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Devotional - The Search For Encouragement

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 15: 4-6 (ESV)

    It seems quite often that Christians can always be looking for encouragement in all the wrong places. If we are to be honest we must admit that we live in a cold and harsh world. Sure there are ups but it tends to seem they are outweighed by the downs. Maybe we do not appreciate our joy as much as we commiserate with our pain. Whatever the reason, Christians always seem to be on a quest for encouragement. Something to make us feel better. Something to make us feel like everything is going to be OK. This quest should not be as arduous as we often make it out to be. After all anyone who is truly saved has the Comforter indwelt. We have the assurances of God Almighty. Yet despite these things, often times our quest leads us astray.

    What I have found utterly amazing in my writing is that people who lie to Christians routinely are considered encouraging and yet people who tell the truth of Scripture can be considered divisive. Christians flock to false teachers who sell them untruths. That this is your best life now. That you just have to speak more positively. That God is about to open up the windows of heaven just for you...and apparently everyone else listening to the same message. That we do not have to worry about our sin anymore. I understand why these messages are so popular. I mean, who doesn't want to hear how rich God wants us to be? The problem of course is that it is false encouragement. This is not our best life now. If it were, by definition we would be going to hell. So what happens then when we speak positively and our life still falls apart? What happens when the promises of an open heaven are realized to be fluff? What happens when ignoring our sin leads to real temporal consequences? Do we take proper stock of the situation? Do we learn? Or do we go right back out on the encouragement trail; looking again in all the wrong places? Beloved, there is plenty of real encouragement available for us today. God did not leave us to fend for ourselves. His will is not that we continue to go around the same mountain for twenty years. Never feeling like the conqueror Christ has made us.

    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8: 37-39 (ESV)

    Truth be told we often feel more conquered than conquerors but again this goes back to where we seek our encouragement from. Chasing false apostles and prophetesses may make us feel all tingly when they are staging their act but when the smoke machine is put away, we are still left with the same life we had when we walked in. Following fake healers or sending away for anointed prayer cloths will only guarantee we become poorer and that we will wake up with the same life we had when we went to sleep. Some may already be saying - this isn't very encouraging! Hear me very clear - yes it is! The truth should always be encouraging to a Christian. Our key verses today deal with the perpetual search for encouragement. Let us exposit them together.

    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. - Romans 15: 4 (ESV)

    Verse four begins with Paul discussing Scripture. That is "whatever was written in former days." Remember that the New Testament had not been fully written yet and would not be formerly agreed upon until a few more hundred years. There were no bookstores and printing presses. Paul himself does not realize that the very words he pens here to the believers in Rome would become part of the very Scriptures he is referencing! Why beloved, did God inspire the authors of the Bible to write what they did? For our instruction. The first point today is that we are not in charge! We are in need of instruction! If you find yourself wondering again how this is encouraging I need to remind you that is a worldly perspective. The world sells independence as this great positive trait. The world sells this "go it alone" mentality - where you are solely in charge of your life and as a result; your happiness. How has that worked out for us so far? It should be encouraging for us to find out that as believers, we are not responsible for everything - God is!

    The next truth we uncover here is that there is always hope. The world is a relatively hopeless place. That is how Satan, the lord of this earth, has designed it. Sure it has the illusions of hope. We hope to become rich but so few do. We hope to be relevant but so few are. We hope for a better life for our children but know deep down inside the world is getting worse; not better. We see the headlines. We see the horrific natural disasters. We see the eroding moral underpinning of our society. Wait a minute preacher! I thought you said this was going to be encouraging! Once again, if you look at things through an eternal lens - it is!

    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21: 4 (ESV)

    Beloved; the world we lament over is passing away. These discouraging things that continually drag us down are passing away. But take heart! Be encouraged by the fact that one day Jesus will return and all tears will be wiped away. Do you know the Psalmist says that God collects your tears? He does not waste any of them. No more mourning and no more pain. That is hope. But here is the key - verse four only says we MIGHT have hope. Hmm...what does that mean? Look at the qualifiers in the verse! There are two qualifiers that guarantee our hope. First we must endure and secondly we must be encouraged by the Scriptures. Hallelujah!

    Our hope hinges on our taking our encouragement not from lies but from the truth! That is why there are so many Christians who live completely defeated lives. Saved by the blood but crawling into heaven. Covered by the sacrifice of Calvary but impotent to the power gained from it. Beloved, encouragement is not found in the flashy preaching of earthly prosperity. It is not found in the poignant preaching of hyper grace. It is not found in motivational nor self help talks disguised as sermons. It is not found in pretending that anything other than the Gospel is your purpose! All of these things are lies! They are lies that feed our perpetual cycle of searching for encouragement. We search and we search when the answers are right in front of us the whole time. The answers to encouragement, which provides us with the hope of Almighty God, are always found in His Word. Encouragement is found in the truth, not lies. Encouragement is found in sound doctrine.

