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When I prepare for a message, I ask the Lord, “What do our people need to hear this week?”  This week He said, “Tell them what you have received.”  This week has been an unprecedented week of encouragement for me personally.  I have received some answers to prayer that have been life-giving to me.  One was a great follow-up to a medical situation that turned out to be nothing and another involved a personal situation that I have been praying over for a few years and that some others have been praying about with me. There was a major shift in that situation. In addition to that, I have received several messages of encouragement from church members who have let me know how God has used a message or something I shared with them that has had a Kingdom or personal impact in their life. What they didn’t know was that for a few months, and this week in particular, I was really needing encouragement.  That encouragement, that I know was spurred on by the Holy Spirit, like I know God prompted those people to message me or speak affirming words over me, those messages settled my spirit in an area where I had been uneasy.  One person in particular, was told by God to give me a specific message, and that person would have had zero clue what I had been wrestling with. She said God gave her three words.  Those three words settled my wrestling. Oh, how grateful I am for those who obeyed the prompting of the Spirit this week.

Encouragement is so powerful.  The New Testament reveals that encouragement was a regular part of the early church’s life together.  I’m not talking about a culture of mere compliments like, “Nice toga,” or “Cute sandals,” or “Where did you get your beautiful head covering?”  I’m talking about a culture of encouragement that enabled people to know truth and to be able to press on and overcome in times of opposition, discouragement, depression and oppression from Satanic and earthly forces.  I’m talking about an encouragement that helped people stay grounded in grace, that gave people courage to keep pressing and stay focused on Jesus and His plan for their life, for their gifts for their vocation, for their relationships, for their resources.

In Acts 13:15 and the following verses, Paul was given an opportunity to encourage those who were in the Synagogue and Paul preached a powerful and encouraging word using Scripture and through recalling the recent events of how Jesus rose from the dead. It was called a “word of exhortation,” and Paul chronicled the history of Israel up to his present moment.  Verse 48 says that the Gentiles who heard his message of encouragement were glad and honored the word of the Lord and that many were saved.  Paul’s exhortation to those gathered there brought eternal life to those who heard and believed.  That is powerful!

In Acts 16:40, When Paul and Silas got out of prison, they went to Lydia’s house where they met with other believers and encouraged them.  No doubt they told about their prison break through a supernatural earthquake and after which the jailer got saved!  Their testimony helped them see there was a God-ordained reason for them to have gone to that prison cell.  Paul and Silas had been jailed in order to set the jailer free in Jesus’ name!

In Acts 18:27, when a guy named Apollos had it put on his heart to go to the town of Achaia, the believers that were with him encouraged him to go and they sent letters to the disciples in Achaia, asking them to welcome Apollos when he got there.  They got behind Apollos.  They sent him with courage.  They went a step further and asked those he was going to, to receive him.  They were references for Apollos to the people of Achaia.  They put in the good word for his ministry.  What an encouragement to Apollos to know that other believers had his back and were working to prepare the way for Him to do the Lord’s work.

In Acts 20:-1-2 we read about how Paul spent time encouraging the people who had been following Jesus in Ephesus after rioting had taken place in the city.  No doubt they needed to be reassured that they were doing the right thing. Even when the preaching of the Gospel would stir people up and potentially start a riot from those who would resist it, it was the right thing to do.  The people who had gone through the riot were no doubt shaken up.  They needed encouraged to keep on.

Every one of us needs people who will exhort us with the Word of God.  Each of us needs encouragement in the middle of a difficult situation to believe that God has a reason for allowing us to be where we are, even if it seems we are in a season where we are confined or limited somehow.  We all need the encouragement that comes from other believers speaking well of us to others.  And we all need encouragement to keep on doing the right thing even when it is the hard thing.

I want to challenge each of you to become an intentional encourager for the purpose of spurring God’s people to stay in the race, to stay faithful to the mission, to grow in grace, and to continue to serve others in the Lord’s name.

Let me give you some specific ways you might consider encouraging others.

  1. Encourage people to stay true to the faith.  Many people start their race with Jesus but get discouraged along the way.  They need people to spur them on.  They need people to remind them of why they began with Jesus in the first place.  They need people to remind them that it is worth it to keep pressing on.

Acts 14:21-23 21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[a] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

This text says that Paul and Barnabus (whose name means “encouragement”) won many people to Christ.  Sometime later, they went back to check on those folks.  Their conversion was critical, but their ongoing spiritual success was just as critical.  They went back to strengthen those people, to encourage them to keep on keeping on with Jesus.  They went back to tell them that hardship was part of discipleship. We all face hardships in our spiritual journey, don’t we? They went back to tell them that although they would face hardship, they could face it with Jesus.  They could overcome it with Jesus.  They could get through it because He would be with them.  They went a step further and appointed some elders in the church to help keep watch over them.  They sought out some people who would be a prayer covering for them, who would watch over them, who would make sure they stayed in church and make sure they were growing in the faith. 

Someone needs you to check on them.  Someone needs your spiritual insight.  Someone needs your pastoral care.  Someone needs to hear that you miss them in church.  Someone needs you to invite them to sit with you and have lunch after church with you.  Someone needs to be in Sunday School with you.  Someone needs to get to youth group.  Someone needs to take the next step with Jesus, and they need somebody who will pick up the phone and say, “How can I encourage you in your walk with Jesus today?”

I want to ask all elementary kids and teens, 18 and under to stand up. I just want to exhort you, like Paul exhorted the church at Ephesus.

