Spiritually Speaking – June 2020

“Discover the Gift of Encouragement!”

“Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

A few weeks ago, Ed Rice and I were walking down the 7th fairway at Lake Hefner Golf Club in Oklahoma City.  We had just hit our tee shots, and we were going to retrieve the balls.  Ed said, “Hey, I’ve got a new favorite Bible verse!”  I said, “What’s that?” So Ed told me…”Hebrews 10:24, and especially as it’s worded in the New Living Translation.”  That verse (see above) is what I want to talk about this morning.

This verse is saying that—if you really want to make a difference in another person’s life and change the way they live—the secret lies in affirming that person and encouraging them…putting them in touch with what’s really wonderful inside of them.

Nobody’s motivated by criticism.  Nobody’s motivated by constantly telling them what’s wrong with them and what’s out-of-whack in their life.  You can put the fear of the Lord in them, and you can even get them to do something out of that fear.  But—it won’t last very long, and it won’t produce positive results.  The key to motivating other people—the key to someone else being able to motivate us—always lies in affirming that person and encouraging them in every way possible.

It’s almost as if the writer of Hebrews were saying, “Get creative about this!  Spend time on it!  Work on it!  Think of as many ways as you can to make it happen!  Because this is far more important to your living a wonderful life than maybe you’ve ever known before!”

A teacher wrote, “I’ve been retired from teaching many years, and I’d like to share a lesson I learned.  I was a young math teacher in junior high school.  We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and the students were very stressed.  They were frowning, frustrated, and carping at each other and me.  Wanting to stop the crankiness before it got out of hand, I asked the students to take out two sheets of paper and list the names of the other students in the room, leaving a space between each name.  Then I told them to write down the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates.  They took the rest of the class to finish the assignment; and when they handed me their papers to leave, they seemed more relaxed.

“Years later, I attended the funeral of one of those students, a promising young man who died in Vietnam.  The church was packed with his friends, many of whom had been his classmates and students of mine.

“After the funeral, his parents invited his friends and me to their house.  His mother approached me and said, ‘We want to show you something Mark was carrying when he was killed.”  His father pulled something out of his wallet.  It was the list of all the good things Mark’s classmates had said about him!  Then one of the other classmates said, ‘I still have my list in my diary!’  And another said, ‘I put my list in our wedding album.’  And another said, ‘I’ll bet we all have them, because I carry mine with me all the time.’”

There’s a deep hunger inside all of us to know that we count—and that we matter in this world.  In my opinion, it’s the deepest and most significant hunger in the human heart.  Whenever we can do something to affirm the worth of another person…and encourage them, we will have gone a long way toward transforming that person’s life!  “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds!”

I’d like to share one more story by Paul Astrup.  It helps us realize who we’re called to be in Christ—and what we’re called to do with our lives.

“One section of the Nimitz Freeway in California curves for about 1/4 of a mile with a shoulder only 2’ wide.  Late one afternoon, I was driving on this road with my mother when suddenly there was a large sheet of metal in the road.  I had no choice but to drive over it; and, of course, one of its metal corners sliced my right rear tire open.  With semi’s and cars bearing down on me—and my car 1/2 on; 1/2 off the freeway, I opened my trunk to find that I did not have a complete car jack assembly with me.

“While I was considering what to do, a car pulled up behind me.  A 70-year old man got out and offered his help.  In just a few minutes, he had my tire changed; and I was able to safely get back on the roadway.  I pulled a $20 bill out of my wallet and offered it to him.  ‘Oh, no, no,’ he said.  ‘I’m retired, and I drive around all day just looking for good things to do.  I’m so glad I came across you.  Taking money would just ruin it for me.’   With that, he took off; and I never saw him again.”

What would happen if we saw ourselves in a different way than ever before?

What would happen if we spent every day looking for a way to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ?

What would happen if we “encouraged one another” to outbursts of love and joy…and all kinds of neat deeds in the world?

I’d say that’s a key to having a really great year and a really great life. 



The Reverend Doctor Norman Neaves

Church of the Servant—Oklahoma City, Oklahoma