Encouragement is Contageous

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Synopsis of   Encouragement is Contagious

Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite. We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the word of God. And today’s slice is a word of encouragement, a big slice beginning with:

Philippians 2: 6  And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. 7  Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done. 8  Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ. 9  For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body,

10  and you are complete through your union with Christ. He is the Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe. 11  When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure – the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. 13  You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. 14  He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. 15  In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ. 16  So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17  For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.  

Clarence Thomas who, as many of you know, is now a Supreme Court Justice, acknowledged that one of the persons who had a great influence on his life was a nun by the name of Sister Mary Virgilius Ready. Judge Thomas says it was the encouragement that he received from her that helped him to overcome poverty and racism and become someone. Newsweek magazine wrote about her and others who served in the school that Clarence Thomas attended. The article read as follows: “The nuns who lived in the black areas of town were not popular. The Ku Klux Klan once sent a hearse to the rectory to intimidate church officials. “Much like Myers Anderson, the nuns taught discipline. ‘They said you could do it,’  recalls Orien Douglas, a classmate of Clarence’s. ‘Mostly they said, ‘You will do it.””

The article went on to say, “It was the sisters’ encouragement that stood like a wall against the hopelessness that gripped many people in that community. It was the sisters’ constant words of encouragement: ‘You will succeed…We believe in you…We insist that you believe in yourself.’”

As we reflect on today’s slice of  Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we find Paul exhorting the Philippians to never allow our eyes to focus on anything except Jesus Christ. To do so is to invite disaster and distraction into our lives. To focus on the administrative machinery rather than the Lord Jesus Christ will result in a church that winds up fighting itself and demonstrating a poor testimony to the world.  We are one people through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are on the same level at the foot of the Cross.

Paul knew from first-hand experience what can happen to a church when it starts to fuss and fight amongst itself rather than join hands and work together for the common good. Paul urges the Phillipian congregation to spend all their time building each other up rather than tearing each other down. Paul wanted them to focus on encouragement rather than envy or enmity.

A distinguished Scottish preacher tells of passing a young lad on a street in Glasgow during the winter. He speaks warmly to the poverty stricken lad and inquires: “Are you cold, my lad?” The lad replies: “I was sir, until you spoke to me.” Now that was an example of encouragement’s value.

Since I believe that the danger which the Phillipian Church faced is the same challenge every church and individual Christian faces, it will do us all good to think for a few moments about the awesome power of encouragement. Paul is telling us that we can do it. We are incredible people when Jesus Christ reigns in every heart and mind.

I offer three insights for your consideration and action today.

WE MUST FIRST FOCUS ON WHAT A PERSON CAN BE IN CHRIST RATHER THAN WHAT THEY PRESENTLY ARE. LOOK FOR POSSIBILITIES–NOT PROBLEMS.

I want to share with you some of the world’s opinions about a few folks known to us:

Albert Einstein: Did you know that Albert Einstein was four years old before he could even speak? And seven years old before he could read and understand his first word? Did you know he had to be tutored in math? But today he is known as one of the most intelligent men who has ever walked our earth. So much for S.A.T scores and other measuring devices of intelligence.

Thomas Edison: Thomas Edison was told by one of his grade school teachers that he was so dumb and dull that he should clean chimneys for a living. Today he is considered one of the greatest inventors our world has ever known. We could be worshipping by candlelight rather than our electric lighting in our sanctuaries today. So much for dumb and dull people.

Ludwig Von Beethoven: Beethoven”s professor of music told his parents that a career as a musical composer was out of the question for Ludwig. He was hopeless. Imagine all of the beautiful music we would have been denied if Ludwig had listened to his critics.

Pablo Picasso: Picasso was born prematurely and was left to die by his mother on a table in the house. He was considered too sickly to make any contribution to our world.

Then I think of all of the strange characters that our Lord Jesus Christ gathered around him to be his disciples, and I think of all the men and women who through the corridors of history had been chosen to be part of our Lord’s work. Not many of them were highly regarded in the social circles of their time.

Many of these people went on to do great things because there was someone who brought encouragement and inspiration to their lives.

