOVE. I witnessed something last week that encouraged me. I saw my Son-in-law and his sister stay by their daddy’s bed side day and night. They talked him into coming home one day for a few hours but he went right back, he was by his daddy’s side when he passed away. It reminded me of the movie “Where The Red Fern Grows.” There were two coon dogs, Dan and Ann. If memory serves me right, Old Dan died first from the injuries of a mountain lion. Ann lays by Dan’s grave and grieves herself to death. When it comes to loyalty, dogs are our teacher. Dogs are loyal to the death, literally. Paul started the church at Corinth: he was their spiritual father but they had been influenced by preachers who had no use for Paul. This hurt Paul deeply but Titus news assured Paul that Corinth still loved him and longed to see him. This was music to Paul’s ears. I was in my mid-thirties with four children and living on what income I could generate working as a pastor and a jack-leg contractor when out of the blue, two friends [deacons] asks me to meet them at the church. They said, “There is a petition out asking for your dismissal and we want you to hear it from us. We don’t think it will suceed but we are here to tell you, “You have are support and we will do whatever you feel God is leading you to do.” This was over 30 years ago and I am still here thanks to God’s grace and their loyalty. Loyalty is no longer a core value for most but for me, it is huge.

#3…Our Source of Encouragement is Christ

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.

Often times God uses others to encourage us but always, He is the source of encouragement. Encouragement begins with Christ, my divine Encourager. I love to read and study His word because it is the source of my encouragement.

I stood in front of a hurting family just yesterday. These kids have lost mother and daddy in a span of four years and the oldest of the group is 42. That’s awful young to lose your parents. There were extenuating circumstances that made the service hard and I went to bed Monday night with no idea what I would say. In my morning quiet time, God spoke gently through His word and I knew in a heartbeat that He was giving me the message. My heart was flooded with thanksgiving. It is an agonizing thought to stand before people without a message: it is a reoccuring nightmare for me. 

I spoke to the family what God spoke to me. I pray that it encouraged them; I know it encouraged me. We are God’s instrument of encouragement but He is the Source.

CONCLUSION

  1. Is there someone in your circle of influence that needs your encouragement? Could be your spouse, a son or daughter.
  2. Would you commit to being an encourager? Would you be willing to pray and ask God to use you as an encourager?
  3. You may have to begin with an appology: are you willing to do that if necessary?
  4. There are many ways to encourage: a visit, a phone call, a text, a card or letter. Would you give serious thought about encouraging someone today, tomorrow?

 

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