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Creating A Positive Environment With Our Words

ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER

Encourage each other

By Dane Ortlund

Our words to one another about one another not only describe reality. They also create reality.

“You idiot!” does not simply assess what is objectively true to the speaker. It also produces, in the one spoken to, death and darkness. Not only do our words reveal what is true of us, they also generate reality for another. Specifically, our words are either death-bringing or life-giving. Either depleting or nourishing, draining or filling.

The gospel is a message of life, of nourishing, of filling. Because of Christ’s work in our behalf, we are set free from sin, adopted into God’s family, welcomed in. The “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13) is a word that gives life. And the great privilege we have when we gather with other believers—other obnoxious believers, other theologically imprecise believers, other spiritually sleepy believers, other frustrating believers, other sinning believers—is of passing on horizontally a taste of what we’ve been given vertically. Amid all my sin and messiness, in Jesus, God has given me a word of welcome, a word of love—“the word of life” (Phil. 2:161 John 1:1). Loved with this word of grace, I love others with words of grace.

After all, when Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,” what is the “therefore” referring to? What is fueling such encouragement? One of the greatest exultations in all the New Testament about the hope of the gospel: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess. 5:9–10).

Having been shown life through the word of the gospel, we give life through the words we use.

That’s easier said than done. All day long, words are flowing out of us. Passing another and saying hello in the hallway at work, chatting over lunch, greeting our spouse at the end of the day, tucking a child in with a good night story, speaking with a salesperson at Best Buy, talking on the phone while driving. We also use words without employing the larynx: emails, tweets, Facebook comments, handwritten notes stuck on the fridge. Even in this article I am using words: Are they bringing life?

In the hurricane of words that make up any given day, how do we walk in wisdom such that our words inject sanity, calm, and life rather than destruction? In two ways.

First, by saying nothing.

One major way we give life to others with our words is by not using any. It feels awkward to sit with someone depressed or overwhelmed with life and to say nothing. But what comes out of our mouth as medicine can, in fact, sicken rather than strengthen another’s heart (Prov. 23:8). A sufferer, when the pain is raw, needs warm presence, not fixing words. Paul said, “Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15), not “provide theological answers to those who weep.” That Romans 8:28 comes before Romans 12:15 in the canon does not mean it should in our counseling and friendships.

Second, by saying something.

All our words tumble out impelled by one of two motives. I am using words either for myself or for you. All my speech is either fueled by self (no matter how smiling it is) or by love (no matter how painful it is).

The question, then, is why do you speak the words you do? Why do you speak the way you do? What is the aroma of your words? Are you spraying bullets, forgetting God has set down the gun rightly aimed at you? Do you speak to others the way you wish to be spoken to? What kind of speech has given you life as you consider meaningful relationships in your past? Do you ever—ever—look another human being in the face and say to them the following words: “May I tell you something I admire about you?” (It is one of the great secrets to Christian community that speaking a word of grace to another builds up you as much as the other.)

In your short life, you have a million tiny opportunities, including a hundred today, to inject a small but potent dose of life and light into another. As you consider doing this, you will immediately find a good reason presenting itself that seems to clearly mitigate your impulse to build another up. Some weakness, some corresponding fault, will arise in your mind, cancelling out your reason to encourage that person. Indeed, with some people in our lives, we honestly have difficulty finding anything encouraging to say.

Once more we remember the gospel. God did not allow our own faults to mitigate His word of gospel life to us. We have given Him every reason to withhold that precious word from us. Instead He lavishes us with assurances of undeserved love. We come alive. We breathe again.

John Owen wrote that God “loves life into us.” Will you love life into another?

*SOURCE: July 1st, 2013 @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/encourage-another/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Dane Ortlund serves as Bible publishing director at Crossway Books in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of Defiant Grace: The Surprising Message and Mission of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Attitude, Devotions, Encouragement

 

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God Centered Encouragement With Summer Upon Us from Dr. John Piper

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.

