Hebrews 3:12-14 (NIV)
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In this series, we have been taking time to grow deeper in our understanding of Christ-centered community by focusing on four aspects of how what we say makes a profound impact on the depth of the relationships we have with those around us. This week, we turn our attention to using encouragement as a viable pathway to healthier, deeper, and more meaningful community.
When is the last time you you encouraged someone? As the days sometimes tend to drag on us, it can be difficult to find it within our own hearts to lift someone up who needs encouragement in their own life. Often it is us, as individuals, who are so desperate for affirmation from others that we forget others may need us as well. If we are honest, encouraging someone when we ourselves need encouragement can be a daunting process loaded with internal conflict. It is, however, for what we are called. While this reality may not make encouragement any easier, an understanding that we all need a healthy community to spur us closer to where God has made us to be gives us an opportunity to be conscious, loving members of something glorious and eternal.
There is power in a crowd, which can be positive or negative depending on which direction that crowd is moving. God calls us into community with others, but he does not mean for us to lack discernment in our association. Is it possible to fall into the wrong community unknowingly? How can we make ourselves aware enough to realize when it is time to stand out from the crowd?
There are times in our lives when we can look back and see the difference the words people spoke to us made in our lives for better or for worse. As you think about those moments, note the impacts those individuals had on the course of your own life. If they were negative, how can you use that experience differently to encourage someone else? If you could go back and change that interaction, what would you have done to radically promote an environment of encouragement?
Think, for a moment, about the notion that “we are better together”. From your own experiences with community, would you argue for or against this idea? In what ways have you benefited from community? In what ways have you been hurt or discouraged in your relationships?
Read Hebrews 3:12-14. The author of Hebrews mentions in verse 13 that we are to “encourage one another daily”. This phrase is also used throughout Scripture to describe the Holy Spirit, who acts as an advocate on our behalf. What do you think the term advocate means in the biblical sense of the term? In what ways can we be advocates for those around us?
Read Hebrews 10:24-25. When we look closer at these words, we find a challenging idea. The author here uses the word “spur”, which suggests a firmer form of encouragement. Think about those closest to you. Do you have people around you who are willing to call you out when you have fallen by the wayside or begun pursuing a dangerous path? How do they spur you on in the right direction when you need it most?
- In contrast, it is very possible that we have people around us who tend to “spur” us in the opposite direction of love. This is the inherent danger of unhealthy community. Considering your thoughts from the first question in the think section, how can you best discern the difference between positive encouragement and negative encouragement? Can you think of communities from your own life where the power of togetherness led to a destructive mentality? What can we, as individuals, do to change that course of direction toward love?
One of the most effective environments for consistent encouragement is a safe and trusting small group environment. Connect groups are designed to be highly conducive for encouragement—a setting where you can step into Christ-centered community, and we would highly recommend you take that bold step. If you are interested in joining a Connect group, you can find more information here.
If you are currently in a Connect group, take some time this week to dig into how you can be more encouraging to those around you. Find one person this week who you feel is seeking encouragement on some aspects of their life and find a way to encourage them.