The Necessity for Encouragement

The Necessity for Encouragement

Without strong encouragement, the fainthearted will quickly succumb to the pressures of the world, the stubborn will become more set in their ways, and the faithless will fall away from the living God. On the other hand, a strong encouragement from a brother or sister in Christ can act like a balm that softens our hardened hearts, a shield that protects our discouraged hearts from sin’s deceitfulness.

Experiencing discouragement is a normal part of being human. We are discouraged by the actions of others, and we are discouraged by our own actions. Maybe you are walking with someone—a friend, counselee, or loved one—who is discouraged. Maybe as you are reading this, you feel discouraged right now. I think it’s fair to say that we could all use more encouragement.

The Downward Spiral of Discouragement

All of us get discouraged at some point—someone disappoints us, we read another devastating headline, we get a painful phone call, or we fall into the trap of habitual sin once more—life on this earth does not go the way we expect. When these things happen, it is all too easy to throw up our hands and say, “I can’t take it anymore!” “What’s the point?” “Why even bother?” If we are not careful, discouragement can callous our hearts towards God.

Listen to the words of the author of Hebrews:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Heb. 3:12-15).

The people of Israel were discouraged. All they knew was slavery in Egypt—a life of hard living and no rest. With a mighty display of His power and love, God stepped in and released them from bondage. But freedom didn’t look the way they expected. Out in the desert, the Israelites soon became discouraged by their circumstances. They wanted a home, they wanted rest, and they were thirsty and hungry. God provided and God promised, but they quickly forgot His goodness (Ex. 16; Num. 11). Before long, their discouragement led to bitterness and ultimately to rebellion. Their punishment would be 40 years of wandering in the desert.

The Warning

The writer of Hebrews offers us a warning. Sin is deceitful. When circumstances or our own failures discourage us, we are tempted to turn inward, looking for ways to self-preserve or point fingers. We can struggle to see past the immediate situation and quickly forget the ways God has been faithful. We might hear the faint voice of God but instead, choose to “harden our hearts” against Him.

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