Synopsis of Encouragement is Contagious
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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. ghts. 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 Philippian 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.”
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.
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