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (ESV)

    Let's face it. When we feel discouraged we feel incomplete. Well here is God saying that we can become complete in Christ through His Word! I know some of you are thinking that the Bible cannot provide the encouragement you need but you are wrong. It has all of the promises God has made to us, so when the devil comes lying in your ear, you can tell him to get behind you! Besides promises, the Bible has the instruction we need to live the lives God wanted us to live! No more guessing what the world wants! Who cares as long as I am doing what God wants! Besides instruction and promises we know that the Bible is absolute truth in a world gone mad. We know that the Bible is black and white in a world that blurs the lines with shades of gray. How is that encouraging? Eternal perspective! There is absolute truth and God has let us in on it! No more guessing. No more uncertainty. The world shifts under our very feet but our God is the same yesterday, today and forever! Continuing in the key verses:

    May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, - Romans 15: 5 (ESV)

    Paul continues by reminding us that God is His Word! The endurance and encouragement we seek are found in Scripture because Scripture is God! I am sometimes bewildered at how trivial Christians can treat doctrine. I watched an interview with a renowned false teacher who proudly proclaimed that doctrine to him was a dirty word. That it wasn't his "gifting" to divide the Word of Truth! He went on to brag that he feels just fine in not bringing a Scripture into his sermons until the very end! As if the Word of God was an afterthought to him. At least he was being honest because it is an afterthought to him! Yet 45,000 people show up to his "church" every week to hear him lie to them. Beloved, if the preacher you listen to treats doctrine so casually, you need to run as fast as you can. Only God has the words of eternal life. Not your favorite TBN huckster. He is not encouraging you - he is lying to you.

    Note the rest of verse five however. Note the result of seeking the God of endurance and encouragement through His living Word. It is so we may live in harmony as believers. One of the most misunderstood Christian concepts today is unity. The modern theories of church growth have perverted unity into agreement within a church building instead of agreement within a kingdom. What is the caveat in verse five? Our harmony with one another, our unity, must be in accord with Christ Jesus. If we are not unified in Christ we are not unified at all. In fact, a closer examination of Scripture reveals it is through false doctrine that discord is truly sown:

    I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. - Romans 16: 17-18 (ESV)

    What causes division and creates obstacles? Contrary doctrine! False teachers! That is why there are so many verses warning us about it! The people who encourage you with lies are the very people who are dividing the unity within the body of Christ. They are serving only their own appetites. Maybe it is their appetite for greed and avarice. Maybe it is their appetite for personal glory and fame. Maybe it is their appetite for power. Whatever their motivation it is not the unity of the body in accord with Christ Jesus. How do I know that? If it were, they would be encouraging you with the Word of God. Their primary focus would be on sound doctrine, not the smooth talk of man. We need to realize that their encouragement is nothing more than flattery designed to deceive the hearts of the naive. And yes, naive we are if we sit under teaching that does not conform to Scripture and bring us into accord with Christ Jesus. Naive we are if we scorn those who would tell us the truth, which is true encouragement, and embrace those that would scratch our itching ears to tell us lies we would rather hear. Paul concludes our key verses for today:

    that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 15: 6 (ESV)

    So what is the point of unity in accord with Christ Jesus? What is the point of seeking this unity through the truth that can only be found in His living Word? It is so that we may in one voice glorify our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes beloved, the final truth about encouragement is that it is not about us. It must always be about Him. The Bible says our life is but a vapor here on earth but eternity lasts forever. The sad truth is far too often we simply value the wrong life. We seek encouragement for this temporal time and ignore the work of the cross and what the spilled blood of Jesus Christ purchased for us. Does that mean that we are to be miserable? Of course not. There is no misery in the Word of God - only freedom. God works all things out for our good beloved. There was a time in the life of David where he really needed some encouragement. While he was off fighting, the Amalekites invaded Ziklag, burning it to the ground and carrying off the families of David and his men as prisoners. As if that was not a bad enough day, his men were speaking of stoning David for they blamed him. That's a pretty bad day. He did not choose to watch Joel Osteen so he could feel better about himself. He did not seek out someone to falsely assure him that everything would be OK if he just had more positive self talk. He turned to God!

    And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. - 1Samuel 30: 6 (KJV)

    He encouraged himself in the Lord His God. This is what we need to be doing as well. Only God has the encouragement that will last. We need to stop seeking men for the next big revelation when God Himself revealed all to us in His Word. Encouragement starts with believing that there is nothing more important in the walk of a Christian than ensuring we are listening to the truth. That our doctrine is sound so that we can spot when someone is lying to us with smooth talk and flattery designed to make us feel good temporarily but still circling the same mountain. There is a victorious and encouraged Christian life out there. One where we get to have real unity in accord with Christ Jesus - all to bring glory to the Father. It is not found in the words of men. True encouragement is only found, in the Word of God.

    Reverend Anthony Wade - April 30, 2014

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