Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Encouraging Others to Run the Race

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Leslie Basham: You encourage others through your words and actions . . . but also by your example.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Who is going to be encouraged as they run their race, thinking back to how we ran ours?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, for Friday, May 18, 2018.

Nancy: Hi, Leslie!

Leslie: Oh! Hi, Nancy . . . what’s up?

Nancy: What’s up is, WhatsApp!

Leslie: That’s what I just asked you. What’s up?

Nancy: No, what’s app—like the word “whats” and “a-p-p”—“app.”

Leslie: What’s WhatsApp?

Nancy: You know how here in the United States when we want to communicate with our friends, we pull out our phones, and we text a message, right? Well, in Latin America the primary way of texting is through an app called WhatsApp. It’s a messaging app that people use to communicate. Does that make sense?

Leslie: So, are you here to give it your endorsement?

Nancy: Not exactly, but my point here is to share how women across Latin America are using tools like WhatsApp to spread the truth that’s setting women free!

For example, a Spanish-speaking woman wrote to Revive Our Hearts to say, “I share the program each day with a 168 women in a WhatsApp group.” So listeners are using this platform to share with others what they hear on Revive Our Hearts.

Laura Gonzalez who heads up our Spanish language ministry, Aviva Nuestros Corazones, just got back from Argentina. She met with women there who were taking Revive Our Hearts resources, reading them in Spanish into their phones, and sharing those recordings using WhatsApp.

Over the course of days, they can share an entire book with their friends! And what excites me so much is that these women are hearing and sharing the truth of God’s Word!

And it’s Revive Our Hearts listeners who help make this all possible. We’re able to keep all the outreaches of this ministry going thanks to your financial support. As you’ve heard over the last few weeks, the month of May is the end of our fiscal year.

In this “home stretch” of our budget cycle, we’re asking the Lord to provide at least $680,000 to meet the needs of the ministry. That will allow us to continue providing programs and resources that other women can share around the world using WhatsApp or other channels to get this message to places that, frankly, I never dreamed would be possible!

So if you have a heart for the mission and message of this ministry, would you ask the Lord if He would want you to give a special gift at this time to help meet this need? And if the Lord prompts your heart to give a gift at this time, give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, and of course you can also donate by going to ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: This week Nancy’s been leading us in a series called "Encouraging One Another." Yesterday, she explained why we need to be encouraging and kind even when online—using apps like WhatsApp—leaving comments and making social posts. Let’s listen as she picks that series back up.

Nancy: I want to tell you about a woman named Brenda; she is one of the greatest examples of an encourager that I know. Brenda works as a trainer at a nearby gym, and she is one of the sweet encouragers in my life!

This is an area where I really, really need encouragement! Everything (well, most everything) that she has me do when I go there (I try to go once or twice a week when I’m in town and have her help me) is stuff that I actually could do on my own at my house.

She doesn’t use a lot of machines—basically you’re working with your own body—and you know what you do there. The biggest reason I go to the gym and pay her to work with me on this is one word, and it’s the word “encouragement!” Brenda helps me press through my inertia. I dread going. I don’t look forward to it, but I always feel so good afterwards. She gets me up and going. She helps me get past my weariness, the muscle aches. 

I’ve been thinking about Brenda as it relates to this whole thing of encouragement, and what a picture it is for us of how we need to be encouraging one another in the Christian life. Let me tell you some of the things that she has said and that she does that I find encouraging.  

First of all, she told me that she tells some of her clients, “If you get your body in this door, I promise I’ll get you doing things you didn’t think you could do.” And she does that! I’m doing things today that a year ago . . . Like, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea; I’m no heavy lifter or great big exercise person or whatever, but she does have me doing things I couldn’t have imagined doing a year ago. She also is really good at pointing out how far I’ve come, which there was a long way to go!—let me just say that.

But she’ll say things like, “Your form is looking better. You’re getting stronger. You have more endurance.” She’s an encourager. She helps me persevere when I think I can’t possibly do three more reps of whatever it is we’re working on. She just keeps counting it, and sometimes she’s doing it with me. 

“One, two, three . . .” She tells me how many we’re going to do, and the last three—she just doesn’t stop—she just keeps going. I would have stopped a long time ago, but as long as she’s still counting, I’m going to keep going.

