See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness – Hebrews 3:12-13
The stress in life can be devastating! We already see many people starting to crack under the pressure of the “stay at home” orders around the country. We hear of people getting arrested for picking a fight at a store over a parking spot. I also heard of a shooting that some propose is partly because of the collateral damage of losing jobs, not being able to pay bills. Other have lost loved ones far earlier than they would have expected. These changes in our world have created much anxiety in our collective conscience. Even if our own routines change very little, we are all connected to someone who is struggling with our forced home stay.
Certainly, the ministry of encouragement is critical in the best of times, but even more so in times of extreme stress. The text above paints the real danger of sin and unbelief which ends in turning away from the Lord. The consequences of which results in developing a hard and calloused heart. But in the midst of such stress and impending danger let me note two very positive elements that push back on the stress and the dangers of such circumstances.
First, the importance of community. Notice that the writer addresses both brothers and sisters. The entire community of believers can become victim of an unbelieving heart, hardened by sin. In most of our situations this is often surrounded by stress and the pressure of life – it is easy to become deceived and disillusioned when we hit various kinds of trials. But the exhortation is “see to it, brothers and sisters…” the idea is that we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. We do need to watch out for one another; we do need to care for one another; we do need to help lift one another up in the midst of the enormous pressure that we all face currently. No one is to be an island to themselves, even if they think they do not need anyone. You always have the “heroes” who do not need anyone, who carry on like nothing in the world bothers them. But the text encourages us to move alongside each other and share the burden for each other.
Secondly, the key is encouragement or exhortation. Some will translate this as giving some a good poke and telling them to pull themselves up and get after it. But the tone of this is to strengthen each other, not poke at them. This does not mean criticizing someone if they are discouraged and telling them they should not be discouraged. The point is, how do I move alongside and help take them under my arm and help carry them along? The picture is that of giving strength, not giving them a kick to make them move.
It is easy to forget how much encouragement can do for one another. I just had a birthday this weekend and even though I had no expectation at all about receiving anything, my dear wife did a fantastic job of arranging a number of activities that was deeply encouraging to me. All the activities had something to do with hanging out with people I love and who took the time to move alongside me and encourage me.
Never underestimate the power of encouragement. It literally has the potential to save someone from the destructive pressure of sin and a hardened heart. My encouragement to you is this: if you need encouragement and nobody knows it, call a friend, let them pray with you. If you have any friends (and I am sure that we all do), don’t wait to find out if they need encouragement – take some initiative and just encourage someone. Why do we wait until someone is desperately struggling before we encourage them? This is a great ministry that can change someone’s life. Be an encouragement!
Sincerely, Pastor Brad.