 

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Spurgeon’s Channel of Encouragement by Chuck Swindoll

Blessed Are The Persecuted! (Sometimes we feel like human lightning rods as displayed below!)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon remains one of the most colorful and gifted preachers in the history of the church. Any man who loves to preach and desires to cultivate the art and skill of communication must study Spurgeon. Before the man was 30 years old, he was the most popular preacher in England. The new Metropolitan Tabernacle was filled to overflowing every Lord’s Day as people came miles by horse and buggy to hear the gifted man handle the Word of God. They were challenged, encouraged, exhorted, fed, and built up in the Christian faith. He was truly a phenomenon.

As a result, he also became the object of great criticism by the press, by other pastors, by influential people in London, and by petty parishioners. The man, not always a model of quiet piety (to say the least), had numerous enemies. Normally, he handled the criticism fairly well . . . but finally, it began to get to him. He began to slump beneath the attacks. The persecution started to take a severe toll on his otherwise resilient spirit.

I am told that his wife, seeing the results of those verbal blows on her husband, decided to assist him in getting back on his feet and regaining his powerful stature in the pulpit.

She found in her Bible Matthew 5:10-12 and she printed the words of this passage on a large sheet of paper. Then she tacked that sheet to the ceiling of their bedroom, directly above Charles’s side of the bed! Every morning, every evening, when he would rest his enormous frame in his bed, the words were there to meet and to encourage him.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The large sheet of paper remained fixed to the ceiling for an extended period of time until it had done the job. May Mrs. Spurgeon’s tribe increase! It is refreshing to think how a marriage partner can be such a vital channel of encouragement.

And it is also encouraging to see that we have no corner on the problem of persecution. Did you observe what Christ said? “In the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Servants, that statement will help us call a halt to the next pity-party we are tempted to throw for ourselves. We are not alone. Persecution has been going on for centuries.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll. Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1981, 117-18.

About the Author: In the summer of 1977, the sermons that Chuck Swindoll preached at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, were broadcast on twenty-seven stations in the United States. Listeners responded immediately to the lively message of this down-to-earth pastor who could communicate God’s truth in terms they could understand and apply to their lives. In 1979, the radio ministry of Insight for Living was officially born, beginning on just a handful of stations. Today, more than two thousand stations carry the program around the world in seven different languages.

Two passions have directed the life and ministry of Chuck Swindoll: an unwavering commitment to the practical communication and application of God’s Word and an untiring devotion to seeing lives transformed by God’s grace. Chuck has devoted more than four decades to these goals, and he models the contagious joy that springs from enthusiastically following Jesus Christ

While on the island of Okinawa during his tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps, Chuck recognized that the Lord was calling him to devote his life to the gospel ministry. With Cynthia, his partner in life for more than fifty-one years, Chuck has devoted himself to the challenge of communicating practical, biblical truth and its application in the context of God’s grace.

After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, Chuck enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary [DTS]. Chuck’s course of study at DTS and the lifelong mentors he met there have permanently marked his life and the course of his ministry.

Chuck graduated magna cum laude from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1963 with three major honors:

  • Harry A. Ironside Award for Expository Preaching
  • Christian Education Award for the greatest achievement in the field of his academic major
  • Faculty Award for the most outstanding graduate in the opinion of the faculty

Chuck has also received four honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of his outstanding contributions to ministry:

  • Doctor of Divinity, Talbot Theological Seminary, 1977
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Taylor University, 1986
  • Doctor of Laws, Pepperdine University, 1990
  • Doctor of Literature, Dallas Baptist University, 1997

For more than forty years, Chuck’s pulpit ministry has emphasized the grace of God alongside an uncompromising commitment to practical, biblical truth and its application. He has served the following congregations in his pastoral ministry:

  • Grace Bible Church, Dallas, Texas, Assistant Pastor, 1963–1965
  • Waltham Evangelical Free Church, Waltham, Massachusetts, 1965–1967
  • Irving Bible Church, Irving, Texas, 1967–1971
  • First Evangelical Free Church, Fullerton, California, 1971–1994
  • Stonebriar Community Church, Frisco, Texas. In October of 1998, Chuck founded Stonebriar Community Church, where he continues to serve as senior pastor.