She often will show me how this or that is done; she’ll correct my form. She says, “Now if you’ll do it this way (and she shows me how it’s done), then these muscles will get more of a workout”—etc.

Then sometimes she gives me a high-five at the end of a workout, and she’ll say, “You did a great job today!” I’m feeling like, “I’m going to die! But she just told me I did a great job today!” I’m encouraged by Brenda!

She sometimes asks questions like, “How’s your eating going?” She helps me realize the practical value of going through some of these motions. You’re thinking, Where in the world would I ever have to do this?

She says, “Look, if your husband ever falls down or you fall down, you’re going to need to be able to get up, and you might be . . .” She shows me what’s the practical value of these exercises we’re going through. “Here’s why you need this and how you can use it.”

So she goes beyond just that session in the gym and asks other questions and gives other input that encourages me with the whole area of making my body a temple of the Holy Spirit and having the strength I need to do what God has called me to do.

She tailors the workout to my needs and ability. In fact, she has on a whiteboard on the wall a list from the group that comes in before me on Wednesdays. They’re called the “Wednesday Warriors.” I don’t think I’m going to be going to the Wednesday Warriors class for quite a while to come. She lists all the things they do and how many reps. The last time I was in there, it was 100 of each of these eight or ten different things! I look at that and I go, “You’re kidding! I don’t think I could do six of those!”

So she tailors the workout. Their workout she tailors to them; my workout she tailors to me. She doesn’t expect me to be a Wednesday Warrior. She expects me to do what I can do, and she helps me know what that is.

She pushes me just beyond what I think I can do, so it’s not too easy and not too hard. It can be done, but it pushes, it stretches—it stretches those muscles. She challenges me to do more and go further, and she helps me believe that it really is possible!

And one of the things Brenda does—I’ve watched her as we’ve been working together for about a year now—she gives me a vision for the future. She not only tells me how far I’ve come, she helps me do what I’m doing now, but she gives me a vision for the future that keeps me coming back. She gives me a vision of what I’m going to be able to do down the road, physically, if I will keep pressing on.

Brenda is a great encourager, and as I’ve watched her, I’ve thought we could all take some lessons from Brenda—not just about training our bodies physically, but about training our hearts and our relationships and our words to be encouragers.

We’ve talked in this series about how biblical encouragement is coming alongside someone and providing exhortation, encouragement, and comfort. Sometimes encouragement looks like: “Oh, you sweet thing, you . . .” It’s sympathy; it’s encouragement.

Sometimes it sounds like [firmly], “You need to deal with this thing in your life!” Sometimes that’s what encouragement looks like. So it can be exhortation or comfort. There are a whole range of ways that we come alongside someone and we infuse them with strength that we get from the Lord and that we help them to have as we encourage them.

So biblical encouragement reflects on the past—where you’ve come from. How beautiful to say to this young believer, “Look, I know you don’t feel like you’re very far along, but in the last year I’ve seen such growth in your life. I’ve seen you develop in these specific areas.” That’s encouraging!

And then biblical encouragement gives fresh and needed perspective on the present: “Here’s where you are; here’s what you need; here’s how to maybe correct your form on that. These are some things you can work on. This is how you’re doing right now.”

So there’s a past perspective, a present perspective. And let me say, encouragement is not just cheerleading. It can be that, but listen, the gospel is good news. What people need when they’re down or they’re sinning or they’re frustrated or they’re defeated—they need good news!

When you bring that good news, it’s not always going to be, “Oh, you precious thing!” We’re not going to act like nothing’s wrong. This is not pretending that everything’s okay when it’s not. If you want to encourage someone, you’re going to show them where they really are.

Listen, my trainer knows where my physical weaknesses are, and she works on those. She helps me work on those. She can’t do it for me, but she encourages me as I set out to do that. So she's not just cheerleading, not just telling people what they want to hear, but she's telling them what they need to hear.

You have people in your life—as I do in mine—who are playing with fire. They’re in “burning house,” and if you don’t go there with some of that hard stuff sometimes, you don’t really love them.

You’re not really going to encourage them if you just say, “Let the house burn down. Let your life go into destruction. (You’re in this self-destruct mode.)” If I just say, “Oh, sweet thing, have a happy day”—that’s not being a good encourager.

