Words spoken to us and through us, can be extremely powerful. If you are going through some challenges or changes in your life whereby you need some encouragement, then I believe there is a way. I have been through my fair share of challenges and changes in my life, and if there is one thing I have learned is to never give up. Because I have been blessed with the will to encourage, I feel it is important to try to be an inspiration to others and an encouraging force.
Encouragement can be described as words or behaviour that give someone confidence to do something. I believe it is also about support and hope, to develop something inside you that is more than just feeling good about yourself. Encouragement is not about just saying nice things about someone, rather it can be about challenging someone to be empowered to change what they don’t like about themselves.
There are many verses in the Bible about encouragement. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” KJV, or “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” NLT
One of the great blessings that God gave to mankind was a free will - man is able to make his own choices.
The consequences of this was that man chose to disobey God right from the very start. Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, were given free choice of everything in paradise, with only one rule - in Genesis 2:16-17 we read
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Firstly Eve, and then Adam chose to disobey the only rule that God had placed in their lives and the result of that decision was a seperation from God - a spiritual death as God had warned them about.
Which begs the question. God, who has all knowledge of all things throughout all time, would have known that Adam and Eve would disobey. So, why did He give them a choice and why did He put that tree in the Garden of Eden. Was He a cruel God wanting to trap man so He could punish them? None of the evidence of His previous or subsequent actions points to that conclusion.
What was the alternative, what could God have done differently?
The obvious answer is that God could have made man to obey his every command and not given him either the coice or the opportunity to disobey and enter into sin. The result of that would be a very different world than the one we have today. But what would that be like for mankind, for you and for me?
Have you ever wanted to be a robot? With no choice about what you do each day, with no choice about anything in your life or to have any dreams about your future. The life of a robot would be very, very sad and boring.
But what about God? He would have had a race of people that obeyed His every instruction and followed His every command. Sound pretty good if you were God? And while God would want us to obey His Word, the thing that He most craves for is that we do it out of a willing heart, making the choice to obey Him and to spend time with Him and to love Him. Not because we have be programmed with no other option, but by our free choice.
So, while man's foolish decisions and choices have caused him great heartache, distress, sickness and death and grieved God - how much more does God rejoice when a man or women makes that conscious decision and turns away from all the foolish, evil options the world presents and choices, of their own free will, to turn back to God and seek to re-establish that right relationship with God that Adam and Eve had before they chose to disobey.
In Luke 15:4-7, Jesus says:
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Have you had enough of making bad choices and decision? Jesus is not only calling our for you as a lost sheep, but He and all the angels in Heaven are just waiting to rejoice over your return to the place where you should be, in a loving relationship with Him.
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
4 And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
7 And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
9 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
WHAT IMPORTANT THINGS CAN WE LEARN FROM THE LIFE OF JOB?
1.) Bad things happen to good people .
The book of Job opens in verse one by telling us that Job was a blameless, upright man who feared God and turned away from evil. Then…his life unraveled. Job’s suffering didn’t come because he was bad or had done bad things but rather because of his unwavering faithfulness to God. (Job 1:8)
2.) In the midst of suffering, we must never lose our hope in God.
One of the greatest statements of faith in all of scripture is found right in the middle of Job. chapter 13:15 Job says: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” No one and nothing can steal your joy or your peace when your hope is in God. Never lose your hope in God!
3.) Our friends may fail us in the midst of our misery but God never does.
Job’s friends were not good to him. Job said of his three friends: “Miserable comforters are ye all!” (16:2) Job proclaims where his deep strength flows from:
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
One day – we will see with our own eyes our Redeemer! He is alive today and forevermore and because He lives – we can face tomorrow with victory!
4.) Even in the midst of God’s silence, His presence is with us.
Job wrestled and wrestled with God’s silence in the midst of his suffering. Over 25 times he asked the question “why?” and he continually asked for the opportunity to hear from God. Job had entered the fiery furnace of suffering.
10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
5.) Wisdom comes from fearing God and turning away from evil.
Humility is key. Pride can interfere with us following the wise ways of the Lord. And when pride interferes it clouds our vision, and before we know it – we are on the wrong path towards evil. Job explains in Job 28:28:
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’
6.) God is with us in the midst of our storms.
The Lord is our good shepherd and He never leaves our side. He walks with us through the valleys. He restores our soul when we are weary. He leads us to the path of righteousness when we have lost our way. He gives us courage when we are scared and he comforts us when we are hurting. Our God is the God of the storm.
7.) God is in control.
God is the creator of the universe. He is mighty and powerful. We can trust Him with our lives. We see in Job chapter one, that nothing came into the life of Job which did not first go through the hands of his loving God. Every page of scripture points to a sovereign God – from the creation account in Genesis to the return of Christ in Revelation, our God is in complete control.
8.) Sometimes, in the midst of our suffering, we sin.
God accepts a humble and repentant heart. In Job 42, we see Job surrender to God and repent. Job recognized that God is the creator and he is just his creation.
“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
9.) Sometimes we sin against our friends.
Job’s friends not only failed to be there for Job in a supportive, loving way but they gave poor advice based on their misunderstandings of God.
