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Monday, March 10, 2014

Courage to Encourage

...but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Rejoice in our sufferings?

Those words sound like a crazy impossibility.  Our human instinct warns us to run from our sufferings and find the quickest way out to healing and peace.

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1 Corinthians 1:20

So many times we cannot see through the veil and understand what God is doing.

We are tempted to throw up our hands in defeat or despair and forget that God's ways are not our ways.

We think we know the best outcomes for the struggles we encounter but we forget that our wisdom is limited.

...we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the power of God is stronger than man's strength.
1 Corinthians 1:23-25

Our world preaches ease and comfort but we are to preach Christ crucified.

We are called to face pain and suffering with faith instead of fear.

Our flesh screams that this is wrong, unfair, awful.  And though the trials we are called to endure may indeed feel awful to us at the time, God promises to work all things together for good if we love him.

Trusting God during times of pain, difficulty, and confusion is impossible without faith.  And holding on to our faith may end up becoming another exhausting struggle.  But we must cling to the promise that we are never alone.

"Just as courage is faith in good, so discouragement is faith in evil, and, while courage opens the door to good, discouragement opens it to evil"
Hannah Whitall Smith

We are called to be courageous in the face of things we do not understand.

Our trust that God is good despite our discouraging circumstances becomes the cornerstone upon which our faith and courage begin to grow stronger.  Our task becomes the willingness to surrender faith in our own wisdom and knowledge and place it instead on the promises God gives us in his word.

Simple? Yes.

Easy? Definitely not!

Jesus leaves us with these surprisingly simple instructions:

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.
John 6:29

Encouraging our brothers and sisters is critical to this process.  We need each other and we each have something to offer whether we believe it or not.  Jesus only asks us to offer what little we have.  His Holy Spirit transforms it into the unlimited power of God.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

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