That’s why biblical encouragement is so robust. It is full-orbed. It says, “What does this person need to help them become more like Jesus?” It’s not only giving it, but it’s receiving it . . . being willing to receive constructive criticism, exhortation, people ministering the Word to our lives.

So it reflects on the past, it gives perspective on the present. And then, biblical encouragement gives a vision for the future. “This is what we’re going to be like when we see Jesus. This is what the goal is—Christ-likeness. This is my goal for your marriage. This is my goal for you as a mom.” It gives hope that this really can be true—not by self-effort, not by just working harder at the Christian life, but by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. It gives people hope that, “My life really can be different!”

I’ve mentioned over the last couple of days a couple of young college women that came to me recently—different situations—and said, “Here’s what’s going on in my life, and I need to talk to somebody. I thought maybe you could be helpful.”

And we’ve been talking, we’ve been texting and emailing. Both of these gals have made some really wrong choices, but God’s brought them to the place where they’re wanting to deal with it. They have hard work. There’s a hard road ahead in some ways because there’s a lot of damage that’s been done in some relationships. It’s not going to be easy, and I’ve told them that.

Like my trainer Brenda says to me, “This is not going to be easy. I’m not going to lie to you! If you want to sit home and eat cake, that’s a different program. (laughter) If you want to get fit and strong, this is the program you’re going to have to have.”

And I’ve said to these young women, “This is not going to be easy, but it’s worth it!” I give them hope, because there could be such a sense of shame, of guilt, of failure, that they could just say, “Look, I’m done! I’m washed up! God could never use me again. I’ll never have a healthy marriage . . .”—or whatever. That self-talk could be so destructive.

So I’m trying to give them God-talk and biblical-talk and say, “Look, the gospel is for sinners. You have sinned; I have sinned. You have these relational idols. I have these idols in my life, and here’s how God has been dealing with me about those. I want you to know that there’s hope for you to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want you to know there’s a future for you of healthy relationships with God and with others. If you will press into this now if the Lord has a husband for you, you’re going to be so much further ahead in that marriage relationship because you dealt with this now.” So, giving a vision for the future. 

I’ve had people who have done that for me. I had a daddy who did that for me. I’ve had friends who have helped me to see: “As hard as this path is right now, it’s going to be worth it! There’s future reward and gain if you will press into this.”

Now, I just took the first ten-and-a-half minutes here on my first page of notes, so I’m way behind here! But I just thought that might be a helpful perspective. I want to illustrate this out of one book of the Bible, primarily, in this session today (and maybe a couple of other passages).

As we bring this series to a close, I want you to look at the book of 1 Thessalonians with me. I never noticed, until I came across 1 Thessalonians this past week in my quiet time, while I was working on this series on encouragement. I thought, This is a book of encouragement! It’s all through this book. I just want you to walk with me through that. Now, just a little background while you’re finding Thessalonians . . .

Thessalonica was a city of about 200,000 in Paul’s day. It was the capital of Macedonia. In Acts chapter 17, Paul had traveled there on his second missionary journey along with Silas and Timothy. There were both Jews and Gentiles who were converted, and there was a new church that was planted very quickly as Paul began his ministry there.

Then the Jews who were jealous of all these people who were turning to Yeshua—the Messiah—they had Paul and his companions thrown out of the city.  So Paul’s stay there didn't last long. But Paul was still concerned for the new flock—and so he sent Timothy back some time later to see how these young believers were doing.

You read about this in 1 Thessalonians 3. And then, when Timothy left Thessalonica and rejoined Paul in Corinth, he gave a good report on how these young believers were doing. And then Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to Timothy’s report.

There were several purposes for this letter, but among them, he wanted to encourage these young believers in their faith, and he wanted to respond to some questions and concerns they had raised. He wanted to exhort them about some issues that had surfaced where they needed discipleship and sanctification. He wanted to comfort them as they faced persecution. So this theme of encouragement and exhortation is a recurring one throughout the epistle.