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Encouragement is Contagious

Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite. We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the word of God. And today’s slice is a big one beginning with:

Philippians 2: 6  And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. 7  Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done. 8  Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ. 9  For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body,  10  and you are complete through your union with Christ. He is the Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe. 11  When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure – the cutting away of your sinful nature.12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. 13  You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. 14  He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. 15  In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ. 16  So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17  For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.  

3:1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2  Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.

Clarence Thomas who, as many of you know, is now a Supreme Court Justice, acknowledged that one of the persons who had a great influence on his life was a nun by the name of Sister Mary Virgilius Ready. Judge Thomas says it was the encouragement that he received from her that helped him to overcome poverty and racism and become someone. Newsweek magazine wrote about her and others who served in the school that Clarence Thomas attended. The article read as follows: “The nuns who lived in the black areas of town were not popular. The Ku Klux Klan once sent a hearse to the rectory to intimidate church officials. “Much like Myers Anderson, the nuns taught discipline. ‘They said you could do it,’  recalls Orien Douglas, a classmate of Clarence’s. ‘Mostly they said, ‘You will do it.””

The article went on to say, “It was the sisters’ encouragement that stood like a wall against the hopelessness that gripped many people in that community. It was the sisters’ constant words of encouragement: ‘You will succeed…We believe in you…We insist that you believe in yourself.’”

As we reflect on today’s slice of  Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we find Paul exhorting the Philippians to never allow our eyes to focus on anything except Jesus Christ. To do so is to invite disaster and distraction into our lives; to focus on the administrative machinery rather than the Lord Jesus Christ will result in a church that winds up fighting itself and demonstrating a poor testimony to the world. The Lord Jesus Christ must never become a sideshow but always be the main event in the life of the church. A church can never reflect the joy of the Lord unless it is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. Today it is very obvious that we are different people.

We are young and old, male and female, rich and poor, democrats and republicans, liberal and conservative–yet, in spite of all these differences, we are one people through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are on the same level at the foot of the Cross.

Paul knew from first-hand experience what can happen to a church when it starts to fuss and fight amongst itself rather than join hands and work together for the common good. Paul urges the Phillippian congregation to spend all their time building each other up rather than tearing each other down. Paul wanted them to focus on encouragement rather than envy or enmity.

A distinguished Scottish preacher tells of passing a young lad on a street in Glasgow during the winter. He speaks warmly to the poverty stricken lad and inquires: “Are you cold, my lad?” The lad replies: “I was sir, until you spoke to me.”

A tourist wandered along the ocean shore and came upon a crowd of people standing near the water’s edge. An adventurous, lone boat-builder and sailor was about to launch a small, homemade boat for a risky trip across the sea. The small crowd which had gathered was trying to discourage the man from his adventure. “You’ll never make it,” some shouted. “You”ll die of thirst. You will run out of food. That little boat will come apart in the first storm.” After listening to the negativism for a brief time, this one tourist walked up to the group and elbowed his way to the front of the gathered crowd. He called out to the daring sailor as the boat was pushing off from land: “You are incredible. You can make it. It will be the adventure of your life. Go in safety and great care. And God go with you.”

Since I believe that the danger which the Philippian Church faced is the same challenge every church and individual Christian faces, it will do us all good to think for a few moments about the awesome power of encouragement. Paul is telling us that we can do it. We are incredible people when Jesus Christ reigns in every heart and mind.

I offer three insights for your consideration and action today.

WE MUST FIRST FOCUS ON WHAT A PERSON CAN BE IN CHRIST RATHER THAN WHAT THEY PRESENTLY ARE. LOOK FOR POSSIBILITIES–NOT PROBLEMS.

I want to share with you some of the world’s opinions about a few folks known to us:

Albert Einstein: Did you know that Albert Einstein was four years old before he could even speak? And seven years old before he could read and understand his first word? Did you know he had to be tutored in math? But today he is known as one of the most intelligent men who has ever walked our earth. So much for S.A.T scores and other measuring devices of intelligence.

Thomas Edison: Thomas Edison was told by one of his grade school teachers that he was so dumb and dull that he should clean chimneys for a living. Today he is considered one of the greatest inventors our world has ever known. We could be worshipping by candlelight rather than our electric lighting in our sanctuaries today. So much for dumb and dull people.

