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Running The Race Together Part 2

June 30, 2019 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Running The Race Together

Topic: Love For One Another Passage: Luke 6:39–6:42, Colossians 3:12–3:14, Hebrews 3:13–3:13, 1 John 1:7–1:10

RUNNING THE RACE TOGETHER PART 2–

KEY QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL EXHORTER

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   June 30, 2019

Series: Running The Race Together

Note:   Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

INTRODUCTION

We have come to the second sermon in a five-sermon series entitled “Running The Race Together,” with particular emphasis on ‘together’. Scripture says that the Christian life is like a race, and it is a race that we are called to run together as fellow Christians, helping one another at each point along the way. God calls us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Mutual exhortation helps to keep us on track, and helps to prevent us from falling off the rails.

Many years ago I was part of a small group of writers who were writing daily devotionals for our church family. We met together regularly, and one writer would present his or her week of daily devotions, and the rest of us would give feedback. It was a very helpful process that allowed us to improve the quality of these devotions prior to publication. But I had a problem called pride, and I couldn’t handle the honest and helpful criticism of my writing. ‘What do you mean my three paragraphs here aren’t a stroke of genius?’ would capture my attitude. So, I was quite defensive and edgy as others sought to provide input on my work. My proud defensiveness manifested itself two or three times in a row, and at that point the group leader said to me: ‘You need to sort it out’.

Sometimes, exhorting a brother or sister is as simple as that. And yet, he had to have courage to stand with the Lord against my sin. He had to be courageous to actually admonish me to address the pride of my heart. In that moment, the leader of the writing group did his part to help me run.

The emphasis of last week’s sermon was that God calls us to help others run – to be faithful exhorters. The emphasis of this week’s sermon is on some of the key qualities that are required in order to be a faithful exhorter, a helpful counselor, an encourager who makes a real difference. What kind of person must I be in order to be effective at strengthening others in their spiritual vitality?

My sermon will proceed by way of asking five questions and by answering each question with an important principle.

QUESTION 1: ARE YOU RUNNING?

Here is the first question: Are you running? If you would help others run, then you yourself must be a good runner. This is principle #1: good runners help other runners run well. It is energetic believers who help other believers grow in spiritual passion. It is those who “[remain] steadfast under trial” (James 1:12) who are able to bring encouragement to weary sufferers. It is seasoned parents who have patiently and successfully reared their children in the faith who are able to equip younger parents to do likewise. It is resilient Christians who have long experience in saying ‘no’ to temptation who are able to strengthen the resolve of their brothers and sisters. It is those who are ‘walking the walk’ who can influence others to do likewise.

You would do well to understand that refusing to be a passionate runner is a double sin. First, it is a sin against the Lord. It is disobedience to the clear instruction of Hebrews 12 that you “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and … run with endurance the race that is set before [you]” (Hebrews 12:1). Second, refusing to be a passionate runner is also a sin against your church family. The Lord calls you to encourage and exhort your fellow Christians in order to strengthen them in their spiritual running (Hebrews 3:13). But how can you help others persevere in their running, if you are not running well yourself? How can you help others stay close to Jesus, if you yourself are not eager for fellowship with the Lord?

Brother, sister: you ought to be a positive force for holiness, love, righteousness, and truth within the church family, influencing others by your words and deeds to keep going and growing in their walk with Christ. To be this kind of positive force, you cannot be dozing off in the nosebleed section of the stadium. Instead you must be on the field of play, marshalling all your energies and gifts to follow Christ and advance His kingdom.

To any of you who are not on the field of play, I say: Wake up! Follow Jesus! And get in the game! There is a race to be run, a battle to be fought, a gospel to be proclaimed, and a church to be built up.

You do not need to be a ‘master runner’ in order to help others run. But you must be a genuine runner, a true disciple who possesses a lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  And as you continually seek to grow in your own walk with the Lord, so you ought to regularly encourage and strengthen your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Are you running?

