The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
MARBC State Representative
September's Word: “Encourage”
As I edit this article, Sharon and I are traveling throughout Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula visiting many churches and their pastors and wives. Our goal is to encourage these special servants of Christ and discover ways in which to more effectively minister to them and with them. We have been both challenged and blessed by the commitment our colleagues in ministry demonstrate daily, sometimes in extremely difficult situations.
In an article I read a few years ago, Ernest Gordon recounts an experience from his years as prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. In the Changi Prison for civilian internees at Singapore there was a man whose friend was sentenced to solitary confinement. He asked himself, “What can you do to help him?” The obvious answer was “Nothing.” His friend was locked in a tiny cell in a section of the prison that was so heavily guarded that none could get in.
One day the Methodist Bishop of Singapore saw him trying to cut another prisoner's hair. “Hello, John. I never knew you could cut hair.” “I can't. It's something I've never done. I'm just learning.” “Why?” “My friend is in solitary. He is allowed to have his hair cut once a month. So I thought I'd apply for the job.”
Some time later the Bishop heard that John had been appointed as the barber of those in solitary. He asked him how things were working out now that he could see John once a month. “Oh, I'd say fair.” “You can't bring him anything.” “I know that.” “But can you speak to him?” “No.” “Well, what can you do?” “This is what I do. While I'm snipping away at his hair, I keep saying to him, Please keep your chin up.” The guards think this has something to do with the barbering trade, so I'm allowed to say it. And I do, over and over.”
As is often the case in ministry, we have discovered in our travels that those whom we have sought to bless have instead ended up blessing us. No doubt you have found that to be true as well in your service with others. God has designed encouragement to be an important part of our relationship to one another in the family of God.
Everyone needs encouragement. Judges 20:21-23 is an interesting read regarding the importance of encouragement. The children of Israel had just experienced a crushing defeat at Gibeah. Twenty-two thousand men were struck down in battle. Yet, the Israelites did not stagger away in defeat. Instead we read that “the men of Israel encouraged themselves and again formed the battle line at the place where they had put themselves in array on the first day. Then the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and asked counsel of the LORD.”
In 2 Corinthians 7:4, the much beleaguered Apostle Paul shared, “I am filled with comfort (encouragement). I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Why was he encouraged? Because of the personal encouragement he received from other Christians. He shares in 1 Thessalonians 3:7, “brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted (encouraged) concerning you by your faith.” He was encouraged that his willingness to persevere through times of persecution had challenged other Christians to do the same. He relates to the Philippian church, “most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident (encouraged) by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14). And, to the Romans he expresses his hope “that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Romans 1:12).
Two special events this fall will enable the MARBC family to both give and receive encouragement. The “Day of One Accord Prayer” scheduled for Sunday, September 30, will allow us to join our hearts together before God's throne in worship and supplication. The following month is the “65th Annual MARBC Conference,” October 22-24, at Lake Ann Baptist Camp. The conference is a great source of encouragement and edification through the preaching, worship, and interaction of God's special servants. Be sure to read the information about both events that is included in this issue.
Let's commit together today to become more frequent encouragers. Encouragement is never overdone and is always timely. We can never tell when someone might be contemplating quitting and an encouraging word or gesture will motivate that discouraged friend to press on to victory.
One consistent motivator is through our faithful participation in the work of Christ in His church. As the summer concludes and fall ministries begin, let us remember the challenge of Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting (encouraging) one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Remember to “keep your chin up” as you serve the Lord. Remind others to do the same. God promises to bless both the giver and receiver of encouragement. You have His Word on it! (KEF)