Encouragement, whether you’re extending it or receiving it, requires faith. Ability to encourage is contingent on believing that what will be is more than what is now. It takes vision, hope in what is yet unseen. For faith is the stuff of things hoped for, things not visible, things yet to be...
If I have doubts that things really can get any better, I will be a poor encourager. If I want to ignite faith in you, I must have faith myself. This makes sense to me.
But it occurs to me this week that receiving encouragement also requires faith. If I don’t believe that what you say is true, how will it encourage me? if I doubt your motives or overthink your kindnesses, your attempts at encouragement may only serve to strengthen my cynicism. “You’re just saying that.” “That’s sounds too good to be true.” “No, really? I don’t think so…” Whether I find encouragement where it is offered all depends on faith. And faith is strengthened or shattered by the messages I choose to believe.
Twelve spies took a peek at the land the Lord had promised them. It was good, very good. Too good to be true. Their gaze was quickly averted from the good things God intended for them to the obstacles that lay in the way. Fearsome giants. Fortified cities. Their own weakness. “We are like grasshoppers before them.” Only two spies believed, disregarding the strength of the opposition in comparison to the Word and proven character of their God. "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." Num.13:30 Their encouragement came not from what they had seen but from what they knew to be true. But the people chose to listen to the faithless voices: "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are." Num.13:30-31 They refused the encouragement that comes of faith and ended up in despair and rebellion, looking for a leader to take them back to Egypt! They missed out on the good land God had for them.
We've been spying out the land ourselves this week. It has resulted in an invitation to work an hour away from our grandkids, something we've dreamed of for years now. (Our oldest grandchild will be 7 this summer!)We can start the job any time, as soon as we can get there.
But rent is high and places to rent are very scarce. Looking too closely at rental listings is demoralizing. Are we crazy? Why are we moving there of all places?! And yet we are confident that God is making a way and we are intent on following by faith. So yes, I’ll be packing up a contingent of things this week, enough to live on, and just after Easter we plan to be heading out, for new beginnings in a new place.
It is not clear just how this will work out. But we want to be like Joshua and Caleb, not focused on the impossibility of doing this thing, but trusting that God will provide as He leads the way.
God knows my sometimes faint-hearted faith; it is not beyond His ability to encourage. I noticed a sweet thing yesterday as I meditated on the story of the two Mary’s showing up at the empty tomb early ‘Easter’ morning (in Matthew 28) What did they expect to find? Jesus had told them he would rise from the dead yet they came with spices to anoint His body…Did they not understand? Did they not believe?
All the truth in the world will fail to encourage the broken-hearted if it is not believed.
But there is help for the faint-hearted. God knows. When they arrived at the tomb they found the stone blocking its entrance had been rolled away. Why?
Did Jesus need it out of the way in order to escape the tomb? Certainly not. I have a hunch it was rolled away in order that His followers could see and believe. God Himself was at work to encourage their faith in what Jesus had already told them. The only thing holding them back from the joy of the resurrection was their unbelief. Now they are given opportunity to see and believe. “Come, see the place where He lay” the angel invited. “He is not here, for he has risen.” Mt.28:6
They hurried away to spread the good news with fear and GREAT JOY! Mt.28:8They had seen and believed. Faith had made the difference.
I know my faith falters easily. At the same time I know it is faith that pleases God; without it there is only sin and its assorted miseries (Rom.14:23). But I don’t always know what to do about my feeble faith. But God does. Here I glimpse the heart of my God who not only desires faith, but also encourages us toward it. Here He arranges for the stone to be rolled away so we can see. He arranges for a welcoming committee of angels who point out the obvious truth: “He is risen” and more than that they give instructions for a rendezvous: “…behold he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” And He graciously repeats Himself as often as needed: Fear not, fear not, fear not….
But best of all He gives us His Word, with its abundance of outrageous promises that would all be too good to be true if they were spoken by anyone but Him. There are things here that should make us live out the rest of our days skipping like spring lambs! Things like:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Rom.8:1-2
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. Jn.15:9
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Mt.28:20
God has given us His Word and He has given us His Spirit to breathe life into those words, to ignite faith and so to fulfill in us His joy. May He soften our hearts always to believe that we might be perennially encouraged and able to encourage.
May He give us all ‘a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him’ that we may know ‘what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places’…Eph.1:17-19
This is my prayer for me, and for you ( :
Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said….See, I have told you. Mt.28:5
“…let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” Ps.105:3-4
You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." ... Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Ps.27:8,14
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Jn.20:29