Ludwig Von Beethoven: Beethoven”s professor of music told his parents that a career as a musical composer was out of the question for Ludwig. He was hopeless. Imagine all of the beautiful music we would have been denied if Ludwig had listened to his critics.

Pablo Picasso: Picasso was born prematurely and was left to die by his mother on a table in the house. He was considered too sickly to make any contribution to our world.

Then I think of all of the strange characters that our Lord Jesus Christ gathered around him to be his disciples, and I think of all the men and women who through the corridors of history had been chosen to be part of our Lord’s work. Not many of them were highly regarded in the social circles of their time.

Many of these people went on to do great things because there was someone who brought encouragement and inspiration to their lives. Someone believed in them when no one else did. Paul believed in the gathering of God’s people in the Philippian congregation and encouraged them to be all they could be in Jesus Christ our Lord. Their model for encouragement was to be the Lord and to reflect His life through them.

Gert Behanna was fifty-three years old when she became aware of God. The shock and wonder of that discovery haven’t worn off after twenty years. Gert had another shock the very next Sunday when she went to church. She says, “I”d never been to church in my life and I remember how eagerly I awaited that first Sunday. I’d just had a glimpse of God Almighty–me, an alcoholic, a drug addict, rich, lonely, and miserable–already I was beginning to know what joy really was.” Gert had just accepted Christ. She was eager to attend church to meet and talk with persons who had known the love of God for many years. “What ecstatic people these long-time Christians will be!” she thought. Even though becoming a Christian was probably the happiest day of her life, she was somewhat hesitant about going to church that first Sunday. “I was afraid they would embarrass me with their love and enthusiasm,” she said.

Gert did not find the church people as loving and enthusiastic as she imagined. What she discovered was, “Bowed heads, long faces and funereal whispers.” She expected people to shower her with love and affection for making the right choice and wanting to be part of the church. But no one welcomed her. No one even spoke to her the first Sunday she went to church.

Gert writes, “As time went on and I attended other churches, in various parts of the country, I made a bewildering discovery. These long-faced, listless people were present in every congregation.” Then she asked a very good question: “How could they come into God”s presence Sunday after Sunday without breathing in the joy that danced in the very air?”

Let us remember that the theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is joy. Joy being the echo of the presence of God inside of us as believers. One of the great benefits of the joy of God is sharing with others the ENCOURAGEMENT we received when we first accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND UNITY ARE POSSIBLE IN THE CHURCH WHEN WE LOOK FOR THE COMMON GROUND OF COMPASSION RATHER THAN THE BATTLEFIELD OF COMPETITION.

I recently read of a Christian church in Oregon that provides encouragement cards in the pew rack. The members take the time before and after the worship services to write notes of encouragement to fellow members. These cards are then mailed on Monday. Can you imagine why this church is growing? Today there are people who are looking and longing for a word of encouragement. Encouragement usually happens when hands are clasped with other hands rather than rolled up in a knotted fist at each other.

Dr. John Killinger of Samford University shares the story of a woman from the Shenandoah Valley who was painting at her easel in the woods one day when she was struck by rifle shots. When she came to she was in a hospital room, her body suspended above the bed in a sling. She had lost so much blood and was in such a state of shock that the doctors were afraid to operate immediately to remove the bullets; they waited nearly a week to see if her condition would stabilize. Most of the time she lay hovering between life and death, in a state of semi-consciousness. There was one important thing she remembered. People from the church she belonged to–though she did not attend regularly–cared for her. They came in shifts and sat in the room with her, praying for her.

She could not speak, and they did not know she was aware of their presence. Later she said, “I lay there in my sling blissfully aware of their coming and going. I felt as if I were gathered up in a cocoon of love. It did not matter if I lived or died. I was part of the beloved community.”

Encouragement is like peanut butter on a sandwich. The more you spread it, the better things stick together. Robert Fulghum, in one of his heartwarming books about what he learned in kindergarten, shares what one of the teachers always shouted out when they went to the playground, “It is always better to stick together and hold hands.” There is great power in holding hands.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND UNITY ARE POSSIBLE WHEN WE RID THE CHURCH OF THAT SICKENING VIRUS CALLED SELFISHNESS.

