Pastor Kyle McIver
Think back for a minute over the last week. For most of us, it won’t take long to remember a discouraging moment. Something in your house broke… your child got sick… you didn’t perform well on a test that you studied hard for… a project at work did not go as planned… a family relationship felt strained… These are such common occurrences for each one of us. Ordinary life is littered with the inescapable truth that the world is broken. Sin permeates our reality and is constantly finding ways to tear us down.
And consider the effect that this has after days, weeks, months, and years. When we commit sins, we degrade ourselves. When we choose rebellion over obedience to King Jesus we diminish the light of his glory in our hearts. When we sin against other people we harm a fellow image-bearer.
In the face of sin’s deteriorating influence in our lives, what are we to do? Thankfully, Jesus has equipped us in numerous ways - one of which is the encouragement and building up of others. If discouragement is like cancer in our lives, an encouraging word is the focused wave of radiation targeted to destroy it. Where shame holds us in the shackles of fearful isolation, words that build another up liberate us from that bondage. Where past hurts are like heavyweights which sap us of strength, an encouraging word helps to lift the burden.
Sin and suffering are universal human experiences. If we are to persevere amidst such hardship, we must encourage one another and build one another up. I want to offer three simple yet specific ways we can do that:
Point them to Jesus. He is our comfort and our stability and our strength. It is Him we need to see clearly, yet our sin and our adversary the devil seek to obscure him from our sight. In response, we encourage one another by pointing to Jesus. We recall his patience for the anxious, his tender mercy for the hurting, his heart to forgive for those confessing their sins, and the assurance of his return and our resurrection for those who feel hopeless.
Remind them who they are. Much of the Christian life is about identity - we must know who we are lest we become easily deceived or distracted. When we are united to Jesus by faith we become something new - indeed God tells us we are a new creation in Christ Jesus! Growing in Christ after we put our faith in him is essentially growing up into who Jesus already says we are. He calls us sons and daughters - so we learn to stop playing the prodigal... running away and wallowing with pigs in the mud. We are not our own - we were bought with a price and are now each one of us temples of the Holy Spirit, so we learn to honor God with our bodies. What we do flows from who we are, so we build one another up by regularly reminding each other of the rich new identity Jesus has won for us.
Be quick to celebrate grace in another’s life. It is so easy to feel frustrated by our own lack of progress, by the slow pace at which we often grow. But rest assured, Jesus does not stand idle in any one of his people’s lives. He has given us the Spirit, who is at work to form us into the image of Jesus. So learn to be on the lookout for His work in the lives of others, and celebrate it! Point out something you admire about a brother or sister. Encourage them in the way they’ve grown in recent months. Build them up by putting your finger on a particular evidence of God’s grace you’ve observed in their life.
Here’s the picture I want to leave you with: imagine that the Christian life is like a bonfire. When we trust in Jesus for the first time, the flame is born. As we walk with Jesus, the flame is nurtured and grows bigger, brighter, and warmer. Yet sin and the devil seek to douse the flames, to diminish its light and heat. Encouraging one another and building one another up is like adding a log to another’s fire. When you point them to Jesus, when you remind them who they are, when you celebrate God’s grace in their life, you are adding fuel to keep their fire burning.
So church, be lavish in laying logs on the fire by encouraging one another and building one another up.