Friday, February 19, 2010

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers

Good morning everyone. Have you ever met a natural encourager? I know we are all told to encourage each other and most of us really work at trying to be just that, but there are others among us who do it because it is their nature. Just being around them seems to give you new strength and hope. Some of the best leaders in the Church possess this wonderful gift that then enables people around them to do great and mighty things. Good leaders empower others to do great things. This is how I have always imagined Paul to be, a great encourager.

Consider Paul's greeting to Philemon in a very personal letter he had written to him concerning Philemon's runaway slave:

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. (Philemon 1:4-5)

Philemon was a man Paul had never met but who housed the church of Colosse in his home. Paul had never been to Colosse but was given reports by the evangelist Epaphras, who was Colossian. We know Paul would have received good and bad reports as we read of some of the good and bad things in his letter to the Colossians. In the case of Philemon Paul chose to highlight the positive. Look at what he lifted up; his faith in Jesus and his love for the church.

Have you ever had someone encourage you, just at the moment you disparately needed to be encouraged, by pointing out the things you do well? Recently there have been a number of very challenging things going on in my life that have threatened to cripple me. Some of them have been an accumulation of things and others are new to the pile of pressures I face daily. I went to our Wednesday prayer meeting this week tired, drained and feeling incredibly weak. I had no idea how I would find the strength to fight through to the end of the week. As we went into prayer I found myself forcing out prayers of petition for other people while my own problems plagued my mind and affected my heart. Then a man was called on to pray and he said he had to pray something that was on his heart. He began to pray for me.

He began to praise God and thank God for me! What? Suddenly he had my full attention as he thanked God for my faithfulness and steadfastness through the many things I have had to stand up under for the last number of years. As I listened to his very sincere prayer the Spirit started provoking things in me. How I was seeing myself in the moment changed and I began to see myself through God's eyes again. I was not some frail individual who was cracking under the pressures of many heavy burdens. I was and am a mighty warrior of faith, able to face any enemy and any circumstance and overcome it in the strength of my Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but I was and am a defender of the weak, a rescuer of the lost, a fighter for the hopeless. I could never allow anything to crush me because I had to defend the ground Jesus had given me to defend because I have faith in him and I love the Church. This man's prayer was renewing who I was and what I was called to. I was being encouraged. I left that prayer meeting with renewed purpose.

Paul was not just shooting the breeze when he wrote:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Encouragement is a big part of what we need to be doing every day for one another. We need to speak to each others strengths while we build each other up. When you read through Paul's letters you notice this common theme. Even when he sent men like Timothy and Tychicus out as postmen with his letters he sent them with the purpose of encouraging the people. As we see people doing great things we need to take the time and thank God for them and then let them know we have done so. However, it does require getting out of our own problems and taking a good look around. Even if encouragement does not come naturally to us we need to make an effort. It is when we encourage others that we are encouraged in turn by the Spirit of God. Let's face it, it is not an easy thing to do what is right, to do good, to serve Jesus in a world that is slipping further into darkness. We need each other. We need to spend the time encouraging and building each other up so we do not lose anyone as the day approaches. I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers ...

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