Why Community Groups? To Provide Urgent Encouragement
1 Thess. 5:11- Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Hebrews 3:12-13- 12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
As we walk through the various ‘one another’ passages in God’s Word, we are seeking to build a Biblical understanding of how we should relate to others within the body of Christ. Scripture tells us in various places to exhort (Heb. 3:13) or encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 10:25). Encouragement is something that we all need in our Christian walk. Nowhere in Scripture is the Christian portrayed as a ‘lone ranger’, out there ‘making it all on his own’! We need others in the Body of Christ. We need to encourage and be encouraged by each other.
In two of the most prominent places in Scripture where this is emphasized, it comes to us with a degree of urgency. In both Hebrews and 1 Thessalonians, this topic is expressed in a way that demands our attention. 1 Thessalonians primarily addresses the second coming of Christ. Paul tells his readers there that Christ’s promised coming should be a comfort and a source of encouragement (1 Thess. 4:18). However, he also lets them know in chapter 5 that the surety of Christ’s coming should be a warning to them. His coming should be considered with sobriety and caution, with the result being that they wouldn’t live as children of night but as children of light. Because He is returning, and because that return is eminent, we should encourage, and build each other up.
In Hebrews 3:13, we are told to “… exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The word “exhort” is from the same Greek word that is translated elsewhere as encourage. In fact, several translations use the word ‘encourage’ here in Hebrews. This word is also sometimes translated ‘comfort’. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “to exhort” is:
to embolden, to cheer, to advise… to give strength, spirit or courage.
1. To incite by words or advice; to animate or urge by arguments to a good deed or to any laudable conduct or course of action.
2. To advise; to warn; to caution.
It is all these things depending on the situation. Sometime a Christian brother just needs to be built up. Sometimes a sister in the Lord needs to be warned or challenged. We should see encouragement as primarily a positive thing. However, sometimes a challenge is necessary to help a fellow believer along in his or her Christian walk – and that’s not always easy.
As this idea of brotherly encouragement is considered, especially here in Hebrews, it is important to notice the timing and the context. It doesn’t say to do it occasionally, but rather to do it daily! We are called to encourage one another in Christ every day! That isn’t an easy thing in the busyness that constantly consumes us.
Many of us share our lives with other Christians. You may even live under the same roof as one or two of them! Our children and spouses can and should be the prime objects of our encouragement. This should include reading the Word together and seeing how it applies to our lives. It should mean that we help each other to see how God is at work in even the mundane details of everyday life! However, it should not stop at our family. We should be praying for and seeking opportunities to encourage other Christians too. Pray bold prayers to ask God to bring someone into your life each day that you can encourage.
Hebrews 3:13 comes in the context of a warning that the author is bringing to the Hebrews. He is weaving the warning of Psalm 95 into his message to these first century Christians. Psalm 95 warns its readers of the dangers of unbelief and disobedience by referencing two events in the life of the Israelites where they failed to believe and obey. One is in Exodus 17 where the Israelites grumbled against the Lord at Meribah and Massah, failing to believe His promise to provide for them and bring them into the Promised Land. The second is in Numbers 14 where we read the infamous account of the Israelites’ unbelief again. This time, they chose to believe the report of the 10 fearful spies who set their sights on circumstances instead of on the promises of God. In response to their lack of faith, God issued the sobering words of verse 11, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
This text teaches us that we need to encourage each other daily so that we aren’t, like the Israelites, hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Much could be written about the deceitfulness of sin, but if your Christian experience is anything like mine, you will likely agree that sin can indeed be very deceitful!
Given this context, we must feel a certain urgency to our efforts of encouragement. Sin is deceitful; therefore encourage each other. Beware of being disobedient and unbelieving; therefore encourage each other. Christ is coming soon; therefore encourage each other.
So, here’s your challenge: pause now and ask God to help you to see someone today that you can encourage, and then pray that He would give you the right words. Perhaps it’s your spouse that needs to hear words of gratefulness from you. Perhaps it’s your child that needs to be pointed to Christ in their struggles. Perhaps it’s a friend that needs to be built up. There is an urgency to our encouragement. May God give us grace to make it part of our daily lives!