As a pastor, Chuck has received the following awards:

  • Clergyman of the Year, Religious Heritage of America, 1988
  • Named one of the top twelve preachers in the nation by the Effective Preachers Program of Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, 1997

Ranked second to Rev. Billy Graham in a 2009 survey which asked 800 Protestant pastors to name the living Christian preachers who most influenced them (survey conducted by LifeWay Research).

Chuck’s congregation extends far beyond the local church body. Through the Insight for Living broadcast, Chuck’s teaching is on the air in every major Christian radio market in all fifty states and  through more than 2,100 outlets worldwide in numerous foreign languages, and it is also available to an exploding Webcast and podcast audience. While Chuck serves as chairman of the board, his wife, Cynthia, serves as president and chief executive officer of Insight for Living. They have directed its expansion to become one of the leading radio programs in Christian broadcasting. Their leadership has made Chuck’s messages accessible to 100 percent of the world’s population. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Insight for Living now has a staff of over 125 employees. We also maintain offices in Melbourne for our Australian listeners, in Brasilia for our Brazilian listeners, in Vancouver for our Canadian listeners, and in London for our listeners in the United Kingdom.

As teacher on Insight for Living, Chuck has received the following awards:

  • Program of the Year, National Religious Broadcasters, 1994
  • Religious Broadcaster of the Year, National Religious Broadcasters, 1999
  • Hall of Fame Award, National Religious Broadcasters, 2000

Chuck’s prolific writing ministry has blessed the body of Christ for over thirty years. Beginning with You and Your Child in 1977, Chuck has contributed more than seventy titles to a worldwide reading audience. His most popular books in the Christian Bookseller’s Association include: Strengthening Your Grip, Improving Your Serve, Dropping Your Guard, Living on the Ragged Edge, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, The Grace Awakening, Simple Faith, Laugh Again, The Finishing Touch, Intimacy with the Almighty, Suddenly One Morning, The Mystery of God’s Will, Wisdom for the Way, The Darkness and the Dawn, A Life Well Lived, and the Great Lives from God’s Word series, which includes Joseph, David, Esther, Moses, Elijah, Paul, Job, Jesus: The Greatest Life of All, and his most recent addition, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal.

As a writer, Chuck has received the following awards:

  • Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award, Evangelical Press Association, 1997

Twelve Gold Medallion Awards, more than any other Christian author to date

After serving as Dallas Theological Seminary’s fourth president for seven years (1994–2001), Chuck became the seminary’s chancellor in 2001. As the sixth-largest seminary in the world, DTS’s primary goal is to equip godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of God’s Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide, a mission Chuck wholeheartedly supports in his life and teaching. He continues to uphold the school’s motto, “Preach the Word,” as he serves in leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary, at Insight for Living, and at Stonebriar Community Church.

 

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Where is the Best Place to Go When You Need Encouragement and Hope?

“The Encouragement of the Scriptures”

By Dr. James Montgomery Boice

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4 (pictured at left – the Alps in Switzerland – James Boice received his Doctorate in Theology in Basel, Switzerland)

A number of years ago a German theologian named Juergen Moltmann wrote a book entitled The Theology of Hope. His point, which meant a great deal to Bible scholars at the time, was that eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) should not be an appendix to Christian theology—something tacked on at the end and perhaps even dispensable to Christian thought—but should be the starting point of everything. He said that it is confidence in what God is going to do in the future that must determine how we think and act now.

I am not sure that is entirely right. I would call the cross of Christ, not eschatology, the center, arguing that we must take our ideas even of the future from the cross. But Moltmann was correct in stressing that hope is important for living well now. To have hope is to look at the future optimistically. So to some extent a person must have hope to live. The Latin word for hope is spes, from which the French derived the noun espoir and the Spanish, esperanza. But put the particle de in front of those words, and the resulting word is despair, literally “without hope.” People who despair do not go on. When John Milton wanted to depict the maximum depth to which Satan fell when he was cast out of heaven, he has him say to the other fallen spirits in hell, “Our final hope is flat despair.”

