Encouragement is something we all need more of – we just don’t get enough of it in our daily contacts. In fact, most of us struggle with discouragement on a regular basis, yearning for just one sign or word of encouragement to bolster us along. Encouragement is at the root of our self-worth (what gives us the feeling that we have a strong, personal worth). It is what gives us a sense of dignity and respect. As one of God’s kids, we have a sense of being “grounded” in his unconditional love, and that gives us a sense of encouragement even when our actions, personal character flaws, or lack of success in accomplishments seems to be pulling us down.
That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus! (Romans 15:3-5)
A long time ago, I heard a preacher deliver a sermon that has stuck with me for all these years. The crux of the sermon was this: Your past and present need not continue into your future. Now, don’t get all wigged out on me like you’ve never heard this before – in fact, you have seen this as a theme of every Bible story you have read. The past and present of Job’s horrific life experiences did not need to continue into his future. The past and present of David’s catastrophic shame over his sinful actions did not need to continue into his future. The past and present of Peter’s impetuous failures did not need to continue into his future. The list could go on and on.
Encouragement is simply hope - hope that not only CAN God do what needs to be done in your life, but that he WILL do it! His love for us is unconditional and absolute – it will not change over time or be meted out in proportion to our behavior. It is steadfast even in the midst of our wavering. He loves us first! We don’t even have to show him we love him first in order to be a beneficiary of his great love – he loves us and draws us – now, I find that encouraging! God is there when we need him – even in the midst of the most difficult times. In fact, he uses those difficulties to draw us closer to his loving heart and to help our love for him to grow deeper.
At times, we are facing tough circumstances – things we label as punishment in our lives. As a child of God, we are not subject to punishment because of our negative behavior. In fact, we are given the opportunity for corrective action – being taught by the Holy Spirit and the truth revealed in the Word in order to correct the behavior and walk away from it in a freedom of spirit. In the circumstances of life, God is about the work of perfecting us through ongoing opportunities for learning of his great love. Even in the times we need to seek him for his great forgiveness, we can be encouraged. He forgives the old and gives the new – we call this an exchanged nature. He forgets the past and focuses on the future – we call this a fresh start.
Regardless where you find yourself today – God’s forgiveness is extended to you. Your part is to see your need for forgiveness and to turn to God to receive it. His part is to extend his grace, embrace us in his tender arms, and then lead us into the path of his love. Be encouraged! God’s love is enough to make the sorrow and shame of the past and the present a thing we need not carry into our future! Embrace his love and enjoy his encouragement.