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Encouraging One Another
By Nicole Johnson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2004 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGod Encourages Me! "Be encouraged, you who worship God." Psalm 69:32 NCV
Clearing the Cobwebs
When would you say you need encouragement the most?
For our anniversary one year, my husband purchased tickets to a Broadway play at the downtown performing arts center. I had weeks to enjoy the anticipation of an evening out, and make sure every detail was taken care of. Grandma was enlisted to care for the children. We planned where to have dinner beforehand, and where to get dessert afterward. I bought a pair of strappy, black shoes and some sparkling new earrings to lend some zip to the "little black dress" hanging in the corner of my closet. When the big night came, I withdrew to my chambers to prepare for an evening at "the theater" (that simply must be said with a certain pinched, aristocratic accent). Though I prefer to primp and preen in private, my sleepy two–year–old son accompanied me throughout my preparations. He oversaw my efforts solemnly, leaning back against the pillows on my bed with one finger in his mouth. I powdered, polished, perfumed, and pinned up, and when I was done, he popped his finger out of his mouth just long enough to say, "You're beautiful, Mama." Then back in went the finger.
I was thrilled by his sweet compliment. I hadn't really needed that encouragement. After all, I felt beautiful, and I was having a really good day already. But we don't need to be having a bad day to delight in a little bit of encouragement. Encouragement is always welcome, even on those days when we're in an upbeat frame of mind.
1. Who doesn't thrive on encouragement? Where does our encouragement come from, according to Romans 15:5?
2. One of the greatest sources of encouragement in our lives comes from the fact that God is always with us. We are His children, and His Spirit touches our very soul. In Philippians 2:1, Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions that bring up some very good reasons for us to be encouraged. What are they?
3. God encourages us in more direct ways. What encouragement does David thank God for in Psalm 138:3?
4. What is another great source of encouragement in our lives, according to Hebrews 6:18?
5. What else can we take unexpected encouragement from, according to Hebrews 12:5?
Have you ever been to a little league baseball game? Kids with grass–stained knees, dusty bottoms, and batting helmets which continuously slip over their eyes, go through the motions of America's national pastime. Some of these kiddos are real go–getters, but others pick dandelions in left field and daydream at shortstop. We can't help but smile when watching them. It's almost as much fun to watch the parents in the stands, as it is to watch those kids out on the field. They're cheering on their little slugger for all they're worth.
"You can do it!"
"Take your time!"
"Watch for your pitch!"
"Run! Run! Run!"
Can't you just imagine God upon His throne and Jesus seated at His right hand—even the angels are lined up, peering into the matters of mankind—and they're all cheering us on! Whether we're giving it our all, or daydreaming somewhere out in left field, they shower us with encouragement.
"You can do it!"
"Hang in there."
"That's my girl!"
6. Because our Lord encourages us, we are better able to give encouragement to those around us. When the well of our heart is dry, we have nothing to give, but God is able to fill our reservoirs to overflowing. What does Paul say in 2 Corinthians 1:6 about this?
7. What are we to do with all of this encouragement from God, according to Romans 15:5?
8. What is this "attitude of Christ Jesus"? Philippians 2:3–5 gives us a wonderful picture.
9. Our very lives depend upon the strength and encouragement God provides. How does Paul describe the bounty of blessings and encouragements we have been given in his benediction in 2 Thessalonians 2:17?
In the New Testament, Jesus reached out and changed the lives of many people. He brought new strength and healing to those who were suffering, and He did it with just a touch and a kind word. Take a look at these two verses in Matthew, as they are translated in the New Century Version:
Some people brought to Jesus a man who was paralyzed and lying on a mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralyzed man, "Be encouraged, young man. Your sins are forgiven." —Matthew 9:2
Jesus turned and saw the woman and said, "Be encouraged, dear woman. You are made well because you believed." And the woman was healed from that moment on. —Matthew 9:22
Why do you suppose Jesus' first words to these two people were "Be encouraged"? What did they have to be encouraged about?
Ponder & Pray
Many of the encouragements we need are already ours because they come from God's own hand. Pray this week for the eyes to see what has already been given. Even if there is no one else to come alongside you and encourage you during a difficult day, the God you serve will provide for your every need—even the need for encouragement.
Trinkets to Treasure
At the close of every Women of Faith conference, women are asked to play a little game of pretend. Each conference guest is asked to imagine that a gift has been placed in her hands—one from each of the speakers—to serve as reminders of the different lessons shared. This study guide will carry on this tradition! At the close of each lesson, you will be presented with a small gift. Though imaginary, it will serve to remind you of the things you have learned. Think of it as a souvenir. Souvenirs are little trinkets we pick up on our journeys to remind us of where we have been. They keep us from forgetting the path we have traveled. Hide these little treasures in your heart, for as you ponder them, they will draw you closer to God.
Trinkets to Treasure
Your first trinket of the study will be a reminder that God is always there, cheering you on. A baseball—just like the kind little leaguers would enjoy—can bring to mind the Host of Heaven, whose eyes are fixed on you. Can't you hear your Savior call, "Atta girl! You can do it!"
Notes & Prayer Requests ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________
Chapter TwoThe Word Encourages
"I will thank you for your love and loyalty. You have made your name and your word greater than anything." Psalm 138:2 NCV
Clearing the Cobwebs
What ingredients would you put together to create the perfect trail mix?
Wouldn't you love to be a rustic, back to nature, hit the trails, rough—it kind of gal? I admire people who do just that: campers, hikers, naturalists, and survivalists. They are the kinds of people who can lose themselves in the woods for days at a time without worrying about food and shelter. They know how to pitch their tent and bank their fire. They know where the berries grow and which mushrooms are safe. They can tell a weed from a welcome addition to the soup pot. I admire them because I could walk along the very same trails, pass the very same plants and shrubs, and starve to death. I'd completely miss the plenty that nature provides, because I wouldn't recognize it if it bit me! Once my trail mix ran out, I would not be a happy camper.
God has surrounded us with the means to be encouraged—little things throughout our day to lift our hearts. These are welcome tidbits, but unless we are tapping into God's Word on a daily basis, we are starving ourselves unnecessarily. The encouragement we receive from the Bible is real stick–to–your ribs stuff. It will stay with you, no matter how steep the trail in front of you gets.
1. Psalm 119 is an amazing chapter in the Bible. Nearly every verse sings the praises of God's Word. What does Psalm 119:28 say God's Word is able to accomplish?
2. Encouragement is there for us, so long as we know how to find it. All it takes is our commitment to exploring God's Word. What does John say about the Bibles we hold in our hands in both John 20:31 and in 1 John 5:13?
3. Paul echoes John's words in Romans 15:4. What does he say the Scriptures were written for?
4. Paul understood the value of the Scriptures. What advice did he give to the young pastor Timothy in order to encourage his congregation in 1 Timothy 4:13?
5. What did Paul and Barnabas do to encourage the people in Acts 13:15?
When I was little, I hated most vegetables. I could tolerate sweet corn and the occasional green bean—carrot sticks and celery, if there was dip—but that's all. Still, my parents served up a plethora of good–for–me foods—asparagus, beets, peas, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, tomatoes, and zucchini. It was all I could do to choke some of it down. My Dad would always say, "We'll know you're grown up once you've learned to like them." I always thought that was a strange thing to say.
As a child, I thought sermons were dull. They were almost as bad as trying to eat my vegetables—just one more thing that's supposed to be good for me. Even if I tried to pay attention to the words of the pastor, I just couldn't see any point in the long, carefully outlined messages. Now my whole perspective has changed. My dad was right. I've learned to like them. Sunday morning sermons, Wednesday night Bible studies, Sunday school lessons, and daily reading—I can't get enough. Learning to love the Word came once I had grown up a bit. Though I still don't like squash.
6. Whether we are reading it for ourselves or sitting under good, solid preaching, God's Word can teach us "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3). All we need is a teachable heart. How does Job describe his willingness to be taught in Job 6:24?