Look for example at chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians, verse 11. Paul says (talking about his own ministry there in Thessalonica),

You know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted [or some translations say "we encouraged"] each one of you and [we] encouraged you [or “comforted”—translations use these words “exhort, comfort, and encourage”—they trade them back and forth some . . . “we encouraged you, we exhorted you, we comforted you”] and [we] charged you [“or we implored you”]  to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (vv. 11–12 ESV).

So Paul was saying, “We were like a parent with you. As a parent encourages his children, exhorts them, comforts them, and sometimes implores and charges them, we did all of this for you so that you would live lives worthy of God who has this future for you of His kingdom and His glory.” He’s creating a vision for them.

And then, 1 Thessalonians chapter 3, verse 6. I’d love for you sometime to go and read this whole book (just five chapters) with all this in mind. But I’m just selecting out these specific verses right now.

Now Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us, as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction [Paul’s talking about what he’s going through] we were encouraged [or comforted] about you through your faith (v. 6–7).

So he’s showing them that even in the midst of persecutions and afflictions, God can give you encouragement and comfort to help keep you pressing on.

Now, one of the recurring themes in 1 Thessalonians is the return of Christ. You read it over and over again, and some of the believers in Thessalonica had died since the church had been founded there. And those who were left behind . . . I mean, Paul had only been there a short time, and they hadn’t learned all this theological stuff yet. They didn’t understand what happened to Christians when they die, and they didn’t understand what would happen to these deceased believers when Jesus returned.

They thought maybe they would miss out, these who had gone ahead, so they were confused. They were grief-stricken, and they felt hopeless. So Paul wrote this book, in part, to clear up their thinking and to encourage them about their loved ones who had died and to give them hope about their own future.

So we get to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verse 18, were Paul has talked (beginning in verse 13) about the second coming of Christ. He’s teaching them this is how it will happen. Those who’ve died before will rise up to meet the Lord in the air. 

He explains to them this familiar teaching that you often hear read at funerals (appropriately so), but they hadn’t ever heard these things before. Then he says to them after explaining what’s going to happen, look at verse 18, 1 Thessalonians 4, “Therefore encourage one another with these words”—the words about the return of Christ; he’s talking to them about a future hope. 

“You don’t need to be distraught when your loved one dies; they’re not going to miss out on being with Jesus. They’re going to be with Jesus, you’re going to be with Jesus—so encourage each other with these words!”

When we’re going through hard times—through death, through loss, through pain, through difficult circumstances—we need to focus on our future hope in Christ and encourage one another with these words. We need to remember that this moment is not it!

This is not eternal; our problems will not go on forever; Jesus is returning! Encourage one another with these words. I’m getting encouraged just thinking about that! I hope you are, too.

And then we come to chapter 5—just a quick survey of 1 Thessalonians here—and Paul gives further assurance to these Thessalonian believers who were anxious about the details of the second coming.

He talked to them about what happens to believers when Jesus comes back, but then he also reminded them that those who are not in Christ are destined to experience judgment and cataclysmic destruction! That’s an important part of the message. So he says,

[But you’re not like those people!] You are not in darkness . . . You are all children of the light . . . 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 [that is, dead] we might live with him (vv. 4–5, 9–10).

So he’s saying “If you’re in Christ, you’re not going to face the wrath of God, the judgment of God. You have been destined to obtain salvation—eternal salvation—through Jesus Christ!” And then verse 11, 

Therefore encourage [or comfort] one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (v. 11). 

I can see him as a trainer here, saying, “Keep doing what you’re doing! You’re encouraging one another. And here’s just another reason for you to keep doing that.”

So he encourages them to keep on encouraging one another by painting this picture of their future in Christ. And then in verses 12 and 13, he gives them some further exhortation. But then come down to verse 14, chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians. 

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle [the New King James says “warn those who are unruly”], encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 

Part of encouragement is having a sense of discernment of what people need.

Somebody who is unruly, who is idle, who is hardhearted—they need to be admonished. Sometimes you need to get in somebody’s face—and sometimes we need somebody to get in our face and say—“Look, you are wrong. Your lifestyle is not emulating that of Jesus.”

But sometimes people are weak and fainthearted and they need to be encouraged and to be helped. That word “fainthearted” is a compound word in the Greek that literally means “small-souled.” Their soul has shriveled up; they’ve become fearful and weak and timid and faint.

