Encouraging Words

Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop; but a good word maketh it glad (Proverbs 12:25).

Contrary to the feelings of many, no man is an island. No man (or woman) is entirely impervious to their environment or their circumstances.

We all go through times in life when our hearts are heavy. The reasons for heavy hearts are legion. Loved ones may hurt us or betray us, or we invest a lot of our emotional time and energy in their distress. They may pass away. We may be hurt by the words or actions of people around us. We may lose a job, develop a debilitating illness, or be in the midst of a very stressful period in life. Many times we allow the influences of the outside world and its continual panic to get us down.

Whatever the reason the distress is quite real. It is not as easy to live with a heavy heart as otherwise (cf. Proverbs 18:14). There is less motivation to engage in the simple functions of life, let alone anything else. It is hard to concentrate. It is hard to be civil and put on a false face in front of others. And it is especially difficult to “keep the faith” and believe that better times are ahead.

There is a natural tendency, in such circumstances, to retreat. It seems easier to not feel at all than to feel distress.

But the “unfelt life” is not really life at all. We all enjoy the highs/peaks of life. If there are highs/peaks, there must, at some point, be lows/valleys. We all experience them; we all have to live through them.

Yet there is something that makes it all just a little more tolerable, and that is a “good word.” Can we all not think of times when we were in distress (or perhaps just stress) and someone took out the time to encourage us and to build us up? Have we all not had experiences where we were laid low but the strengthening words of another lifted us up?

Words of affirmation and encouragement always have value. Little wonder, then, that God commands believers through the Apostles and others to encourage one another (1 Corinthians 14:23, Hebrews 10:25, Jude 1:20). Words of encourage sustain and uplift in times of distress and trouble. They reinforce us in the good times. There is no circumstance in which truly encouraging words cannot provide some benefit!

But for there to be good words there must be people who understand their value and are willing to freely provide them. Encouraging people are always in the minority; there is a superabundance of critics, cynics, and pessimists. Nevertheless, we all know the superior value of having a “Barnabas” in our life than the pessimists and cynics (cf. Acts 4:36-37). If we understand the value of having a “Barnabas” in our lives, how much more should we then strive to be the “Barnabas” for our fellow man!

There are few things that we can do that have a more lasting impression on others than to be there for them in times of distress with good words of encouragement, affirmation, and strength. Let us be a “Barnabas” and speak good words to all!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Giving Thanks

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

We are soon approaching the time when our country observes Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was intended to be a time to reflect and give thanks for all the wonderful blessings we share. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many, it has just turned into an opportunity to eat one or more over-sized meals.

Bible believers recognize that God has never set aside one day for us to give thanks– He intends for believers to be people constantly marked by thankfulness. As Paul indicates, God’s will for us in Christ is to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18)!

Giving thanks is a humbling experience, for it teaches us how indebted we are to God. If it were not for God’s blessings toward us, we would not have the heavens or the earth (Genesis 1:1-2:4), the opportunity to have association with God through Christ (Romans 5:1-11), the love and comfort of our spiritual family (1 Corinthians 12:12-28), or the hope of eternity beyond this life (John 3:16). If it were not for God, we would not exist (Acts 17:28); without Christ, we would be hopeless, lost entirely in sin, and waiting for condemnation (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:11-12)!

Therefore, when we give thanks, it is hard to be proud or to believe that we are “self-made” people. When we give thanks, we learn again how we are weak and God is strong and how we need to trust Him and lean on Him, and not trust in ourselves (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:9, 12:9-10)!