I want to encourage you to keep Jesus in front of you always.  Keep looking to Him when you are in trouble.  Ask Him to help you with your problems.  Pray to Him when you are afraid or stressed.  Make Him your best friend.  How often do you hang out with your best friend?  A lot, right?  Include Jesus in your life every day.  He is real.  He is personal.  He wants to guide your whole life.  He doesn’t just want your life until you are 18.  He wants to lead you through every high and every low.  He wants to point you in the direction you are supposed to go after school.  He wants to tell you who to marry, where to live and how to serve Him.  He wants to teach you about how to use your body for His glory and what your life’s purpose is supposed to be.  If you will stick with Him, He will help you know how to be a great friend, a wonderful employee, and how to be devoted to your family.  He will fill your life with blessing after blessing after blessing.  He will satisfy you in ways the world never will.  He will keep you protected and give you the grace you need to grow old.  Keep pursuing your faith and whatever you do, don’t quit on Jesus!

  1. Encourage people with the Word of God.

I think K-love has a segment called, “The positive encouraging Word of the day.”  They share a Scripture to help you focus your mind on something positive that God has to say.  In our Christian yoga class on Monday nights (which is cancelled tomorrow night due to Memorial Day) Debbie Jones includes a Scripture in the middle of class to get our minds on something that will encourage us.  Listen, the Word of God brings hope.  I don’t know anything more encouraging than when you sense that you have hope in some situation. 

Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

When you encourage someone with a Scripture, you are connecting them to the source of their hope!  Why not use your social media to share what God is saying to you through a passage?  Why not invite someone to do a Bible study with you.  You can pick one on the You Version Bible App.  It literally takes four minutes to read one each day or to hit the audio button and have it read to you.  You can listen to it while you put your makeup on or as you brush your teeth.  If you ask someone to do it with you, you can message each other about what you learn.  In the process, you are encouraging someone to experience hope for their life!  You could send someone a note with a Scripture and say, “As I read this verse, I thought of what you are going through.  I am praying it encourages you today.”

We have got to get people talking about the Word because it is through the Word that we receive the hope that we need for our daily life.  Parents and grandparents, you have got to inject your kids’ lives with the Word of God.  They need to hear it regularly.  Write positive, strategic, instructional verses out, and put them on your fridge.  Read them at dinner time.  Recite them in the car.  Go over them at bedtime.  Put them on the bathroom mirror, and ask them to read those verses when they brush their teeth!  As your kids have those words sink into their hearts, they will be making a deposit for the later years when they need a word of hope.

If the kids and teens 18 and under will stand again, I want to encourage you with some Scriptures that I hope you can take to heart. Pastor Katy and Pastor Daniel are going to help encourage you with words from Scripture.

Katy-Deuteronomy 31:6- Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I know the halls of your school can be scary or for those of you who are graduating, the next step can leave you with anxious feelings.  Listen, God is already in your future.  He is already down the road.  Even though it is 2022, God is already in 2023, 2024 and beyond.  He has cleared the path for you.  He is moving obstacles out of your way.  He is causing situations to be favorable toward you so that what He wants for your life can and will be accomplished.  Don’t be afraid.  He is with you in every step.

Daniel-Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God’s will is never harm.  It is to help you.  Even when harmful things happen, the harm isn’t what you will take away.  It is the help that God will give you.  It is the way that even the tough times will advance you.  It is the fact that your character and faith will deepen and that your territory will expand because God will turn around every trial in your life if you don’t let go of His hand.

Katy-I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

When someone wants you to do something that is wrong, when your friends veer off into things your parents have warned you not to do, when there is pressure to take a drug or smoke something or use your body in a way that doesn’t glorify God, stop and pray.  God promises to provide a way out for you.  You don’t have to give in to temptation.  God will give you power and courage in the moment to do the right thing.  Look to Him!

Daniel-Philippians 4:13-You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

You can get through school.  You can stand up to a bully.  You can get along with someone who isn’t easy to be around.  You can choose peace when someone is looking to fight.  You can turn the other cheek when someone mistreats you.  You can discipline yourself to be your best.  You can deal with pressure and stress.  You can get through the times when there is a lot to accomplish.  You can succeed.  You are an overcomer.  Christ will give you supernatural power and strength to do whatever He calls you to do.

Katy-I John 1:9- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

When you make a mistake and mess up and sin against God, you can be forgiven.  You don’t have to be defined by your mistakes.  God can use them to refine you, to teach you and to humble you.  Keep your heart soft by owning up to what you do wrong.  Don’t lie about your sin.  Confess it.  Be sorry for it.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Take it to God and let Him free you and give you grace to start again. God is not looking to hold things against you!

Daniel-I Peter 5:7-Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.

Pray about everything.  God cares about what you are going through.  He is waiting on you to bring your burdens to Him.  When you do, He will give you peace and perspective that will help you.

Katy-II Chronicles 16:9- For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

God is watching you.  He is looking for people He can use.  He wants to strengthen you so that you live a life a faith for your whole life, not just while your parents are your direct supervisors.  He wants to give you His Holy Spirit so that your life of faith will be sustained your entire life, so that your heart won’t be divided, so that you will love and serve Him forever.  We need the generation coming behind us to not walk out on God, to not be wishy washy, to not waste the gifts He has given to you on the things of the world.  Be all in, fully devoted to God and let Him have your whole life.

Thank you, students, you may be seated.

Let me mention a few other strategic ways you can encourage each other.

Romans 15:5-May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.  We need to encourage people to love one another and treat them as Jesus has treated us.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  We need to encourage people to keep serving the Lord and to keep in regular fellowship at church.

I will close with this Scripture from II Thessalonians 2:16-17- 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Let God have His way in your life, and look for ways to create a culture of encouragement in the lives of the people around you.

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