You don’t come to that person with these strong words of exhortation; you come to that person with encouragement and comfort and help—those who are despondent or fainthearted—you encourage.

Well, that’s a quick tour through 1 Thessalonians! I’m going to come back in just a few moments to another verse in 2 Thessalonians. But before I do, let me just mention two other passages that I think are important about this whole subject of encouraging one another.

First—and I’ll just give you the references; you don’t need to turn there—but I’d like to read a few of these verses to you. I want you to remember that God encourages us so that we can encourage others.

We receive His encouragement—and that which He gives us through others—so we can become an instrument and a conduit, a channel of encouragement, to others. You read about this in 2 Corinthians chapter 2 where Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and [the] God of all comfort (v. 3).

Eencouragement. It’s the same word we’ve been talking about in this whole series. The strong battery that comes alongside of that weak battery. You jump-start it; you give it juice, so that it can keep going.

He is the God of “mercies and [the] God of all comfort [or encouragement] who [encourages or] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort [or encourage] those who are in any affliction, with the comfort [the encouragement] with which we ourselves are comforted [or encouraged] by God” (2 Cor. 2:3–4).

Now that’s a lot of comfort and encouragement in those couple of verses there. But you see the point? God gives us—when we need it—comfort and encouragement so that we can be encouraged in our afflictions, but not just for that reason. It's also so we can turn around and be a channel of encouragement and comfort to others who are going through afflictions. So Paul goes on to say in the next few verses there, “When we suffer, it’s for your sake, because we want you to be able to be comforted with the comfort and encouragement that we have received from God ourselves” (see v. 7).

So I say this to you: When you’re suffering, when you’re going through a hard time, remember this is not just about you. This is about something God wants to do in you and for you, but ultimately through you to bring comfort and encouragement to others who are hurting.

And then, just one more passage here as we think about running the race of the Christian life. The writer to the Hebrews (we’ve looked at Hebrews in this series), talks in chapter 12 about being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

So he says, “Look around!” These witnesses are the ones in chapter 11—the men and women of faith who have run the race before us and have now gone on, they died in faith without fully receiving all that they had hoped to. But we're to set our eyes on the end, on the goal. And we’re surrounded by them, so look around. They’ve run their race, they’ve endured, they’ve pressed on, so be encouraged as you run your race! And as you do, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

Now, this is meant to encourage us as we look around and we see those who have gone before us. I think about my daddy. I think about Robert’s parents, whom I never had the privilege of knowing but I’ve heard so many stories about their lives. I think about my brother David whose race was finished at age twenty-two. I think about how they ran this race. I see how God encouraged them and how they finished their race well. And that gives me encouragement to want to run and finish my race well!

But it also says to me—ten years from now, a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now—who is going to be encouraged as they run their race, thinking back to how we ran our race?

You see, one of these days—not too long from now—we’re going to be in that great cloud of witnesses. Will your children, your grandchildren, younger women that you’ve mentored and discipled, others who are coming behind you, will they think back to your life and how you ran that race and that you ran it well and you finished the race? Will that encourage them as they run their race years from now?

So we look around, but then we also look up to Jesus. 

Looking to Jesus, [the author], the founder, [the] perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:2–3).

Look to Jesus so you may not lose heart, so you may not throw in the towel in your race. Don’t become weary or discouraged! And so, as you run the race, look around for encouragement; look up for your ultimate encouragement to Jesus—who has run that race and is waiting for us at the finish line!

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth in a series called "Encouraging One Another." Today’s the last day in the series, but if you’ve missed any of the teaching you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

A fifteen-year-old named Jen asked God to use her life in a powerful way and wrote that prayer in a journal. A few months later her family’s car was hit by a drunk driver, and she was in a coma. Hear Jen’s powerful story starting Monday here on Revive Our Hearts. Nancy?

Nancy: Now as we wrap this series, I want to just pray a benediction over you. It comes from 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, and it picks up again on this theme. This was Paul’s prayer for those young believers, and this is my prayer for you. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, [may He] encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word” (vv. 16–17 CSB).

And Lord, would you do that for Jesus’ sake, I pray for each of my sisters here, in Jesus’ name, amen!

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth believes in the power of encouragement. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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