Philippians 4: 4 reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” Not a bad verse to reflect upon at the beginning of each day! There is reason for believers to REJOICE regardless of the circumstances that prevail in our lives. We have REASON to rejoice in and through Christ Jesus, and – under His light, it is INDEED, “all good!”
When I recall these words, I am always reminded of the verses before it where Paul urges people in the church to help some women that are not living in harmony. He admonishes the church members to “help these women” see the error of their ways and live/work/serve in harmony. THEN he says, REJOICE in the LORD always. There is an imperative in his words!
There’s a familiar hymn we sing, "Count Your Blessings.” In part, it reads:
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
There's wisdom for all of us in that old hymn! Sometimes life becomes so hectic. Trials and troubles push their way into our lives and we become overwhelmed with the “stuff of life.” Our focus becomes the circumstance and not the God who has promised to walk with us and sustain us in and through EVERY circumstance. When we focus on our problems, we lose sight of the good things in our lives. We “miss” God’s hand at work in the midst of our circumstance.
It is as though we are under a gigantic cloud that blocks out the sun. We get irritable, depressed, and worst of all, we lose all perspective. At times like this, we need to MAKE time to “count our blessings,” review all the reasons God has given us for rejoicing.
For me, I have discovered I start playing my “poor, pitiful me” collection at times when I should NOT be discouraged at all – right after a “spiritual high.” That’s why my life needs the spiritual constant of time alone with God DAILY!
If you are under the cloud today and about ready to pull out your “poor, pitiful me” collection, instead make the deliberate choice to COUNT your blessings! It WILL surprise (astonish, amaze, astound, blow you away) what the LORD has done! Try not to grumble and complain. Count your blessings instead. Below is a list to get you started – just reflect upon these truths and allow them to spark other reasons to praise Him this day:
God has indeed blessed us! It IS ALL good, because Jesus IS LORD!
“He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people and finally arrived in Greece” Acts 20: 2
Acts 19 reflects a near riot situation in Ephesus. There was much confusion. Acts 20: 1 records that after “the uproar had ceased” (NASB), Paul called for the believers in Ephesus and “exhorted them.” It is recorded that he went throughout the area, for a period of 3 months at least, and encouraged those in the faith. Truth is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another is the “gift” of encouragement. Whether our role is a friend, coach, mentor, parent, or some other position with another, we can give others encouragement.
That is exactly what Paul did as he traveled throughout the area on his way to Macedonia. The impression I have from reading this account is that Paul was completely unhurried, taking as much time as was needed -- never rushing. Luke, the author of Acts, expresses it this way: "and finally [Paul] arrived in Greece.” He writes this almost as if he was wondering if Paul would ever arrive at his destination. There is the picture for me that Paul, the servant of the Lord, took TIME to meet the needs of others in the ministry of encouragement.
Look around you today! You will encounter persons in your life and their greatest need for today may simply be a word of encouragement. That simple act of taking the time to exhort them could make a world of difference!
In recent days, my path has been “interrupted” with people experiencing life. The illness of loved ones (sometimes more serious than others); the death of a mother; perplexities about “next steps” in ministry decisions; anxiety about problems, pressures, and situations in their lives; whether they should speak out or remain silent on issues within their church, etc. etc. I could have taken the lead and given my counsel – and there were situations when/where I did, or I could LISTEN, encourage them to remain faithful/trust the Lord, and pray with them. Taking the time—being there for them—LISTENING to them—and praying with them seemed to be what they needed most. The ministry of encouragement goes a long way in helping people go forward in obedience to God.
In addition, I have discovered (been reminded) of a couple of other things while doing this “ministry of encouragement.” First, there is a real blessing to the encourager by being faithful in this ministry. When we STOP and listen, it not only encourages the one seeking our counsel, it helps us to realize how God can use us in His ministry. In other words, it serves as an encouragement to ourselves as we experience the faithfulness of God in our sharing.
A second discovery – a real significant reminder - in order to REALLY encourage someone (not superficially); it's critically important to focus and clear out all distractions. My life is FILLED with distractions – smart phone reminders of upcoming appointments; telephone calls and emails that need to be answered/addressed; pressing decisions that need to be made and programs/trainings/sermons that need to be prepared, BUT what is needed most is that I “drop everything” and minister to the need of this one person that is in need of the Lord’s touch at this moment through me. In this passage, I see Paul taking the time to encourage---there were pressing needs in Macedonia, but there was the pressing need of encouragement to burdened souls as he went. As we go, there are people who need us to give them words of encouragement – the precious gift of our time!
How do you handle your opportunities to encourage others? Are there people you know right now who could use some time and attention? Will you pick up the phone? Will you clear from your life the distractions that keep you from being a blessing to others? Will you allow God to use you today in the ministry of encouragement?
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!