By Jim Olsen
Let’s take another look at the charisma gift of encouragement, this time using different scriptural references. The Greek word for encouragement is best described as having a circular definition, where asking is the encouragement itself, regardless of the outcome. We’re studying Romans 12:8 “If it is encouraging (paraklesis), let him encourage (parakaleo).” Like many concepts of the faith, we do not need our five senses to receive his blessing; we have it because we ask for it.
Last week, we went through the Greek words translated encourage, paraklesis and parakaleo. They are compound Greek words and together form a word meaning “to call near.” The words mean comfort and encouragement, as well as meaning urge, plead or ask. Lost to the English reader is the concept that asking and pleading God for your needs result in encouragement and comfort, regardless of the outcome. The reverse of that; not praying or asking God for your desires, can lead to quick and serious depression.
Tonight’s key verse follows. Notice how it says to not receive God’s grace in vain. Grace, charis, means “sweetness, that which affords joy, graciousness” – Grace is as if a table is prepared for us to dine a beautiful meal. Taking grace in vain literally means thinking that grace is empty. You see, there are two places to live; you can either live in sin or be saved by grace. Sin is that ugly, angry, thief that every human is born alongside and lives in; eventually it eats you up. Grace is a totally different world, a land where beauty, trust, joy and peace abound with Christ at the center. The verse says “now” is the time, the word ‘urge’ and ‘now’ link together as a request and an answer.
2 Cor 6:1 “As God’s fellow workers, then, we urge (parakaleo) you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For He says: “In the time of favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is the time of favor; now is the day of salvation!”
The prior scripture was a little vague on how encouragement is found in the asking. But there are others; often when people came to Jesus. They urged him, parakaleo, to answer their need. Notice in each of these stories, not one request was refused. Consider if they had not asked; they would never have received the miracles and requests they needed. I contend the asking of itself is enough to encourage, because the same Greek word is used for both.
Matt 8:5 “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came and pleaded (parakaleo) with Him, 6 “Lord, my servant lies at home, paralyzed and in terrible agony.”
Matt 14:35 “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.”
Mark 1:40 “Then a leper came to Jesus, begging (parakaleo) on his knees: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Mark 5:22 “A synagogue leader named Jairus arrived, and seeing Jesus, he fell at His feet 23 and pleaded (parakaleo) with Him urgently, “My little daughter is near death. Please come and place Your hands on her, so that she will be healed and live.”
Urgency and pleading changes the situation of our lives. For Paul, it changed the entire scope of his ministry. Paul had a vision; a man was pleading with him to come to Macedonia. The pleading encouraged both Paul and the man. The good news was preached and many lives were transformed. God answered the plea with encouragement; Paul had a new ministry direction and people were going to hear about Christ.
Acts 16:9 “During the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and pleading (parakaleo) with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 As soon as Paul had seen the vision, we got ready to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
This circular definition was not lost on the Apostle John, for he referred to The Holy Spirit as the Comforter, Greek, parakletos, meaning ‘as one called to one’s side or aid.’ Anyone familiar with the Greek language would instantly understand the Spirit’s role because John used this word. The Spirit is most important part of our Christian lives, the part of God that lives inside of every believer. Remember, God’s Spirit helps us to pray, he gives us words when we need them, he urges us, he comforts us, he encourages us and he intercedes on our behalf.
John 14:26 “But the Advocate (parakletos), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.”
Now, bring it home to your life. Everyone needs to be encouraged. Trials can be hard. Finances, relationships, people at work, family members, things breaking down; troubles can abound all around you. But there’s a truth in the middle of this. Don’t let your prayers die. Don’t stop asking God for your dreams. It’s a natural human frailty that makes us give up asking after we don’t see an answer within our time frame. Don’t do it! You see, faith is a substance. Your life as a Christian has to be tested to see if it’s genuine.
The disciples were in the town of Derbe and had a great revival. Many came to Christ. When they returned, they found the need to encourage the disciples; they did so by telling them that they must endure hardships to enter the Kingdom. Why? Perhaps so they’d understand you have to keep up communication with God, you have to keep asking him for his help. The Christian life is nowhere near a life on auto pilot; accepting Jesus is the beginning of learning how great God is and the awesome way he delivers us from tough situations.
Acts 14:21 “They preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples and encouraging (parakaleo) them to continue in the faith. “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said”.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus mentioned encouragement in a different way. He said that when you mourn, you’ll be comforted, parakaleo. So, in effect, he’s saying when you suffer loss, when you go through grief, ask God. He’ll comfort you. The comfort and encouragement is in the asking.
Matt 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (parakaleo).”
Encouragement has to do with facing life in reality. Life’s troubles are meant to strengthen your faith, for it has to be true faith. In this next passage, we see that unbelief can turn you away from your relationship with God, but exhortation, parakaleo, encouragement, is there to bring you back and soften your heart. The lesson is this: Search your own memories. Find the things you stopped praying about, perhaps because they weren’t answered in a timely fashion. Resurrect prayers you have forgotten, start asking God again, reminding him and yourself of his wonderful promises. Personally, I’ve had several active requests I’ve been praying for many years that have not been answered according to my five senses. But, going a day without needing the Lord, pressing onward would be death to my soul. Ask and you will receive.
Heb 3:12 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. 13 But exhort (parakaleo) one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first. 15 As it has been said: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion.”
To close, your life as a Christian should never progress beyond its foundation: Accepting Jesus into your heart. Growing older in the Lord means a daily recognition of how much we need him and how much we need to remain free from the worlds influence, repenting of our tendency to sin. Freedom happens when we experience how good he is: Blazingly good, amazingly loving. We run to the arms of love every day; encouraged.
Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise belongs to you and to your children and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 With many other words he testified, and he urged (parakaleo) them, “Be saved from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who embraced his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to the believers that day.”
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.