How can any sane person have hope in the midst of the desperate world in which we live? The frivolous can, because they do not think about the future at all. Thinking people find the future grim. Winston Churchill, one of the most brilliant and influential people of his age, died despairing. His last words were, “There is no hope.”

Our text says that a Christian can have hope and that the way to that sound and steadfast hope is through the Bible.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends—the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion—make their way down a yellow brick road to find their future. Our text likewise gives us a road to hope. That road leads first through teaching, second through patient endurance, and third through encouragement. The text says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

The Teaching of the Scriptures

The first and most important stop along this important road leading to hope is teaching, because it is through the teaching of the Scriptures that the other elements, endurance and encouragement, come. Christianity is a teaching religion, and our text is the Bible. It is true that those whose minds have been enlightened by the Bible often go on to learn in other areas too. Some of the greatest scholars in the world have been Christians, and many have traced their love of learning to their Christian roots. Moreover, wherever the gospel has gone throughout the world, schools and colleges and other institutions of higher learning have gone with it. Still, Christians maintain that however much a person may come to know in other areas, if he or she does not know what God has revealed about himself and the way of salvation in the Bible, that person is ignorant and remains a great fool.

Paul said of the Gentile Christians at Ephesus, among whom there must have been many learned persons, that before they had been taught about Jesus and had received him as their Savior, they were “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). They may have been educated, but they were ignorant of the things that matter most. After they had been taught and came to faith in Christ, however, they had hope of “the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints,” which was future, and “his incomparably great power for us who believe,” which was present (Eph. 1:18–19).

Our text in Romans is about the teaching of the Scriptures and tells us at least three important things about the Bible:

(1) The Bible is from God. When Paul says that everything written in the past “was written to teach us,” he is not saying that when Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, he did so intending that the church in future ages might be blessed by his writings, or that David wrote the psalms so that we might profit by them. His point is that God caused the human writers of the Bible to write as they did, because what he had in mind was the edification and encouragement of his people through the ages, whether or not the human writers understood this.

This also flows from the context. We remember that Paul has just quoted Psalm 69:9, applying it to Jesus Christ, whom he brought forward as an example for our right conduct. Some may object, “How can you imagine that David was writing about Jesus Christ, who was born so many hundred of years after his own age, or that this has anything to do with us?” Paul is answering, in effect, as F. Godet suggests, “If I thus apply this saying of the psalmist to Christ and ourselves, it is because, in general, all Scripture was written to instruct and strengthen us.”

Of course, many other verses say the same thing. Peter wrote, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21).

Similarly, Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The reason the Scriptures are so valuable is that they are unlike other books written by mere human beings. They are from God; therefore they have the authority and power of God within them. Besides, God has promised to bless them to the ends for which they have been given (Isa. 55:10–11).

(2) Everything in the Bible is for our good and is profitable. The second important teaching about the Scriptures in Romans 15:4 is that all Scripture is for our good and is profitable. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful.…” In our text he uses the words “everything that was written,” but he means the same thing in both passages.

This is not an endorsement of every piece of ancient literature, as if the words “everything that was written in the past” refer to the writings of the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans. Paul is not writing about secular literature, but about the writings that are “God-breathed.” Other books may instruct and even charm us wonderfully, but only the Bible gives us a sure ground for hope, since only it speaks with full authority and trustworthiness about what God did to save us from sin and give us eternal life.

Paul’s statement is, however, an endorsement of all of the Bible. That is, he is informing us that “all Scripture … is profitable” and “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.”

Some critics of the Bible have found things in it that they do not like and have therefore argued either that the Bible is from men only, not from God, or that it is a mixture of the two—some parts being from God and some from man. The parts that are from God are then regarded as authoritative, but the parts said to be from human beings only are discarded as error-prone and nonauthoritative. This is a convenient way of pretending to submit to the Bible’s authority while at the same time avoiding anything in the Bible that is convicting or contrary to the critic’s thought. This is not the Bible’s teaching. It is not historic Christianity. The Bible teaches that everything in it is the true Word of God and that it is binding upon the minds and consciences of all persons. Therefore, if we are being led by God’s Holy Spirit, we will conform our thoughts and actions to whatever we find in his Word.

