Preached on July 17, 2011
Click here to read Part 1
The testimony of our Scripture this morning – and I would suggest the entire Bible – is that we need to be both encouraged and encouragers.
Now, we don’t know who wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know it was written primarily to a group of Jewish followers of Christ who needed to be encouraged. They were being persecuted, they were losing hope, and many were being tempted to fall away from their faith and go back to previous ways of life.
Therefore, to encourage those believers to not lose hope and to persevere to the end, the writer exalted the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all things. Jesus, the author made clear, has no equals. He is superior to Moses and the angels. His covenant is superior to the old covenant. His priesthood is superior to the old priesthood.
Thus, through most the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer shows how and why Jesus is supreme. And then, toward the end of the letter, (where our text is), the author starts showing why all of that matters. He tells us why it’s a big deal.
He reminds his readers, and us, that because of who Jesus is and because of what Jesus did, we now have hope. It’s not a hope that’s nothing more than wishful thinking… like I hope Georgia can beat Florida this year (wishful thinking indeed). Instead, it’s a hope that’s more like an absolute fact because it’s grounded in the work of Christ and the promises of God. Jesus, the writer encourages us to know and trust, is supreme over our problems, our circumstances, and whatever else is weighing us down. Jesus is where those early believers were to place their hope… and that’s where we’re called to place our hope.
Because of that, the writer to the Hebrews encourages his readers to do three things. I’m only going to mention the first two, and then look more closely at the third one.
The first thing he says is, because of all that Jesus is and all that he did… and because God’s promises are true…
Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
In other words, we don’t have to stand at a distance from God… we can come close to him and know him. We can have assurance that he loves us and that he’ll keep his promises.
The second thing he says is…
Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful
That’s fairly self-explanatory. We have hope because God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. It is that God in whom we place our trust and hope.
The last thing the writer encourages his readers to do is this…
Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching
In these two verses we’re encouraged to be encouragers. The underlying point is that we can’t encourage one another if we don’t see each other… if we don’t meet together… if we don’t participate in worship and other forms of fellowship together… if we don’t know each other. So whether it’s Sunday morning worship, your Sunday School class, your Bible study or small group, Your Emmaus covenant group, or a close Christian friend…you can’t and won’t know what’s going on in someone’s life if you stop meeting together. They won’t be able to know how to encourage you, if you stop meeting with them. There is no Lone Ranger Christianity.
We need to be with each other to encourage one another. This was the heart and soul of how John Wesley understood discipleship. This is what it means to watch over one another in love.
But what does it mean to encourage one another? I think we all too often think of encouragement as simply a pep talk or the power of positive thinking… and I do think it includes a little of both. But it’s more than that. Here are some of the ways the word “encouragement” can be translated in the New Testament: Beg, comfort, desire, pray, plead, console. As I mentioned earlier, it literally means, “to come along side another person to help out.” That’s what Barnabas did!
I remember my last year of seminary. It was then that it finally started to dawn on me that I would soon be graduating without any actual pastoral experience. I had never done a funeral. I had never performed a wedding. I had preached only two or three times… total. I hadn’t even led a worship service. And they were actually going to appoint me to a church? Had they lost their minds? I thought so. My first church probably thought so.
Well, thankfully, there was a wonderful and godly professor who took me under his wing and met with me once a week to start helping me. His name was Dr. Hal Knight. He encouraged me by telling me I wasn’t the first baby bird to be kicked out of the nest.
He encouraged me by building me up. He encouraged me my investing his time and effort in me. And… he encouraged me by giving me a little pep talk from time to time.
Like Barnabas, he came along side of me to help me when I needed it most.
So let me close by asking you a few more questions…
- Who do you know who is discouraged, depressed, scared, or hurting
- Who do you know who has lost their way or is struggling with something serious in their life?
- Who do you know who seems to be stagnating in their faith or even moving in the wrong direction?
Beloved, they need encouragement. They need a timely word. Who will encourage them if not you?
Or maybe you’re the one wrestling with one of those things. Good heavens… we all are. Are you connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ? How else will they know you’re in need if you aren’t? How can they encourage you, strengthen you, comfort you, and help you if you’re not connected to some sort of Christian fellowship?
We need each other. Perseverance in this life is a community project (John Piper). But let me leave you with this. Even though that’s true… even though we do need each other… never forget that our hope is in God. Psalm 10:17 says…
Psalm 10:17 – You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry
Beloved… by all means encourage one another. By all means allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to be encouraged by others. We need each other.
But never, never, never forget that our ultimate encouragement comes from the person and work of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in God’s promises. Any encouragement we do is primarily to point folks to their real Hope… not to us.
Let me end with these words from 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17…
2 Thes. 2:16-17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,  encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Joy and Truth,