Does God Really Want Us To Be Encouraged?
Holidays are dangerous times of discouragement. The expectations for gladness are higher, so realities of sadness are heavier. You’re supposed to be gloomy in February; so it’s more tolerable then. But Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be festive. Hence the double whammy of discouragement. May I offer some preventative medicine?
When God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he added an oath, so that through two unchangeable things (the promise and the oath), in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18)
“…God desired to show more convincingly…”
This text assumes that God had already said enough to give us encouragement. But God is not a God of minimums. His aim is not to speak as few encouraging words as possible. He speaks some words to give us hope. Then, being the effusive God he is, he says to himself, “This is good. I like doing this. I think that I shall do this again.” And so he speaks some more words of encouragement.
But not just more. They are better. He moves from simple promises (which are infallible and infinitely trustworthy!) to oaths. And not just any oaths, but the best and highest kind—oaths based on himself. Why? Not because his word is weak. But because we are weak, and he is patient.
He desires to “show…prove…demonstrate…point out…represent…display…reveal… drive home” the hopefulness of our future. He really wants us to feel this. He goes the second (and third and fourth) mile to help us feel encouraged. This is what he wants. This is what he really wants. “When God desired to show more convincingly…”
“…that we might have strong encouragement…”
How encouraged does God want us to feel? He said, “Strong encouragement!” Note the word! He might have said, “great encouragement” or “big encouragement” or “deep encouragement”. They would all be true. But the word is really “strong”. Encouragement that stands against seasonal downers. Preach this to yourself: “God desires me to have strong encouragement!” “God really desires me to have strong encouragement!”
“…to seize the hope set before us…”
There are good times in this life. But let’s face it: the days are evil, our imperfections frustrate us, and we are getting old, and moving toward the grave. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ we are of all people most to be pitied. There are good times yet to come in this life. But even these are rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of gaining Christ. Even here we can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. But only because there is a “hope set before us.” Reach out and seize it. God encourages you to. Take it now. Enjoy it now. Be encouraged by it now. Be strongly encouraged. Because your hope is secured with double infiniteness: the promise of God and the oath of God.
Encouraged with you by God’s desire,
Pastor John Piper
About Dr. Piper: John Piper is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.), and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 40 books and more than 30 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and twelve grandchildren.