(3) Nothing in the Bible is without value. Paul’s third point is that not only is everything in the Bible for our good and profitable, but nothing that is in the Bible is without value.

John Calvin was strong in this conviction: “This notable passage shows us that the oracles of God contain nothing vain or unprofitable.… It would be an insult to the Holy Spirit to imagine that he had taught us anything which it is of no advantage to know. Let us also know that all that we learn from Scripture is conducive to the advancement of godliness. Although Paul is speaking of the Old Testament, we are to hold the same view of the writings of the apostles. If the Spirit of Christ is everywhere the same, it is quite certain that he has accommodated his teaching to the edification of his people at the present time by the apostles, as he formerly did by the prophets.”

Patient Endurance

The second checkpoint we must pass along the road to hope is endurance, which some versions of the Scriptures translate patience (King James Version), perseverance (New American Standard Bible) or even patient endurance, since the word involves both passively accepting what we cannot change and actively pressing on in faithful obedience and discipleship. This word (hypomonê) occurs thirty-two times in the New Testament, sixteen times in Paul’s writings, six of which are in Romans.

Is Paul saying that endurance comes from the Bible—that is, from knowing the Bible? I raise that question because a detail of the Greek text provokes it. Paul uses the word for through (dia) twice, once before the word endurance and once before the word encouragement (the New International Version omits it the second time). According to the strictest rules of Greek grammar, that should mean that endurance is separated from encouragement with the result that the words “of the Scriptures” should be attached to encouragement only. In other words, Paul would be saying that it is through our own personal enduring as well as through the encouragement that we have in studying the Bible that we find hope.

Leon Morris is a fine Greek scholar, and he is led to this position by his grammatical sensitivity. “[Paul’s] construction seems to show that only encouragement is here said to derive from the Bible,” he says.

In my judgment this is a place where it may be wrong to read too much into a fine point of grammar. Grammatically Morris is right. But in terms of the flow of thought it is hard to suppose that Paul is not thinking of the role the Scriptures have in producing endurance too. For one thing, he links the two ideas together in verse 5, saying, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement.… ” Again, in verse 4 both terms follow Paul’s opening words about the use of the Scriptures for teaching: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that…” Or again, even apart from what Paul is saying, elsewhere we are taught that endurance comes from reading how God has kept and preserved other believers even in terrible circumstances.

James wrote, “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10–11). He is saying that we learn to endure by reading about the way God helped others before us.

Although they recognize the grammatical issue, a large number of other writers nevertheless see the matter as I have outlined it here. Among these are John Murray, Charles Hodge and F. Godet.

Encouragement

The third checkpoint along the road to hope is encouragement, which also comes to us through Scripture. Encouragement (paraklêsis) is found twenty times in Paul’s writings out of twenty-nine occurrences in the whole New Testament. It occurs three times in Romans.

The interesting thing about this word is that it is virtually the same one Jesus used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit among believers, saying, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7; see 14:26; 15:26), and that the apostle John used to describe the work of Jesus himself: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). The word Counselor and the phrase “one who speaks … in our defense” translate the same Greek word paraklêtos, which is also sometimes translated advocate. The literal meaning is “one who comes alongside of another person to help him or her,” to back the person up or defend him. So together the passages teach that Jesus himself does this for us, the Holy Spirit does it, and the Scriptures do it too. Indeed, it is through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit chiefly does his work.

The end result of this is hope. In our text the article is present before the word hope (“the hope”), meaning the Christian hope. This is not just optimism that Paul is writing about, not a hope founded on something the world thinks possible. Also, the verb have is in the present tense, meaning that hope is a present possession. As Calvin says, “The particular service of the Scriptures is to raise those who are prepared by patience and strengthened by consolation to the hope of eternal life, and to keep their thoughts fixed upon it.”

An Example from History

But enough analysis! If we are to travel the road of endurance and encouragement to hope by learning from the Scriptures, we should study how it actually works.