QUESTION 2: DO YOU KNOW THAT HELPING YOUR FELLOW RUNNERS IS PART OF YOUR CHRISTIAN ‘JOB DESCRIPTION’

Now to the second question: Do you know that helping your fellow runners is part of your Christian ‘job description’? You must be convinced that the Bible tells you to help your fellow Christians run and grow and persevere. Here is principle #2: every Christian is called to the ministry of edifying, encouraging, and exhorting his or her fellow Christians. So long as you think that this is only a pastor’s job, or only an elder’s job, or only a ministry leader’s job, or only a super-saint’s job, or – if you are a young believer – only an adult’s job, but not your job, then you won’t do it. You won’t say the needful word. The needful word might be a word of encouragement, or a word of exhortation, or a word of correction, or a word of comfort.

Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to come alongside others for the purpose of speaking needful truth into their lives. In another passage, Jesus tells his disciples, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him” (Luke 17:3). Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) Paul tells the churches in Galatia: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1) Shouldn’t you be among those “who are spiritual”? Paul had just described what it means to be spiritual in the previous five verses: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control…. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-23, 25) So, you ought to be “spiritual”: alive “by the Spirit,” “[keeping] in step with the Spirit,” and bearing “the fruit of the Spirit.” And as you do so, part of your Christian job description is to gently restore your fellow Christians after they have gotten trapped in some sin. Here’s the point: you must be convinced that the Bible tells you to help your fellow Christians run. Your fellow Christians need help and support, and you are called to provide it.

QUESTION 3: ARE YOU CLOTHED WITH LOVE?

Now to the third question: are you clothed with love? Or to put it in terms of the ‘running the race’ metaphor: do you care deeply about your fellow runners? It is one thing to be armed with truth, as you certainly must be, if you’re going to come alongside your brothers and sisters and help them push back the enemy and put sin to death. You must be armed with biblical truth; you must be ready to wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), for the benefit of your fellow Christians who are alongside you on the battlefield. But as crucial as this is, I have another concern at the moment: are you clothed with love?

Here is principle #3: faithful exhorters are full of love for the people they are seeking to help. The New Testament teaches us that our most basic responsibility to one another as fellow Christians is to love one another (e.g., John 13:34-35). Love is the root of all that we ought to do for each other, including encouragement and exhortation. If you would be effective at helping other Christians persevere in their running, then you must clothe yourself with the Christlike attitudes of love that are set forth in Colossians 3:12-14. Paul writes,

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Colossians 3:12-14 is not addressing the specific issue of encouraging and exhorting one another, but it is certainly relevant. After all, our entire life – including our ministry to one another – is to be conducted in the Christ-like character described in this passage.

Think about it like this: Jesus said that after the first and greatest commandment to love the Lord our God with our entire being (Matthew 22:37), the second most important commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Loving your neighbor encompasses all that we ought to do for our neighbor, including correcting, encouraging, instructing, or warning our neighbor, including the neighbor who is our fellow Christian and part of our church family. But the rule is “love your neighbor as yourself” (italics added) – in other words, to love your neighbor in the same way that you love yourself. The well-known golden rule expands this idea: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Now let’s think this through: Do “you wish that others would” seek your spiritual good? I hope so! And in what manner would you like them to come to you? Would you like your would-be encourager to come to you with compassion and kindness, or with a mean and bitter spirit? Would you like your would-be exhorter to come to you humble and meek, or arrogant and harsh? Would you like your would-be helper to come to you patient and forbearing, or impatient and easily offended and ready to let you really have it? Would you like your would-be strengthener to come to you disposed to forgive and restore, or rather ready to hold a grudge and condemn you? Would you like your would-be corrector to come to you full of love for you, or full of self and ready to beat you down?   