In a certain church there was a woman whom I will name Mrs. Pat McGruffy. Mrs. McGruffy was the number-one critic of a certain pastor. If the sermon was too short, it was because he had been lazy that week. If the sermon was too long, it was because he was trying to impress the people. No matter what this poor pastor tried to do, Mrs. McGruffy was always criticizing him at the church’s administrative meetings. Finally, the pastor had had enough and went to see Mrs. McGruffy at her home. He rang the doorbell, and no one responded. He knew she was at home. He rang the doorbell again. Giving Mrs. McGruffy the benefit of the doubt, he got down on his knees to look through the keyhole to see if perhaps she had fallen on her way to answer the door. Low and behold, as he placed his eye to the hole he came face to face with this white eye peering back through the keyhole at him. The pastor shouted out, “Mrs. McGruffy, you better get up real fast, because this is the first time we have ever seen eye-to-eye.” Sure enough, Mrs. McGruffy got up and walked out the back door of her house and drove away! If you are looking for disunity and for reasons to disagree in a church, you will always find enough to do so. It is only when we take our eyes off ourselves and place them on Christ that we will ever make the Church a healthy body.

One of my favorite stories concerns a bishop who was traveling by ship to visit a church across the ocean. While en route, the ship stopped at an island for a day. The bishop went for a walk on a beach. He came upon three fishermen mending their nets. Curious about their trade, he asked them some questions. Curious about his ecclesiastical robes, they asked him some questions. When they found out he was a Christian leader, they got excited. “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another. The bishop was impressed, but cautious. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it. “What do you say, then, when you pray?” “We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.””

The bishop was appalled at the primitive nature of the prayer. “That will not do.” So he spent the day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor but willing learners. And before the bishop sailed away the next day, they could recite the prayer with no mistakes. The bishop was proud.

On the return trip the Bishop”s ship drew near the island again. When the island came into view, the bishop came to the deck and recalled with pleasure the men he had taught and resolved to go see them again. As he was thinking, a light appeared on the horizon near the island. It seemed to be getting nearer. As the bishop gazed in wonder he realized the three fishermen were walking toward him on the water. Soon all the passengers and crew were on the deck to see the sight. When they were within speaking distance, the fishermen cried out, “Bishop, we come hurry to meet you.”  “What is it you want?” asked the stunned bishop.

“We are so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name…” and then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.” The bishop was humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends, and when you pray say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.””

Those three brothers lived out in their personal lives everything that I am trying to share about the power of encouragement in the life of a believer and as that believer lives out the faith in a Christian community. Those three brothers focused on what they could be in Christ rather than what they were not.  When these three brothers were in the presence of God, joy danced in the air. The brothers had unity because they looked for the common ground rather than the battlefield. The brothers knew that when the three thought as one they had rid themselves of that deadly virus called “selfishness.” May we join our hearts in prayer today and always and raise each other into the presence of Christ. There always is encouragement for the sacred journey when we do so.

I read something recently called “You Provoke Me…and That’s Good” written by King Duncan

He began with:

A three-year-old boy opened a birthday gift from his grandmother. It was a water pistol. He squealed with delight and headed for the sink to fill it. His father was not so pleased. Provoked, he turned to his own mom and said, “I’m surprised at you. Don’t you remember how we used to drive you crazy with water guns?” His mother gave him a wicked smile and replied, “I remember!”

Has anyone here ever heard one of your parents say, “Don’t you provoke me!” Maybe it was when you had a water gun in your hand. What were they saying? Basically they were saying, “You are making me very angry.” So, you may have learned early on not to provoke your parents.

Actually, there is nothing in the Bible about children provoking their parents. However, it does say in the King James Version of Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” What a great verse. “Provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” But that’s another sermon.

Whoa, Bro. Dick, why bring up discouragement? I bring up this reading about parents provoking their children and children provoking their parents because of a remarkable verse in Hebrews 10:24 reads like this: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” That’s an interesting use of the word “provoke,” don’t you think? I never thought of provoking someone to love and good works. Usually I think of “provoke” in a negative sense. The NIV makes the meaning of this verse a little clearer. It reads like this: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another . . .”

