The past few months living through COVID-19 and all the restrictions that it brings has really solidified to me the importance of being an encouragement to one another. But, what does that look like? My youngest daughter’s obsession with horses illustrates how we can encourage one another. Horse riders use spurs to direct a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine verbal and physical commands.
We have the Bible to guide us and show us the way, but we need that person who is willing to be the spur in our side to keep us moving forward. The Bible puts it this way, “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
No one knows when Christ is going to return. This just reinforces why it is so important to encourage one another! We need to be prepared and it’s hard to do that on our own. When we encourage one another in love, we have the strength to persevere. We can do life together and live in unity and community. Not only is this a testament to Christ’s love to those around us, but it also holds us accountable in our actions so we can all be ready for when Christ returns!
The apostles renamed one of Christ’s followers from Joseph to Barnabas. Barnabas literally means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas traveled with Paul on many occasions. Even the great apostle Paul needed an encourager. I can only imagine why Paul needed his personal cheerleader with him.
As I continue to press on in what God has called me to, I encourage you to do the same. If you don’t currently have a Barnabas, or an amazing Aunt, in your life, go out and find one! Or, even better, be a Barnabas encourager to those around you! We all need someone to remind us to keep on keeping on and spur us in the right direction.
Memory Verse: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
The chorus says: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. And the Lord is good to all, He has compassion on all that He has made.” Never in a million years did I ever expect the book of Jonah to remind me of this song. In my mind, they just did not correspond with each other.
Truth is, the story of Jonah is all about God’s compassion, not His punishment! Yes, Jonah ran away. We all do at times; we are human after all. But, God sent a fish. He always sends a fish! We can never run too far from His compassion. My counselor was my fish helping me see God’s compassion and helping me extend that same compassion to myself.
Jonah Chapter 2 is Jonah’s cry of repentance. He called out to the Lord and the Lord answered. God had compassion on Jonah; He commanded the fish to spit him out back onto the dry land.
God hears our cries and our prayers! He doesn’t look down on us in anger, He looks down with compassion. If you’re a parent, you likely know this feeling! Your child can be behaving horribly; talking back to you, not listening, throwing tantrums. You’re angry and frustrated and close to losing it, but then they look up at you and say, “I’m sorry, I love you, mamma…” Doesn’t your heart just break? You can’t help but experience great compassion for your child. God is the same way towards us.
Jonah then goes to Nineveh as the Lord originally asked him. To his dismay, despite all the Ninevites’ evilness, God offered compassion to them as well. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10). Jonah just experienced God’s great compassion in the belly of the fish, yet he could not accept that God would have the same compassion on the Ninevites. He could not grant the compassion that God so graciously bestowed on him.
How often do we experience the Lord’s compassion? Every single day. How can we then extend that same compassion to others and ourselves for that matter? We might think they are undeserving, but guess what? So are we! That’s the beauty of God’s grace and compassion. We are so undeserving and yet He still gives it freely.
So let’s all freely accept His compassion and therefore, freely give compassion to those around us, too. Let’s show compassion to the mother and child who seem to be taking forever at the checkout; let’s extend compassion to the driver that just cut you off or the server that just spilled your coffee. Let us be people full of compassion.
Memory Verse: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:8-9 NIV
I wanted it so badly; my heart ached. I would often cry out in despair and pray for a spouse. I’d read stories about how women prayed for their husbands and the exact right guy magically came into their lives. I’d even tried online dating at different times. I went on a couple of dates but didn’t meet anyone I wanted to be with long term.
One Sunday at church, I was fed up with dating. I was coming to terms with being on my own, but I was struggling because marriage was something I desperately wanted and felt like God wanted for me too. A friend of mine was preaching that morning; we discussed his sermon the day before actually. I honestly can’t tell you exactly what his message was about anymore, but near the end he called forward anyone who wanted prayer for something specific. I am not usually one to go up for altar calls. I don’t like attention being drawn to me or people trying to figure out why I’m going up, but I was compelled to respond that day. I prayed and sensed God nudging me to try online dating one more time. I was jaded, but I listened… two weeks later I met my husband.
If God makes a promise, He will make it happen. All we need to do is walk step by step in obedience.
We see this in the story of Jericho this week. The Israelites were told to walk around Jericho for seven days. Then on the seventh day, they were to blow their trumpets. What kind of a plan is that? They probably felt confused and maybe even a little bit upset by what God was asking them to do. I would be embarrassed even just walking around the city every day. What was God doing? But Joshua and Israel were obedient and God gave the city into their hands.
Once I let go of the plans I had for my own life and obeyed Him, He brought my husband into my life. He has always been faithful (just take a look back at your own life and see). He does not change just as Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Sometimes the steps of obedience God asks of us don’t make any sense to us at the time. He may be asking you to quit your job and take a lower-paying one. Maybe He’s prompting you to move to a new city where you don’t know anyone. Or maybe He’s just asking you to invite that lady you met on the bus over for coffee.
God’s plans won’t always make sense, but we can trust and obey knowing God always keeps His promises. That step you are taking right now might be your first step of obedience to God’s plan.
Memory Verse: “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 NIV