by Mark Conner

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” [Paul-1 Thessalonians 5:11. NLT]

We all thrive on praise and encouragement. It motivates us and brings out the best in us.  Encouragement is like oxygen to the soul.
Encouragement can be given in various forms-listening (James 1:19), empathy (Romans 12:15), comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) and words of appreciation.

Jesus is a great encourager.
The book of Acts gives us three specific examples of Jesus going out of His way to encourage Paul in his life and ministry.

The first example is when Paul had been ministering in Corinth with good results but also with much opposition.
Jesus appeared to Paul at night through a dream to encourage him.
He said, “Keep it up and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to hurt you.
You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.” [Acts 18:9-10. MSG].
What was the result of this encouragement?
Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months and established a flourishing church and reached out to the surrounding regions of Achacia (2 Corinthians 1:1).

The second example is when Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem because of his witness about Lord Jesus.
There was much opposition and antagonism directed at him the religious leaders and the Jewish people. 
Jesus appeared again to Paul at night to encourage him. He stood near him and said, ‘It’s going to be all right.
Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for Me here in Jerusalem.
Now You’re going to be  My witness in Rome!”[Acts 23:11. MSG]
The result?
Paul went on to preach the Gospel in Rome. God preserved him from a death plot, shipwreck, imprisonment and many other difficulties.

The third example is when Paul finally made it to Jerusalem, barely escaping losing his life, and was then on the way to Rome as a prisoner on board a ship (see Acts 27).
Just to make things worse, they encountered very bad weather and lost a lot of time.
Despite Paul’s warning of further disaster, they kept sailing and were hit by a terrible storm, which caused the ship to lose control.
Jesus sent an angel to tell Paul, “Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet-and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.” [Acts 27:23-24. MSG]
As a result, Paul was able to encourage the other 276 passengers and bring them all to safety after two weeks on the wild sea.

Here are a few lessons we can glean from the encouragement that Jesus gave to Paul:

1. Understand that life and ministry can be both fulfilling and challenging (frustrating).
This is a fact! There will be times of pressure, storms, obstacles and opposition.
God is building His church and it involves a spiritual battle (Matthew 16:18-19;11:12).
Expect it and don’t let it surprise you or stop you. Get used to it but don’t be afraid.
Don’t allow other people, opposition or difficult circumstances to intimidate you.
Persevere in doing the right thing because God is with you. You will make it if you just hold on (Gal 6:9-10. 1 Corinthians 15:58).

2. Recognize that God is in control.
God wants us to take courage-to not fear or doubt.
Though everything around you seems to be falling apart, remember, God is in control (Romans 8:28).
Nothing happens to you without God being aware of it and permitting it to happen.
God is working all things together for our ultimate good that His ultimate purpose might be achieved.

3. Know that God is pleased with faithful obedience.
If you’re doing what God asked you to do with the best of your ability, know that He is pleased with you and your efforts.
You’ve done a good job. God is proud of you. You’re learning, growing and applying yourself. You’re doing great!
Don’t minimize what you’ve done or how well you’re doing. God is pleased with you (Matthew 25:21. Hebrews 6:10).

4. Believe that the best is yet to come.
Live with a sense of anticipation. You’ll do a better job yet. God’s purpose for you will be fulfilled and you will reach your destination.
It’ll happen because God has planned it and ordained it. Keep a positive optimistic attitude about the future.
Your work is not in vain, but will bring a great harvest. Everything will turn out for the best.
Have a positive attitude of faith and hope about the future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Be encouraged… and don’t forget to pass it on!

Posted May 3, 2014 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Inflections, Mark Conner

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