It should go without saying that the content of our encouragement, and the content of our exhortation, and the content of our instruction, and the content of all that we say, must be right – in other words, we must be armed with truth, so that the truth might be faithfully spoken and wisely applied. But note well that the point of being armed with truth is to deploy it for your brothers and sisters, not against them. The good exhorter comes to slay the beasts, not the brothers; to topple the sins, not the sisters. For this very reason, the good exhorter knows that when it comes to giving spiritual support to one another, it is not enough to be in the right and it is not enough to say what is right. The manner in which you come is a great matter, and the manner in which you come should be a gracious one, clothed in the depths with compassion, humility, gentleness, and love.

What we really need are tenderhearted and toughminded Christians. By toughminded, I mean the virtue of having doctrinal and moral clarity along with the courage to speak it forth. By tenderhearted, I mean the virtue of having and feeling true love and sympathy for your brothers and sisters, and therefore being gentle in your approach. We do not need ‘love-without-truth’ people over there and ‘truth-without-love’ people over here. We need ‘love-and-truth’ people who do what? Who “[speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)!

QUESTION 4: ARE YOU ADDRESSING YOUR OWN SIN IN THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL OF GOD’S GRACE?

One of the tests as to whether you are properly armed with truth is whether you are using that truth against your own sin. He is a hypocrite who hates other people’s sins, but not his own. This leads in to the fourth question: Are you addressing your own sin in the light of the gospel of God’s grace? Or to put it simply: Are you in the process of becoming a better runner? If you would be effective at helping other Christians stand firm against temptation and lay aside sin so that they can run with endurance, then you yourself must be taking a clear stand against your own sin and resisting your own temptations to sin. Here is principle #4: You must be repenting of your sin, and doing so on the basis of God’s grace, before you can help your brothers and sisters repent of theirs. This is just one specific example of the general principle that it is only good runners who can help other runners run well. But we need to shine the light of specificity on the issue of repentance, because Jesus brings it up in the context of our ministry to other people.

Learning from Luke 6:39-42

So let’s look at Luke 6:39-42. Holy Scripture says:

“He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:39-42)

Notice four things about this passage.

First, the passage begins with a blind man leading a blind man (v. 39) and concludes with a man who sees clearly and who is thus able to take the speck out of his brother’s eye (v. 42). This is a powerful contrast. It is the difference between impaired ministry and effective ministry. One is moving others toward a pit, while the other is moving others toward greater spiritual health.

Second, it is inevitable that when we minister to other people, we will influence people in the same direction that we ourselves are moving. In verse 39, the blind man is headed toward a pit, and he influences the other blind man to follow him right into it. In verse 42, the man who has succeeded at removing a log out of his own eye so that he sees clearly, is now in a position to remove the speck out of his brother’s eye so that his brother can see that much more clearly. In both instances, we are influencing people to move in the same direction that we are moving.

Jesus highlights this general principle in verse 40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” In the context of verses 39-42, the teacher is whoever is attempting to teach and lead others. The first blind man is the teacher, and the second blind man is the disciple. The man who eventually takes the log out of his own eye is the teacher, and his brother is the disciple. It is inevitable that a diligent disciple will become like his teacher. It is for this very reason that the second blind man of verse 39 fell into a pit: he was following his teacher very closely, right off the cliff! A ‘good student’ indeed! Likewise, the second brother of verse 42 will indeed be helped by the first brother who has taken the log out of his own eye.

To put all this in terms of running, the message is clear: if you succeed at helping others run, then – for better or worse – their running will look remarkably like yours. If your ‘running’ is graceless, nit-picky, and self-impressed, then that is the sort of running you will encourage. If your ‘running’ is fearful legalism and dutiful moralism fueled by large doses of guilt, manipulation, and social pressure, then that is the kind of community that you will help to nurture. If your ‘running’ is all head and no heart, or all emotion and no doctrine, or all outward action and no inward transformation, then that is the kind of runner you will reproduce. On the other hand, if your running is gracious, large-hearted, Bible-saturated, and thankful for Jesus, then that is the sort of running you will encourage. The runners that you influence will bear a striking resemblance to you. Is that a good thing? Well, it depends on what kind of a runner you are. And in verses 41-42 Jesus directly addresses a particular kind of defective runner, and counsels him to become a diligent runner who will then be useful to others.