7. God's Word encourages us to live in ways that would please God. What does David pray in Psalm 119:37?
8. What did Paul preach in Acts 14:15?
9. When we are teachable and willing to learn, God's Word is an effective tool for changing our lives, encouraging obedience and growth, and giving lasting joy and peace. The Message translates 2 Timothy 4:2, "so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don't ever quit. Just keep it simple." How does your choice of Bible translation describe the working of the spoken Word?
Let's take the time to seek out a few more verses emphasizing the importance of God's Word in our lives—and the teachable attitude that must characterize our hearts. How do these verses communicate this willingness to be taught?
Psalm 25:4, 5
Ponder & Pray
This week as you mull through the lesson, ask God to show you just how much your life in God depends upon His Word. As you deepen your appreciation for the Scriptures, spend more and more time in its pages—even if it means setting aside other tasks. In this way, you will discover a vast store of encouragement.
Trinkets to Treasure
Your trinket this week is trail mix. When you hit the trails of life, you must be prepared. Knowing where to turn for nourishment and shelter is vital. Make sure you remain a happy camper in your day–to–day life by taking hold of the encouragement found only in your Bible.
Notes & Prayer Requests ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________
Chapter ThreeEncourage My Faith
"I'm eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other." Romans 1:12 NLT
Clearing the Cobwebs
I can remember the Tootsie Roll® song, the Oreo® song, and the Big Mac® song—how about you? Do you remember a commercial jingle from your childhood you can still sing?
What kinds of things make you feel happy? Advertisers know! Why else would television commercials be filled with beautiful landscapes, spring flowers, clean sheets, cuddly puppies, close–knit families, colorful balloons, best friends, homecomings, contagious laughter, and silly antics? These images can really tug at your heartstrings. Admit it—you've actually cried over some of those old Hallmark commercials! We are easily influenced and even manipulated by our emotions.
We mostly think of encouragement as being a mood–lifter. It's that little compliment, a bouquet of flowers, an unexpected present, or a warm hug. But the encouragement God provides touches us more deeply than that. He doesn't offer a quick fix when our feelings get frazzled. What He's offering us is encouragement for our faith. If we are strong in the faith department, we are less likely to let our emotions drag us down.
1. Who are the people in your life who come immediately to mind when we talk about encouraging our faith?
2. We establish the faith of others when we affirm God's effectiveness working in our own life, and the lives of those around us. How does Paul describe this ministry in 1 Thessalonians 3:2?
3. Some people make it a full–time job to encourage the faith of other believers. We call those people who are in the ministry "full-time Christian workers." How are the ministries of two such men described in Acts 15:32?
4. Our pastors have a responsibility to encourage us in the faith. It is our responsibility to submit to their leadership—listening to them and heeding their words. How does Paul describe their work in Titus 2:15?
5. Those called to lead in the church must meet certain criteria—in this way, they are able to lead by example. But that doesn't let the rest of us off the hook—we should all aspire to lead such God–pleasing lives. How does Paul describe the ministry of encouragement a believer should have, according to Titus 1:9?
6. What is the greatest obstacle to encouraging one another's spiritual growth? Check in Hebrews 10:25.
When you get together with your closest friends, what do you usually talk about? Do you talk about the weather, work, family, and the sales running right now at Wal–Mart®? We talk about shades of nail polish, next summer's vacation plans, new–fangled diets, spring wardrobes, fall fashions, and the price of a pound of hamburger. We talk about health problems, stress, in–law strains, disgruntled teenagers, and the newest grandbaby—we can hash them over for hours on end. We laugh over the old stories we share while catching up on old times. We swap recipes, recommend hairdressers, compare symptoms, and just generally have a good visit. And none of this is bad, in and of itself. But how can you encourage the faith of your sister in Christ if you never talk about the faith you share?
7. In a way, each and every believer has been called to preach the gospel. It was a part of the Great Commission. With this in mind, what does 1 Corinthians 9:14 tell us to do?
Excerpted from Encouraging One Another by Nicole Johnson Copyright © 2004 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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