A Ministry of Encouragement

J.R. Miller
(1840 – 1912)

“At some point in the Alps, the guides warn tourists not to talk nor sing, nor even to whisper, lest the reverberation of their words in the air may start an avalanche from its poise on the mountain, and bring it down upon the villages and homes in the valley. There are men and women who are carrying such loads of duty, anxiety, or sorrow—that the slightest addition to the weight would crush them. They are battling bravely against odds.

They are holding out under great pressure, sustained by a trembling hope of getting through, at last, successfully. They are bearing up under a burden of difficulty or trouble, comforted by the expectation that in the end—their darkness will turn to light. But everything is “in the balance”.

Then along comes one of these gloomy discouragers. He has no perception of the fitness of things. He lacks that delicate, sympathetic feeling which enables men of a finer grain and a nobler quality—to enter into the experience of others and put strength into their hearts. He discovers the trouble through which his friends are passing. But instead of speaking a word of cheer to help them to be victorious, he talks in a pessimistic or disheartening way which makes their difficulties seem greater, their burdens heavier, and their sorrows altogether hopeless!

It is hard to be patient with such people, for they are really enemies of human happiness! They make life immeasurably harder for everyone they meet. They take the brightness out of the sunniest day; the blue out of the clearest sky; and something of the gladness out of the happiest heart. Then they make work harder for every toiler—and pain keener for every sufferer! There ought to be a law making it a crime—for one man to discourage another, and affixing severe penalties to every violation of this law!

How much better it would be—if instead of being discouragers, we would all learn to be encouragers of others! The value of words of cheer is incalculable!

There is an old story of a fireman who was climbing up a ladder amid smoke and flame, trying to reach a high window—to rescue a child from a burning building! The man had almost gained the window—but the heat was so intense, and the smoke so blinding, that he staggered on the ladder and seemed about to turn back. The great crowd below was watching him with breathless interest and, seeing him waver and hesitate, began to “cheer” him! This nerved the fireman anew for his heroic task, and in a moment the brave fellow had entered the house and soon returned, saving the child. It is ‘cheer’ that people need, not discouragement, when they are fighting a hard battle!

Men who give us only their doubts and fears, are misanthropists. True philanthropy brings us hope and heartening. The truest helpers of others—are those who always have words of exhortation and inspiration to speak, who always are encouragers.”

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WWJD?

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Idol meat at market

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 1When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

“Others may, you cannot.” There are certain things that other believers are allowed to do that are forbidden for you personally. These are not the “biggies” like adultery, or murder (or anything in the flesh, see Galatians 5:19-21).

However, there are the relatively small things of individual conscience. They are the issues of personal preference. Sometimes a Christian has the liberty to smoke or drink a glass of wine. Since there are nothing specific in the Bible against these, some feel free to exercise a certain amount of liberty.

In Paul’s time, meat that had been offered up to idols was afterwards sold in the markets. Some believers would buy the meat; others stringently objected to this. Their faith wouldn’t allow this.

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?”

1 Corinthians 10:23-26, 29

I believe conscience is how we are meant to conduct certain decisions. We’re to always surrender our right to do something that might offend another’s principles. Their faith should never be weakened by your actions or behavior. At that point– it becomes sin.

“Idol meat” (code for things of “individual preference”) should never be a stumbling point for other believers. Some issues of conscience could be:

  • the theatre, ballet, dancing,
  • internet, reading material,
  • sporting events, parties
  • parades, arena performances,
  • movies, TV
  • Halloween, solstice observances,
  • smoking, chewing tobacco,
  • drinking wine or a beer, (but not drunkenness),
  • playing cards,
  • medications, mental health services,
  • rock music, Christmas, eating pork, etc.

Perhaps the real issue to grasp is the manner in which we’ll serve another brother’s faith. I believe that that is the core point. Often the conscience has to be trusted to become the guidance we seek in doing the will of the Lord.

I may have throughly confused you, I pray that I haven’t. Just keep in mind that your conscience should be “tuned in” to the Lord’s Spirit. It is not an infallible guide. Great questions to ask when your wondering if it is right or not:

  • Is it loving?
  • is it God-honoring?
  • is it going to encourage a brother or sister?
  • what would be right?
  • does it edify (build up)?

Follow the Lord’s lead, “WWJD?” It may sound corny, but there is something of value here.

Your brother, Bryan

 

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