Here is the first thing we need to see in this passage: The church of Jesus Christ is intended to be a community that encourages one another that provokes one another to love and good works. We are to provoke one another to acts of love and kindness. Is it all right if I tell a really bad joke? Because I have already spoken this message on a CD going to the radio station, I’m really not asking for permission. I’m only giving you a warning.

A guy goes into a bar. He’s sitting on the stool, enjoying his drink when he hears a voice say, “You look great!”

He looks around there’s nobody near him. He hears the voice again, “No really, you look terrific.” The guy looks around again. Nobody. He hears a voice again, “Is that a new shirt or something? Because you are absolutely great!” He then realizes that the voice is coming from a dish of peanuts on the bar. The guy calls to the bartender, “Hey, What’s with the peanuts?” The bartender answers,  “Oh….They’re complimentary.” (1)

I warned you it was a bad joke. However, don’t you enjoy being around someone who is complimentary?  What is that likely to do for you? Doesn’t it make you more apt to encourage someone else?

Some time ago there was a commercial on television. A man walking on a sidewalk sees a small child in a stroller drop a doll. The man picks up the doll and returns it to the child. The child’s mom notices this gesture, and smiles at the man. Later she sees a man who’s reading a newspaper. She notices his cup of coffee is close to the edge of the table. She quietly slides it back toward the center. Another man notices this. Later that man comes upon another man who has slipped and fallen down on the rainy sidewalk. “You all right” he asks? The fallen man waves and says, “Thanks,” and a third man notices. This third man is in the elevator as the doors are closing and he sees a woman running to catch it. He pushes the “open” button to let the woman in. The woman smiles, and another man in the elevator notices. Later he is leaving a grocery store, and he sees a pickup truck trying to parallel park but  about to hit a parked motorcycle. He bangs on the truck. “Hey, be careful.” And a woman walking by notices, etc. etc, etc, etc……

You get the idea. One good deed leads to another, then another, then another. It was a commercial for an insurance company, but, in 60 seconds, it dramatizes the fact that kindness is contagious. Like encouragement, kindness is contagious and you never know what kind of effect an individual act of kindness will have on others.

As the clock on the wall reproves me, let me come to a close with something from Columnist Leo Aikman of the Atlanta Constitution once told about a family of eight that had a nice plot with a vegetable garden bordered by lilac bushes. A tenement in back of their home was populated by people who would throw their trash old shoes, socks, and an assortment of things into that family’s garden. The sons in the family with the garden thought that these people should be told off. Their mother, though, had another idea. This woman who was an immigrant and had never gone beyond grammar school in the Old Country, and had never heard of “psychology,” told the boys to go out and pick some lilacs from their bushes. Then, she directed them to give each of the dozen families in back a bouquet, and say, “Our mother thought you might enjoy these.”

“Somehow, a miracle happened,” said the son who told Aikman this story. “No more items were thrown into our garden.” (3)  My friends, we never know where a simple act of kindness may lead.

In 1990 in San Diego a conversation took place between Mother Theresa and Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker whose infomercials once told everyone how to be rich, popular and successful. Robbins is about 6’7” and Mother Theresa was about 4’2”.

Robbins asked Mother Theresa: “How did you manage to become so successful and so famous?”

Mother Theresa looked up at him with a smile and said, “Jesus.”

Tony Robbins said, “No, I mean, how is it that you run such a huge religious institution, serve the most desperate people, travel constantly, and yet touch so many people?”

“Jesus,” she said again, with a big smile.

“No, I’m asking how you do it,” he continued. “How do you carry on with this difficult, extraordinary life, how do you speak to millions, how do you win the respect of the world, how do you manage to be one of the greatest people in the world and in the history of the world?”

Mother Theresa looked up at him and said, “Jesus.”

One observer wrote about the incident, “Tony Robbins was totally mystified. He had no idea what she was talking about. (7) Do you know what she was talking about? You do if Christ has touched your life. And the way Christ will most likely touch your life is through the influence of someone whom He has also touched. That is why we are to provoke one another to love.

So until next Sunday                same time                  same station

Remember ….. as the title of today’s message stated……Encouragement is Contagious

America Bless God                 and God WILL Bless America

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