Encouraging & Enduring

There are times when, instead of enjoying an experience, we find ourselves having to endure it. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.” The victorious life of a Christian is a life characterised by endurance - difficult to accept in a society which emphasises enjoyment and entertainment. We don’t enjoy hardship. 

The Apostle Paul emphasised the importance of encouraging and being encouraged when enduring. He points to “the God who gives endurance and encouragement” (Romans 15:5). In fact, God gives “eternal encouragement” (2 Thess. 2:16-17). God provides hope: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) 

Let me encourage you who are reading this to endure (with the endurance that God provides) whatever hardship you may be encountering in life in these days. And let me encourage you to actively look for ways to encourage each other to endure. 

Of course, the meaning of the word “Encourage” means to instil courage. It used to be spelt incourage, taken from the old French word encoragier, from en- ‘in’ + corage ‘courage’. When you stand alongside someone else in whatever they are facing, you embolden them.  

Encouragement comes in many forms - in actions and words - a simple smile, a hug or arm around, a cuppa and listening ear, a quiet word or written note. And it can be done intentionally or unknowingly. You may never know what is going on behind that closed door or that brave face.  

The American author, film-maker, journalist, and critic Raquel Cepeda said “Support and encouragement are found in the most unlikely places.” Perhaps you will be that ‘most unlikely place’ to someone today or this week?  

As Paul intimated, the Scriptures are full of those who needed or who gave encouragement. In the Old Testament we note Moses & Joshua (Deuteronomy 1:38, 3:28), Gideon (Judges 7:10-11), David & Joab (2 Samuel 11:25, 19:7), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:22, 32:6, 35:2). The Psalmist declares “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”(Psalm 10:17) 

In the New Testament encouragement is elevated as an essential element of church life and growth – a Spiritual gift (Romans 12:8). God himself actively encourages his fledgling church (Acts 9:31). Peter writes to encourage (1 Peter 5:12). An early Christian convert named Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, is such an encourager that he is nick-named ‘Barnabas’ - which means “son of encouragement”. (Acts 4:36) He “encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 11:23, also 14:22). Note also the role of Tychicus (Ephesians 6:22, Colossians 4:8) and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 3:2, 2 Timothy 4:2) There are too many other references to unpack here today. 

Needless to say, encourage others daily (see 2 Corinthians 13:11, Hebrews 3:13). Mutually encourage. (Romans 1:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11,14, Hebrews 10:24-25). You may be the only person whom God is sending to another to spur them onwards, else they will give-up in the face of enduring hardship.   

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” (William Arthur Ward) 

Revd Michael Hogg.