Third, you must be in the habit of addressing your own sin, before you can help other people address their sins. The truth is that you are unhelpful to others when you are not aware of and addressing your own sin. In verse 41, the man is doubly blind: first, he “[does] not notice the log that is in your own eye”; and second, he is therefore unable to properly see the brother who has a speck in his eye.

There is a very colorful and somewhat humorous situation going on in verses 41-42, and yet it points to a situation with deadly serious implications. The man who has a log in his eye has a sense of focus that is all wrong: he is putting his brother under the microscope, but he refuses to deal with obvious sin in his own life. He is opposed to your sin, but he isn’t opposed to his own sin. His sense of proportion is out of whack: he is dutifully concerned about the minor sin in his brother’s life, but unconcerned about the major sin in his own life. His ability to help you is seriously impaired: how would you like it if your eye surgeon had large wooden beams coming out of his eyes? This wouldn’t inspire confidence! You would rightly conclude that there is no way he can adequately perform surgery on your eyes, there is no way he can remove tiny specks from your eye, if logs are coming out of his eyes. And not only is his ability to help seriously impaired, but the description may invite us to think about how dangerous such a person is: how would you like it if your dear Christian friend was running at you with great urgency to remove specks from your eye, and it so happened that he had two two-by-fours protruding dangerously from his own eyes? You would say: ‘Dear friend, I don’t deny that I need some help, but I would really appreciate it if you got those two-by-four clobbering devices out of your own eyes before you attempt to help me’. Blind leaders are dangerous indeed, because they lead you into a pit (v. 39).

The man or woman who is not addressing his or her own sin first, is hypocritical when he or she attempts to help others address their sin. And Jesus calls out the hypocrisy: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is  in your own eye? You hypocrite….” (v. 42) If you are not in the habit of addressing your own sin first, if you are blind to your sin and by your sin, then you are in no shape to help others grow in the grace of Jesus and make progress in holiness.  

So far, so good. But there is a fourth thing to notice about Luke 7:39-42 that we must not fail to see: we actually ought to be the kind of people who help others address their sins. It is at this very point where some of us get tripped up: we assume that we are perpetually stuck in the condition of having a log in our own eyes, and thus permanently prevented from helping others address the sins in their lives. We feel the pressure of the accusation: who do you think you are to help others run when you’re such a pathetic runner yourself? What makes you think that you are holy enough to help me? And so we go on our merry individualistic way, believing that we’ll never be of much spiritual good to other people. But do you really think that Jesus’ point is that we should never help others address and overcome their sins? It cannot be! Not only does Jesus elsewhere tell us to rebuke our brothers when they sin (Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3), not only does the rest of the New Testament tell us to admonish and encourage and exhort and warn other people (1 Thessalonians 5:14), but also in this very passage Jesus tells us that we ought to be in a position to help others overcome their sin. Jesus tells the hypocritical and blind speck-remover to become a clear-eyed speck-remover:

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (v. 42)

Friends, Jesus came in order to bring you out of the darkness and into the light; He came to bring you out of hypocrisy and into the genuine pursuit of holiness; He came to heal blindness so that every disciple can see clearly enough to help his fellow disciples make progress on the path of righteousness.

Putting 1 John 1:7-10 alongside Luke 6:39-42

It is helpful to put 1 John 1:7-10 alongside Luke 6:39-42. John helps us to understand what it means to see clearly. He writes:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:7-10)

“[Walking] in the light” means, among other things, that you see things clearly, because God’s light is shining on you and all around you. You see the reality of your sin: you do not deny it, but you confess it. You also see the reality of Jesus’ blood: you do not wallow in guilt and shame, but you receive and enjoy His forgiving and cleansing grace. When you combine this passage with the Luke 6 passage and with the other passages that call us to exhort and encourage one another, here’s the picture that you get of a good exhorter.

