By Jim Olsen
I contend it’s a western mindset that makes us miss some of the great principles of the Bible. Two examples are the principles of faith and receiving. Faith is a substance, but it’s a substance of things unseen, sort of a mystery to a western mind. When you pray, believe you have received it (present or past tense) and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). Receiving before actually receiving does not make our logical minds happy. The same mindset is used when Paul describes the gift of encouragement in Romans 12:8 “if it is encouraging, let him encourage.”
In English, encouraging denotes an action, an action separated from the encouragement itself. For instance, if I were to pray for person grieving the loss of a loved one, I might ask God to give them a vision of heaven. For westerners, the vision of heaven would be classified as the encouragement. Although that’s solid Biblical truth, there’s a flavor of the gift encouragement that is lost to the English reader. It’s found in the definition of the Greek words translated encourage, paraklesis and parakaleo. In addition to encourage and comfort, they both also mean ‘urge, plead or ask.’ So, the Greek reader understood that encouragement is found in persistent asking, regardless of the outcome.
So let’s start out by looking at this fascinating concept; what the Bible says about encouragement and comfort. It starts when we are born again, taken out of what is described as a kingdom of darkness; given new eyes to see things that are spiritual. We now no longer wander around wondering what life is all about; Jesus is our source of life and our goal is his heavenly kingdom. Christ becomes our encourager.
Tonight’s key verse is Phil 2:1 “Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.”
We’re considering two Greek words tonight, a noun, paraklesis and verb, parakaleo, in Rom 12:8 “if it is encouraging (parakaleo), let him encourage (paraklesis).” Both words are compound words and, their roots literally mean ‘to call near.’ They are translated encourage, comfort, urge, or beg depending on the context. The gift of encouragement is not specifically defined anywhere, but rather is contained within the gift of prophesy; which is meant to send encouragement to the church, along with edification, comfort and instruction.
1 Cor 14:3 “But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, encouragement (paraklesis), and comfort.” 1 Cor 14:31 “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged (parakaleo).”
It’s in the trials and challenges of life when you need encouragement the most. The goal of a Christian’s life is to surrender everything to God. That means a change of mental attitude. In the past, walking without eyes to see the truth, you may have considered these hard times as bad, some of you have cursed God whenever things go wrong. But, when God’s truth overtakes you, you have a new sense; that your life is in God’s hands now. Jesus is Lord and the trials and tribulations you go through are not meant to hurt you, but help you partake of God’s presence. It may be difficult to understand, but things such as love, peace and joy are tested by receiving them in the midst of hardship. Think about it. If these three exist in the darkest night, on the worst days, then they are real. If love, peace and joy turn to hatred, strife and misery just because you are having a bad day, it means they are not real fruit, they are just emotions. So, ask the Lord for his attitude toward trials which is encouragement, even considering them ‘pure joy.’
Heb 12:5 “And you have forgotten the exhortation (paraklesis) that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you” Jam 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Now, let’s look at how encouragement is translated as asking, urging and begging. Jesus’ ministry of healing can be taken both as physical realities or spiritual metaphors for how he works in our lives; how he touches us. In Mark 1:39, we are told of a leper who comes to Jesus and begs (parakaleo) him to be made clean. Take a moment and read this carefully: A man was encouraged and comforted when he asked Jesus to cleanse him of his leprosy. It’s exactly the way faith works: you believe you’ve received it, even if it’s not apparent immediately or if… I dare say… you have to keep on asking for a very long time. The point is: Don’t quit praying, asking, begging, knocking, seeking – no matter what circumstances look like, no matter what trial you are going through. Asking is encouragement!
This verse has a powerful physical and spiritual metaphor of what Christ can do in your life. Spiritually, we are all lepers. We’re all sin-stained and have spiritual skin that’s stained and sore. Leprosy was a lonely life. You couldn’t get close to anyone; you were isolated outside the village. I’m sure the condition was extremely painful, as skin just started to disintegrate before your eyes. When Jesus touches our life, he brings with himself cleansing, purifying power; the power to say no to things that hurt you, washing away your sin and making you a brand new child in Christ.
Mark 1:40 “Then a leper came to Jesus, begging (parakaleo) on his knees: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and the man was cleansed.”
So, this is a call to be bold and persistent in your prayers. As I see it, thankfulness in and for every situation is a goal to becoming mature in Christ. Any other option means you complain, at least in some way, for the problems you encounter. I say… be bold and brave enough to say, “God is completely in control, I don’t have to understand; I have to be thankful for everything that comes my way.” Here’s another example of where begging was used of encouragement. Asking to touch the fringe of his garment; it’s like asking to have joy no matter where you are. Encouragement found in the asking.
Matt 14:34 “When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding region. People brought all the sick to Him, 36 and begged (parakaleo) Him just to let them touch the fringe of His cloak. And all who touched Him were healed.”
Begging isn’t limited to us humans; the Father also pleads. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father uses the same method of encouragement to the son that didn’t wander. The older son was upset that he wasn’t the center of the party; after all, he worked all these years, never strayed. But the son didn’t see the big picture. Our father wants children; that’s what the good news is all about, calling everyone to come in. The father’s pleading, parakaleo, should be a reminder to every believer that God himself encourages us. We are always with him; all that he has is ours, thanks to what Jesus has done. Everyone who believes is a son and an heir of God.
Luke 15:25 ”Meanwhile the older son was in the field, and as he approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has returned,’ he said, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 The older son became angry and refused to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him… 31 ‘Son, you are always with me,’ the father said, ‘and all that is mine is yours.”
To sum it up, encouragement comes directly from a relationship with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s saving power will be tested in your life, in the form of Fatherly disciple, which we need to be thankful for; that is what sets us apart from the world. Encouragement comes from the asking; we need to let the answer to our prayers be in God’s hands.
2 Thes 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who by grace has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 encourage (parakaleo) your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.
Definitions are from InHisVerse Bible (IHV) - www.InHisVerse.com.
Copyright © 2019, 2020, Jim Olsen, Olsen's Apps LLC, All Rights Reserved
Bible Quotations From: The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, BSB (BereanBible.com). Copyright ©2016, 2019 by Bible Hub. Unless Otherwise Noted.