The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.”
10.) After repentance and forgiveness comes blessings.
In Job 42, Job made a burnt offering for his friends and prayed for them as God commanded Him to do. God accepted Job’s prayer for them and THEN Job’s fortunes were restored WHEN he prayed for his friends!
Isn’t this an interesting connection? Job forgave his friends BEFORE he knew how blessed he was about to become. It was Job’s prayer that released blessings!
“So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses..”
~Job 42:12 He also had 7 sons and 3 daughters – there were none so fair as the daughters of Job and he gave them equal inheritance among their brothers. Job lived another 140 years and saw 4 generations of his offspring. He lived a full and happy life.
When we are feeling stressed and frustrated and wounded by this world we should step back and take a look at all of God’s creation. Get outside under the big sky and remind yourself who your God is. Then, get into His word and learn more about God’s love for you. Trust that if he can create and sustain the entire universe, surely He will take care of you.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
God is still in control and is worthy of our trust in all things.
John 1:14 – 42
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
So much was happening in this single passage of scripture:
Let’s focus on the disciple Andrew
What do we know about him?
John 6: 1 – 9
1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him,
9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
Jesus used the loaves and fishes to feed the multitude which included 5000 men (plus women and children, so it is reasonable to assume that there might have been close to 10,000 people).
While Phillip despaired that there was no hope - it was Andrew who saw an opportunity – “there is a lad here”
John 12: 12 – 26
12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.
16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.
18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.
19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
There were huge crowds in Jerusalem for the Passover.
Among the crowds there were Greeks that wanted to speak to Jesus – they went to Phillip but he needed to go to Andrew before going to Jesus.
There are three occasions in the gospel where Jesus takes three of the apostles, Peter, James and John, aside from the rest.
Mark 5: 22 – 37
22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
Matthew 17: 1
17 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
Matthew 26: 36 – 37
36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
But there is one time that Andrew is included with the other 3.
Mark 13: 1 – 8
13 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
6 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
When Peter, James and John were present, they were observers, but when Andrew was there, questions were asked of Jesus who then gave answers about things to come.
What can we learn from Andrew?
He was sincerely seeking God (he followed John the Baptist)
He listened to truth – when John said he was not the one and pointed to Jesus
After meeting Jesus, he immediately went and got his brother and brought him to Jesus
When all seemed impossible, he was looking for opportunity
In the 3 scriptures where he is mentioned individually he is always doing the same thing – bringing people to Jesus
He is nearly always referred to as “Simon Peter’s brother” - there is no indication that this dimmed his faith
Tradition has it that Andrew travelled throughout Europe and Russia witnessing about Jesus
As such, he became the patron Saint of Romania, Russia, Scotland, Ukraine as well as many individual cities in Italy, Greece, Portugal and others.
Tradition also has it that he was crucified at Patrae in Achaea on an X-shaped cross which has become the traditional St. Andrew's cross. He had protested that he was unworthy to be executed on a cross that was the same shape on which Jesus died.
It is said he took two agonising days to die.
I can tell you No-one hated religion more than Jesus - and with good reason.
God had provided the nation of Israel with a set of laws and instructions on how they were to live, to serve Him and to worship Him. These laws were placed in the hands of the priests. Over the years, these priests changed the way in which God's laws were observed and followed. They decided they knew better than God and turned the temple and the laws into a means of elevating themselves and taking money from the poor to make themselves wealthy and powerful. They even split into different groups who each believed differently and thought that their way was the right way and all others were wrong.
It's an old truth that no matter how much times change, things still stay the same.
When Jesus walked the land of Israel, he encountered the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees and other religious leaders. These men sought to condemn Jesus not because he did wrong - but because he did good in a way that didn't fit in with their man made rules. It was these religious leaders who, boasting of themselves that they were servants of God, who made false accusations against Jesus and presented Him to the Roman soldiers demanding they crucify Him.
So, what did Jesus say about these religious leaders and their teaching? One thing is for sure, he was not a big fan of the way they had corrupted the goodness and the love of God.
In Mattew 23 Jesus said of the Scribes and Pharisees:
So, what would Jesus make of the "so called" Christian churches, denominations and leaders of today? Jesus came to Earth to demonstrate the love and compassion of God. He gathered around Him a group of disciples that we know as the Apostles. He taught them God's true message and sent them to reach a lost and dying world. This small group of people turned the world upside down with their teaching, miracles and works.
But sadly, those who think they know better than God again rose up. Just like the religious leaders of Jesus day who had corrupted God's law to suit their own beliefs, men came in and introduced teachings and practices that reflected their ideas and not what Jesus had taught his trusted disciples.
And so, once again, the world has ended up with a mess of conflicting beliefs and groups that all call themselves Christian, but are at odds with what Jesus and His apostles taught.
By all means, hate what man has done and continues to do in the name of religion - but don't confuse that evil with the great love that God has for man. God is still calling, searching for people who want to know His true Word and the real meaning of this life on Earth and what waits for them in eternity with Him.
DON'T HATE GOD BECAUSE OF WHAT MAN HAS DONE