Year 2 Day 71
Read - Acts 20v1-6
Message - Scott Woodburn
A few weeks ago I was preaching down towards Newcastle on a gloriously bright Sunday afternoon. As I was about to climb into my car and head for evening worship in Crossgar I was approached by an elderly lady. She told me that she once had travelled to New York city to begin a new life with her husband. It was there that she had heard the Gospel for the first time and both she and her husband were saved. Soon they were back home in Northern Ireland but she was always thankful for the Lord's sovereign hand taking her to the USA. She thanked me for my clear presentation of the Gospel and wished me well for the future bringing encouragement to my soul.
Last week I was down visiting my mum and dad and had to go to Wyse Byse on the Woodstock Road as my mum needed a picture put on the wall immediately! Just as I walked into the shop a man offered me a Gospel tract. I took it from him and thanked him for his efforts. He asked me if I was saved and soon he and I were standing on the Woodstock speaking about the Gospel and getting to know one and another. He encouraged me to keep preaching the Gospel and I extended to him my hope that some would be saved as he proclaimed Christ in East Belfast.
I suspect theres nothing too exciting about the stories I have just shared and if you have read today's passage there is nothing too exciting there either. We are told about Paul's travels and we're told about Paul's companions. Often in Acts we see such accounts and can quickly skip to something a little bit more exciting. But brothers and sisters, lets pause for a moment or two.
In these verses we are told twice that Paul's ministry was one of encouragement. He encouraged his disciples (v1) and he had encouraged the saints in Macedonia (v2). Encouragement is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "words or behaviour that give someone confidence to do something" We could put it another way and say that in the church encouragement is expressed in words or behaviour which give our fellow Christians the strength to keep walking towards glory.
Encouragement is vital for the health of the Christian church because despite our brave faces each one of us knows that Christianity is not an easy path. The enemy is faithful and constant in his discouragement. He reminds us of our faults and belittles us in our work and causes pettiness and division to abound. What do we need when Satan tells us of our inability? Encouragement.
Brothers and sisters I challenge you to become someone who goes out of their way to encourage those around you. It might be a gentle word of thanks or appreciation. It might be a bunch of flowers or card through the door. It might be a text or email. It might be praying with someone. However you choose to do the work of encouragement, be faithful and zealous in it. The enemy is always active and we must therefore seek to be energetically encouraging.
It will require time and effort and may see you having to put aside pettiness and gripes but look around your church and remember that these brothers and sisters are people for whom Christ died. Encourage them in their walk. Help them to fix their eyes on Christ. Refresh the hearts of God's people, for in this way you will make the carried burdens of the church a little bit lighter to bear.
Q77 What is required in the ninth commandment? The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.