Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Encouragement Words Part II

S‑1079 11/16/2008 27SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #446; (S) #611; (C) #508

Texts: Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Theme: “Encouraging Words ‘B’” (1 Thess. 5:11).


Question: “Are there any words you never get tired of hearing?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Epistle Lesson: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:9-11).

Saints in Christ, some times a movie is so good, that the producer and director decide to have a follow up. Movies such as: Back to the Future, Rocky, Jaws and others. These producers and directors know they have a good script and people would come and watch them. Paul, too, the producer and director of this Epistle, has great news to share, a follow up from the previous chapter to give to the Saints at Thessalonica with a Script that will help them with their lives. This news is the reason to speak of Encouraging Word Part II.

During my years of seminary training and the fifteen years I have been a pastor, I have never had the same title for same sermon back to back. Remember last week’s sermon title was “Encouraging Words ‘A’” and today’s title is “Encouraging Words ‘B’”. Why? Because the text demands it. The text of Paul highlights the emphases of encouraging one another and building each other up.

What a privilege the Lord of the Church gives us His followers to share such encouraging Words with those around us. What an honor to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others. What a blessing when we can be used by God to encourage another person to walk in the walk of faith and to know their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ better.

It is such a critical thing among Christians to be an encourager to those around us. The reason, there are so many things that just drag us down. So many things that take our eyes from the end prize, the 2nd Coming of our Savior to earth to take us with Him to heaven again. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul emphasizes these words for us: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Paul doesn’t want us to lose focus of this encouraging aspect. He knows the world and its enticements on the believer’s life. He knows the challenges we face. So many discouraging events going on in our world that we forget that God is STILL in total control and that God is working in these events to bring us to a closer walk with Him.

Watch TV, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, and all you get is but bad news. It is better if you shut the TV, radio, and quit reading the newspaper so that you don’t feel as badly. Because every time you watch, listen and read about the events in our world, we get discouraged. The stock market is in shambles, our economy is in disarray, our world’s situation is unbalanced to say the least, and we find ourselves anxious about these situations and not knowing what we need to do, or what to say.

On the one hand there are many people who are discussing the end of the world. They spend so much emphasizing this aspect that they forget about the rest of the News God has in His Word. Paul, however, highlights the implications of Christ’s Second Coming for daily living. Since we know who we are and whose we are, let us seize the day in being always prepared for the Master’s return as mentioned in our Gospel reading (Mt. 25:14-30), let us be self-controlled (5:8), and not controlled by things.

Paul admonishes us to be awake and sober. Does the world tranquilize us with its vanities and pleasures? How easy to get wrapped up in hunting, (here I am applying the law to myself), TV programs, sports, shopping, work and travel. These activities in and of themselves are fine. However, they can divert us from God’s plan for us. Satan tempts us to succumb to the sins of the night—partying, drunkenness, sexual sins and the like.

Not only that, but Paul also encourages us to put on the whole armor of God. The breastplate of faith enables us by the Holy Spirit’s power to trust God with each day’s problem and afflictions. The breastplate of love flows from faith. Love penetrates the darkness as nothing else can. The helmet of hope equips us to live soberly each day. No matter how dark the day, the hope of Christ’s return keeps the light burning.

Finally, Paul asks us, invites us and bids us to “… encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (5:11). The world discourages us and tears us down. But we have the precious Gospel message to share with one another. We know that Good News! By the grace of God we have heard it a 1000 times before. We know from Holy Scriptures that Christ died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him (5:10).

You and I as believers are blessed indeed. We are blessed more than we even know or desire; all on account of Christ’s death and resurrection. This is why Paul wants us with these words to encourage others and build them up as we have been doing. PAUSE.

On Thursday evening, I got a phone call from my son David. He said, “Dad, I have something to share with you! Today, we had ‘Parents/teacher conference.’ In his school there are two fifth grade classes. A father of child in the fifth grade not his own came to David and said: ‘Mr. Nour, are you by any chance related to Nabil Nour?’ David smiled and responded, “you bet, he is my pops!’ The gentleman then proceeded to tell David saying, “I want you to know that your father was my youth counselor at Redeemer, Sioux Falls (this is over 20 years ago) for five years. He has really had a greatest influence on my life to bring me to a closer walk with my Lord and Savior.’”

David related that story and said, “You know dad, I had goose bumps and a lump in my throat.” When David told me that story, I had wet eye and a lump in my throat too.

Those were encouraging words to me. They affirmed again what the Apostle Paul exhorts us to do in this text “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Encourage them with the message of the Good News of our salvation. Encourage them to realize that they have a God who loves them that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die and rise for them. Encourage them to know what is written in God’s holy book. Encourage them to come often to the Lord’s house and kneel at His table and receive from His hands the Good News in, with and under the bread and the wine.

Why should we do what Paul tells us? Because we are the hands and feet of Christ in this world. The message of the world is gloom and doom, pain and problems, trials and temptations. But the message of the producer and director of our text tells us otherwise. We are a people of hope. Hope anchored in the cross and the empty of Christ. Salvation given in the name of Jesus to all who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. Victory earned to by Jesus death on the cross and the empty tomb and the spoils are given to those who bow the knees before Him.

The movies producers and directors know when they have something good. When they do, they follow it up with another. So, too, does our message. We have the greatest news the world needs to hear—the salvation of our souls. PAUSE.

Beloved in Christ, as we face the end times, whether it is the end of our life in death or the end of all time, we face it with the encouraging Word that is Jesus Christ. And here is the best part; these encouraging words are here for us all the time. We hear the encouraging words of the forgiveness of sins in Holy Absolution. Encouraging words are read and proclaimed from pulpit and lectern. We taste those encouraging words as we feed on the foretaste of the eternal feast that is the Lord’s Supper.

We are awash in this encouragement. We live and breathe and pray and sing in this HOPE. And hope does not disappoint. Life will be full of things that will challenge our comfort zones, steal our peace and even raise serious doubts. But we have the answer. It comes in the Encouraging WORD that is Jesus. He is the ultimate answer to everything that would frighten us, scare us and even seek us to doubt God.

Hear these encouraging words. Take them to heart. Taste them and see. In Christ, the crucified and risen One, we have all the encouragement and hope we need. AMEN

Now the peace of God…

No comments: