What does God Require of You?
Bible Readings: Acts 17:16-29 & 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12
“Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus. Amen.”
In the first part of today’s service, but particularly in the Kids’ Time and the Bible Readings – we heard of another of God’s requirements for a fruitful future – keeping the message and the method of delivery relevant to the people with whom you find yourselves.
The second requirement today is that of encouragement or being the encourager.
This word and its synonyms are dotted throughout the New Testament but particularly in Paul’s letters to his fellow Christians where he urges them to apply a spirit of generosity and encouragement to one another.
In fact, for Paul, it is such an important facet of our faith that he claims it both as a gift of the Spirit [in Romans 12] and a fruit of the Spirit [in Galatians 5 – where he uses words closely linked – ‘love, faithfulness, generosity and kindness’].
Paul even sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to be their encourager.
You’ve all heard the old saying, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ is not necessarily true. Words are often a big part of whether we feel encouraged or disillusioned. Sometimes it is even the lack of affirming or even neutral words that can still hurt.
On your tables, have a think for a moment of how you might show one another an affirmation that gives them encouragement – right now.
In fact, on your table is some paper – during the rest of this table talk time – why not write a note of encouragement to someone in this room and give it to them at the end of the service.
God also gives us encouragement and affirmation and help, but we don’t always see it.
Many of you know the old joke about the fellow stuck up on his roof during a rising flood – a man with full faith and trust in God.
A tractor drives by and offers to take him to higher ground but he says – No, the Lord will save me.
Then a flood boat comes by as the waters rose and again he says – No I’ll wait for the Lord to save me.
Then finally a rescue helicopter offered help which was refused.
Eventually the man slid off the roof and drowned. When at heaven’s gate he questioned the Lord as to why he had not helped him while the man was on the roof.
God said he did help – he’d sent the tractor, the boat and the helicopter.
On a more solemn note, we think of the famous poem called ‘Footprints in the sand’ and the God who holds us up or carries us in the hard times.
We need to keep our eyes open – for encouragement take many forms.
But God provides signs but we need to see it in his people also and particularly in the Christian community. None of us are immune to negative comments or jibes that are full of ungraciousness or disgracefulness.
I know that I, myself, can get disillusioned and disappointed and discouraged when people speak or act towards Thea and I like this.
Now, I also acknowledge I too am guilty of this – I can get caught up in my own stuff. I sometimes don’t show enough appreciation for the work of others who are also on the front life. I don’t always laud the servant leaders. For that I am sorry.
So friends, encourage one another and build up each other as we read in 1 Thessalonians.
I firmly believe there are forces at work, earthly and not of this earth, which desire God’s servants to be disappointed and disillusioned so they will not complete the task ahead.
Seek and find the encouragement God offers manifests in his works and through his servants
And let us always be encouragers who build up the body of Christ, not seeking to turn to tear it down.