Giving thanks should also be an encouraging and uplifting experience that should assist us in keeping a proper perspective. It is easy to get discouraged and distressed in our lives, and it is easy to fall into the trap of letting our discouragement distort our perspective in life. But when we give thanks, we are forced to no longer focus on what is going wrong and what we do not have but instead to focus on all the things that God has done for us in this creation and through Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:3). When we consider the great cost of our salvation which God freely paid, it is much easier to trust that God will also be faithful and helpful in the comparatively minor challenges we experience in life (cf. Romans 8:32). When we consider all that God has promised and accomplished, and see what God is doing, we can look with hopeful eyes toward that which God has promised for our future (cf. Romans 8:18). When we stop and realize all of these wonderful things that God has done, is doing, and will do, the “light momentary affliction” we are experiencing will be put into its proper perspective (2 Corinthians 4:17)! When we truly recognize how God loves us, how can we but rejoice in the Lord always (cf. Philippians 4:4)?

It is good and right for us to give thanks during this holiday season– and after this holiday season, and at every opportunity. It is good for us to give thanks lest we begin to take God’s current blessings for granted and succumb to the travails and distress of life. Let us always give thanks for the wonderful blessings of God and strive toward the goal of eternal life!

Ethan R. Longhenry

God and Us

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)

Many people hold to a rather negative impression of God the Father. He is often seen as a bearded old man who sits up in Heaven, waiting to catch you in your next sin so that He can smite you. Sadly, many people have suffered under an abusive earthly father, and therefore believe that their heavenly Father is also trying to find ways to “get” them or to condemn them.

Yet this is not the picture of God that is presented in the Bible. While it is true that God is no justifier of sin, and calls upon mankind to repent of sin and serve His Son (Acts 17:30-31), God is not out to “get” anyone. God is not the enemy– the Adversary, the devil and Satan, is the enemy (cf. 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 12:9)! Instead, God is quite the opposite– He has worked to save mankind, not condemn him! After all, if He sought to “get” us, He would have to do nothing but wait, and we would provide plenty of reasons for our own condemnation (cf. Romans 3).

But God loves mankind (John 3:16), and has done what is necessary to allow men to be redeemed from those sins and to be restored in their relationship to God (cf. Romans 8:1-17). God does not want anyone to be lost in their sins (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)! God, therefore, is not out to “get” us condemned, but to “get” us saved!

Yet Paul’s message here in Romans 8 is directed primarily at those who already believe in the Lord (cf. Romans 1:7). They are to consider these rhetorical questions– if God is for us, who can be against us? If He did not spare His own Son, will He not provide many other gifts?

Why is there a need to ask such things? It is easy to become discouraged on the road of life. Sometimes, even when you believe in God and strive to serve the Lord Jesus, you can feel that God is either not there or perhaps even set against you. Some despair of any divine assistance– sure, Jesus came to redeem mankind, and will come again someday, but in the meanwhile, they think, we are out on our own.

When we feel this discouraged or have these feelings, we would do well to consider Paul’s questions. Is God for us? If we serve the Son, He is indeed for us (Romans 8:1-17). If that is the case, who can stand against us? Even if the forces marshaled against God seem great, and the trials and temptations are many, as long as God is on our side, those with us are stronger than those against us (cf. 1 John 4:4). We can overcome and have the victory (cf. Revelation 22:3-4)!

And let us not feel as if the only gift God has ever given us is His Son. Instead, let us ponder the great mystery: if God was willing to give up the Son so we could have life, what else is He willing to give? Why would God give someone so beloved and yet “skimp” on more “minor” issues? If God’s love for us meant that He was willing to see His own Son die, can we really think that God is against us, not with us, far from us, or unwilling to help us?

In the days of Israel, God delivered Israel with a mighty hand from the power of Egypt. Then, in the wilderness, Israel had no faith that God would provide food and drink, despite the great salvation wrought on their behalf. That generation died in the wilderness because of their faithlessness, and their sons inherited the promised land. If we believe that God has delivered us with a mighty hand, and has wrought a great redemption through Jesus Christ, shall we not have faith that God can see us through the wilderness to the Promised Land, providing the necessary sustenance and direction on the way? Or, despite God’s great faithfulness, will we stand faithless? Let us never doubt God’s love and devotion to us!

Ethan R. Longhenry