Encouragement Has Power

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Georges Henri Rouault, “Christ and His Disciples”

 

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Matthew 14:27, NLT

In this moment of history there are more Christians discouraged than ever. We seem to doubt the very precious promises found in the Bible. Our very best now seems to be the worst we could ever wish for. Discouraged, we seriously consider packing it all in.

But their is another step. Something more advanced. That is diversion, A strange sort of deflection into complete disaster. Most of us would never dream of renouncing our faith in Jesus Christ, but if we are sufficiently discouraged we will end up there without much thought. We are being diverted into total loss.

Discouragement is not the final goal, but diversion could well be. Once we lose sight of our true calling and present nature we untrack and derail. We’ve rejected the rails, and don’t want to travel the tracks anymore. Our diversion leads to disaster.

A gift of encouragement helps another to stay on track. An encourager will stand and shout for you to stay in the faith. They are only a few to be found, for they are a rare species. But many exercise the gift without the distinct call. (More power to them). We need people who can truly encourage the saints to run well.

Dear saint, if you feel called to encourage others here are three things you must try to do:

  1. Separate and dedicate. Become someone who knows how to move our of your own past and to live now staring at the future. “Leave and cleave” is a good word for you.
  2. Master the promises of God. Read them, and master them. Put them on your heart so that the Spirit can put them on your tongue.
  3. “Pray like your house is on fire!” When prayer meets encouraging words it will turbocharge your ministry. It will also protect others from the foolish things we all say. Trite and simple things that will confuse them. Avoid doing this.

Please become an encouragement to those fighting a hard battle. Prepare to be educated far beyond your present capabilities. An encourager will always have a “job.”

The story of Elisha and his young man is saturated with the ministry of encouragement.

 “When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.”

16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”

2 Kings 6:16, 17

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What Are the Treasures of the Church?

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An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop said this, “These are the treasures of the Church— these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness: ADHD,  depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life. Physical illnesses like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and epilepsy are denied. So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and our doctors appointments. We change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. The pressure to hide is very strong.

But I would suggest to you that it is perhaps we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness, than whole people can. We have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us.

But I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately sick or weak. Maybe it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus?

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human out working of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Stigma Sucks

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Mental illness doesn’t mean exotic or strange– but it does mean different. It doesn’t make one bizarre, or odd. Coming to faith in Christ really settles this issue for most. While our mental illness is flaring up, yet we are still being changed by the Holy Spirit.

We can’t really nullify the work of God. It takes as much grace to change a “normal” man as a mentally challenged one. God does not have to work any harder; there are no lost causes or last chances. All require the same grace.

Since I’m bipolar I’ve become aware of BP throughout history. Many painters and poets, inventors and doctors have come from the ranks of bipolar disorder. Many of those with manic depression and sufferers of depression have excelled; we would not have harnessed electricity if it wasn’t because a bipolar/ADHD created the light bulb.

But we are different. But we also can bring a giftedness that is necessary. We are not pariahs or leeches, but rather we are unique. Typically we may be passionate and sensitive. We are touched by something creative. Some have called bipolar disorder as those “touched by fire.”

Mental illness should be more of a mental difference than a liability. We are not crazy or lunatics running amok. Sometimes others pity us; often when they do they shut us off and seal us into a weird sense of extreme wariness. This should not be.

13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Psalm 139:13-14, NLT

God has created each one. We are all “knit together” by the hand of God. There are no second rates– prototypes, not quite His best work. The blood of Christ works in spite of handicaps and personality quirks.

Some may hesitate about this. But it is essentially an act of faith. The treasures of the Church are unique. They are the blind and the lame, the ones not always stable. What others consider marginal, or lacking are really the valuable ones. It’s these that the Church should glory in.

I encourage you to broaden your thinking on this. To stigmatize others is never a healthy or God honoring attitude. It indicates a small heart.

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Here I Am, Once Again, Again

O Lord here I am again

Just plain old me, coming to you

As I’ve come a thousand times–

And this is what always happens:

Your response is immediate

You open your arms unhesitantly

You draw me to yourself

You clasp me to your father-heart

Then reaffirm my position:

 

I am a child of the King

And all that is yours is mine

When I begin my stammering account

            — of gross unworthiness

Your gentle smile hushes me.

With endless patience

You remind me once more

            –that my value never determines Your love.

Rather your love determines my value.

–Ruth Harms Calkins

” And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”                            

Philippians 1:6, NLT