There are hundreds of examples of this in the Bible, of course, but let’s examine the familiar story of Joseph. Joseph was the next-to-youngest son of Jacob, and he was favored by his father because he was born of his much-beloved wife Rachel and also perhaps because he was an extraordinary young man. His brothers hated him for his virtue so they threw him into a cistern and then sold him to Midianite traders who were on their way to Egypt. Joseph was just seventeen years old. In Egypt he became a slave of a rich man named Potiphar. Joseph served the man well, and he was placed in charge of his entire household. Then Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and tried to seduce him. When Joseph refused to sleep with her, the proud, angry woman denounced him falsely to her husband, and Joseph was thrown into prison.

Joseph languished in prison for two years. Once when he had correctly and favorably interpreted the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer, predicting that he would be taken from the prison where he too had been confined and restored to his previous position, Joseph asked the man to remember him when he was released and speak a good word to Pharaoh to get him out of prison. But the cupbearer forgot.

The years dragged on. One day God gave a dream to Pharaoh. No one in the palace could interpret it, but the cupbearer remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams and told the king about him. Pharaoh sent for the young man, and Joseph interpreted the dream, predicting seven years of prosperity to be followed by seven years of severe famine. He recommended that the king appoint a wise man to save grain during the good years so that the people would not starve when the years of scarceness came.

You know the story. Pharaoh appointed Joseph to the task. Joseph served well. The land was saved, and in time, when the famine drove Joseph’s wicked brothers to Egypt to buy grain, God used Joseph to bring the brothers to repentance. The family was reconciled, and Jacob moved all of them to Egypt, where the people stayed and prospered for many years.

The climax of this great story comes in the final chapter of Genesis, when Jacob dies and the brothers come to plead with Joseph not to take revenge on them. They had completely misunderstood him. He had no intention of doing any of them any harm. “Don’t be afraid,” he exclaimed. “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:19–20). The story teaches that God is sovereign even in such terrible circumstances as those that overtook Joseph. And from it we learn to trust God’s sovereignty, endure in hardship, be encouraged, and so grow strong in hope.

I have picked this particular story because of Psalm 105, which refers to it. It may have been written by King David, but whoever the writer was, he was a man who needed encouragement. He found it in Joseph’s story:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.…

He [God] called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food;

and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave.

They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons,

till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.

The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free.

He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed,

to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom. – Psalm 105:1, 16–22

This writer clearly knew that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Do you know that? If you do, you will study what God has spoken and move ahead boldly for him and with hope.

About the Author: James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is the author of numerous Bible expositions and one of my favorite Systematic Theologies called Foundations of the Christian Faith. The article above was adapted from James M. Boice. Romans, vol. 4. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991, 1803-1809).

 

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You Are NOT a NOBODY! By Chuck Swindoll

One of the realities that motivates me more than anything as I seek to teach, make disciples, counsel, coach, and live out the gospel is that those I invest in will surpass me for the purposes of Christ in this world. Here is an excellent article by Charles R. Swindoll that can be found in several books he’s written – this article is from his book Encourage Me. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1993. When you wonder whether history will be different because of your service for Christ, remember these words. You may have the next John Stott, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Ann Graham Lotz, Kay Arthur, or Elizabeth Elliott in your Sunday school class, small group, or they may even be your neighbors! – Dr. David P. Craig

You are YOU. There is only one YOU. And YOU are important. Want to start feeling better? Really desire to dispel discouragement? I can say it all in three words” start being YOU.

Pull a sheet of scratch paper out of your memory bank and see how well you do with the following questions.

Who taught Martin Luther his theology and inspired his translation of the New Testament?

Who visited Dwight L. Moody at a shoe store and spoke to him about Christ?

Who worked alongside and encouraged Harry Ironside as his associate pastor?

Who was the wife of Charles Haddon Spurgeon?

Who was the elderly woman who prayed faithfully for Billy Graham for over twenty years?

Who financed William Carey’s ministry in India?

Who refreshed the apostle Paul in that Roman dungeon as he wrote his last letter to Timothy?