A Description of a Good Exhorter

A good exhorter is humble: he knows that he, of all people, is a great sinner who is guilty of all kinds of sins. He is not impressed with himself. He knows that if he had been left to himself, he would have been profoundly unable to do spiritual good to anyone else. He knows that sin wasn’t just something that he dealt with twenty years ago, but that it is also something that he dealt with twenty minutes ago, and he will be dealing with it again this evening. He knows that if the Lord’s grace was taken away from him, he would quickly descend into a world of sin. He agrees with the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.”[1]  

A good exhorter is not only humble, but also grateful: he knows that he is forgiven and cleansed on account of one thing and one thing only – the precious blood of Christ, shed for him on the cross. He has absolutely nothing to be proud of, and he isn’t. He stands in awe of God’s grace. He is also grateful because he knows that even the ability of taking the log out of his own eye is a gift of grace. We really are called to slay sin, and Romans 8 teaches us that we do this “by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13). The Holy Spirit changed his heart decisively in regeneration, continues to renew and transform his heart day by day, and empowers him to put away sin and pursue a holy life.

A good exhorter, precisely because he is humble and grateful, is a gracious exhorter. Precisely because he knows what a great sinner he is, and how God’s grace is the sole cause of his ongoing transformation, he doesn’t look down on you and isn’t interested in scoring points against you. But he is interested in helping you: a good exhorter really wants to help you to keep running and progressing on the path of holiness. And, knowing how dependent he is on God’s grace, he’s happy to have you return the favor. A good exhorter is humble and gracious.

Further, precisely because he knows that Christ is his only hope, a good exhorter points you to Jesus, and to the cross, and to the promise of the gospel, and to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and to all the wisdom of Holy Scripture. He doesn’t treat you like his own personal project. He knows that you are God’s project, and he quite likes it that way. A good exhorter knows that if he managed to fix you up, it would all come tumbling down next week. So, good exhorters want to be – as Paul Tripp’s book title puts it – “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands’.[2] Good exhorters gladly take the words of Paul upon their own lips: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) Good exhorters regard themselves as your humble servant sent by God to help you, and their message to you is not do-it-yourself religion. Whatever the particular issue may be, they encourage you to look at Jesus and lean into His grace and listen to His Word and let His Holy Spirit produce growth in your life.

QUESTION 5: ARE YOU BUILDING MORE AND BETTER RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE CHURCH FAMILY?

Now to the fifth question, which is not unrelated to the previous points: are you building more and better relationships within the church family? Are you getting to know your fellow runners? This is a necessary and important addition to the point I made last week that on the basis of Hebrews 3:12-13, you don’t need anyone’s permission to speak a word of truth into their lives. And this is true indeed: you don’t need my permission to speak truth into my life, and you don’t need the permission of others to speak truth into their life, because God has commanded us to exhort and encourage one another. You do not need my permission to act where God through Scripture has already commanded you to do so – and since you have divine authorization to exhort and encourage your brothers and sisters, including me, their permission or my permission is ultimately irrelevant. Speak boldly, my brother – speak courageously, my sister – and may the one who hears have the grace to hear profitably.

That said, we return to the importance of “[loving] your neighbor as yourself” or doing to others “whatever you wish that others would do to you.” Generally speaking, spiritually weighty conversations that involve correction and reproof, or admonishment and warning, or exhortation and counsel, or encouragement and comfort, are more effective within the context of a mutual loving relationship. The mutual loving relationship is not absolutely necessary, but it is helpful. Generally speaking, you will have more of my ear, and longer, if I know you and if I know that you know me and value me and care for me. So here is principle #5: getting to know people will make your ministry to them more effective. Probably no one is going to disagree with this principle, but are you living it?