Who helped Charles Wesley to get underway as a composer of hymns?

Who found the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Who personally taught G. Campbell Morgan, the peerless expositor,” his techniques in the pulpit?

Who followed Hudson Taylor and gave the China Inland Mission its remarkable vision and direction?

Who discipled George Muller and snatched him as a young man from a sinful lifestyle?

Who were the parents of the godly and gifted prophet Daniel?

Okay, how did you do? Over fifty percent? Maybe twenty-five percent? Not quite that good? Before you excuse your inability to answer the questions by calling the quiz “trivia,” better stop and think. Had it not been for those unknown people—those “nobodies”—a huge chunk of church history would be missing. And a lot of lives would have been untouched.

Nobodies.

What a necessary band of men and women…servants of the King…yet nameless in the kingdom! Men and women who, with silent heroism, yet faithful diligence, relinquish the limelight and live in the shade of public figures.

What was it Jim Elliot, the martyred messenger of the gospel to the Aucas, once called missionaries? Something like a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody. But don’t mistake anonymous for unnecessary. Otherwise, the whole Body gets crippled…even paralyzed…or, at best, terribly dizzy as the majority of the members within the Body become diseased with self-pity and discouragement. Face it, friend, the Head of the Body calls the shots. It is His prerogative to publicize some and hide others. Don’t ask me why He chooses who He chooses.

If it’s His desire to use you as a Melanchthon rather than a Luther…or a Kimball rather than a Moody…or an Onesiphores rather than a Paul…or a Hoste rather than a Taylor, relax!

Better than that, give God praise! You’re among that elite group mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 as:

…some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary…so God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that might otherwise seem less important (vv.22, 24, TLB).

If it weren’t for the heroic “nobodies,” we wouldn’t have top-notch officers to give a church its leadership. Or quality sound when everyone shows up to worship. Or janitors who clean when everyone is long gone. Or communities to provided dozens of services beyond the scenes. Of mission volunteers who staff offices as home or work in obscurity

overseas with only a handful of people.

Nobodies…exalting Somebody.

Are you one? Listen to me! It’s the “nobodies” Somebody chooses so carefully. And when He has selected you for that role, He does not consider you a nobody.

Be encouraged!

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10).

About the Author: Dr. Charles R. Swindoll is senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church, chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Bible teacher on the internationally syndicated radio program Insight for Living. He has written more than thirty best-selling books, including STRENGTHENING YOUR GRIP, IMPROVING YOUR SERVE, THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, COME BEFORE WINTER, GROWING STRONG IN THE SEASONS OF LIFE, STRESS FRACTURES, HOPE AGAIN,  LAUGH AGAIN, THE GRACE AWAKENING, the million-selling GREAT LIVES FROM GOD’S WORD series; and his newest offering SAYING IT WELL. Chuck and his wife, Cynthia, live in Frisco, Texas.

 

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The Connection Between Words and Character in the Book of Proverbs By Gordon Cheng

The Connection Between Words and Character in the Book of Proverbs

Chart Adapted From *Gordon Cheng

WORDS USED FOR HARM, SPOKEN BY

PEOPLE WITH FOOLISH CHARACTER

WORDS USED FOR GOOD, SPOKEN BY

PEOPLE OF GOOD CHARACTER

Adulterers use words as traps for fools

(Proverbs 7:10-21)

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 13:14)

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Proverbs10:19)

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer” (Proverbs 15:28)

“The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood” (Proverbs 12:6)

“…the mouth of the upright delivers them” (Proverbs 12:6)

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts” (Proverbs 12:18)

“…the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18)

“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 18:8)

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24)

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20)

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge.” (Proverbs 17:10-27)

 Chart Adapted from the fantastic book by Gordon Cheng. Encouragement: How Words Change Lives. Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media, 2006, 19-20.

About *Gordon Cheng: He is the author of the popular course, Six Steps to Encouragement. He is married to Fiona and has three daughters. He has studied in psychology and theology, and worked with university students and as a minister to several parishes in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. He is interested in choral and pian music, writing letters to newspapers, and reading church history.

 

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