Some years ago I approached a man about a relational dynamic that I had observed. He was married but had a difficult marriage. He attended church but his wife didn’t. Another woman was attending church, and I noticed that this man and this woman were friendly with one another, and that he was sometimes sitting next to her during our worship service. What would you do? You see, here’s the reality: Hebrews 3:13 says that we ought to “exhort one another every day” in order to prevent spiritual shipwrecks from taking place. The best time to address a potentially wayward situation is early on, isn’t it? Why wait until he comes and tells me that he is seeking a divorce and plans to marry this other woman? Do you think he’s going to change his mind at that point? He might, but a churchgoing man like him would have already gone through a self-justifying process before reaching that decision, and he would have already been seriously compromised by the deceitfulness of sin. So, why not nip it in the bud? Of course, I didn’t know if there was actually anything to be concerned about. I didn’t know if it was simply two adults being appropriately friendly within the safe context of a church gathering, or if there was more going on. What would you do?

Well, here’s what I did: I asked him about it. I didn’t accuse him, but I also didn’t turn a blind eye to a potential problem. If a professing Christian is offended when you make an honest and reasonable inquiry into their life, guess what? That response speaks volumes about their spiritual condition. On the other hand, it stands to reason that a faithful, humble, grateful Christian would not be offended when a brother or sister makes an honest and reasonable inquiry into their spiritual health. Healthy Christians want to be holy, and therefore they are not put off when other people seek their holiness. So, I asked this parishioner, who was also a friend, about this matter. He was not offended by my inquiry. He responded humbly and graciously and non-defensively to a serious question. He explained the situation, and as it turns out there wasn’t anything to be concerned about, although he took the conversation as an encouragement to be more careful about his conduct.

Now here’s the point I want to make: I knew this man. I had a meaningful personal relationship with him. There was a context of love, respect, and trust in which to ask a difficult question and give an honest answer. Strong relationships make mutual exhortation more effective!

When you think about the very practical aspect of loving one another; and the instruction of Philippians 2:2 to be a congregation that is bound together in mind, heart, and soul; and the instruction of Colossians 2:2 that our hearts ought to be “knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2), then it seems prudent to build more and better relationships within the church family. And you should do this for many reasons, but the point of this sermon is that one reason you should do so is in order to strengthen the ministry of mutual exhortation and mutual encouragement that ought to be taking place and prospering within this church family. If you strengthen the relational bonds with your fellow believers, then you will be better equipped to give encouragement to them, and they will be better equipped to give encouragement to you – and this is a good thing, because God has ordained mutual encouragement as a safeguard against the encroachments of sin.

And if any one of you is thinking – ‘Huh! That’s why I don’t build relationships with people, because I don’t want that kind of depth, I don’t want that kind of accountability, I don’t want that kind of responsibility!’ – I must say: do you realize how spiritually immature that way of thinking is? God the Father Almighty calls you to do some real spiritual good to others, and He calls others to do some real spiritual good to you, and you’re going to opt out, you’re going to say ‘No, thanks’, you’re going to run away from your responsibility to help others run and to let them help you run? “[Lift] your drooping hands” (Hebrews 12:12)! “[Strengthen] your weak knees (Hebrews 12:12)! “[Make a straight path] for your feet (Hebrews 12:13)! And do all that Scripture commands, including this great thing called encouraging and exhorting your brothers and sisters.

A FINAL WORD

In 1 Samuel, David was on the run from the wicked king, Saul. Saul was chasing David and plotting to kill him. David and his men had to leave one town, and so “David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness” (1 Samuel 23:14). David was trusting in the Lord and relying on the Lord’s mercies, and yet the Lord created us to need and receive encouragement from one another. Jonathan, the son of Saul, was very much unlike his father. Jonathan’s loyalty was rightly bound to David, whom God had anointed to become the future king. “And Jonathan,” Scripture tells us, “rose and went to David…, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel”” (1 Samuel 23:17). Jonathan exhorted David to “not fear,” and he anchored his exhortation in the reality of God’s promise to establish David as king. One runner helped another runner to keep running.

My brothers and sisters: go and do likewise!

Let us pray.

 

ENDNOTES

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.

[2] Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002.

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