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The biblical viewpoint is that all Christians are in the ministry and the only difference is the diversity of gifts we have. This morning I'd like to layout some general principles that apply across the board no matter what the situation we face. And then a few specific examples of how to support one another in a few real-world situations. They are not all the areas of ministry and some would say not necessarily even the main ones, but I do think they are the most important ones when it comes to pastorally supporting and encouraging one another as a church family. (Heb 10: 24-25)
Did you notice the words “spur on” has the phrase “one another” attached to them? “One another” indicates that this task is for everyone. This applies to all believers, not just to pastors or other church leaders.
First we have to, Be there.
Being there, means more than just making contact. Being there means being by someone’s side and helping them along and there's no substitute for that.
Second listen - consider one another. (Heb 10:24)
To really consider a person you must listen to what they have to say. I think the occupational hazard being a Christian is we know we have answers and we sometimes just want to shovel the answers at people. However, that is not what we should do when it comes to pastoral ministry. People need to be considered, by being listened too. To understand where a person is at in life, we must listen to them to find out.
Thirdly We should identify with them.
Part and parcel of considering one another is figuring what people are going through and that means identifying with them and meeting them at their spiritual point of need.
What I want to do with rest of the message is layout 3 specific situations where we can help someone by doing that fourth thing.
Our first example from I Thessalonians.
The Apostle Paul went to Thessalonica and lead people to Christ but was then run out of town. The new church he left behind soon developed all kinds of problems. But they remembered that Paul had told them that the Lord was coming back and that when the Lord returned, they knew they were going to be raptured. However after he left some in the congregation died and these new believers became rather concerned about what would happen to those Christians who had already died.
So, Paul writes them a letter and says (1 Thes 4: 13-17)
The he goes on to say in verse 18 “Therefore comfort one another with these words”. Given the problem with this group of people was grief, and Paul says comfort one another with these words. Offering comfort is not saying I can give you solutions to why you feel the way you feel. It’s not saying, I can stop the heartache or the pain, but it is saying I can, be there. It’s saying, I can listen. I can stand with you as you try pick up the pieces and carry on. I can't solve the problem, but I can love you and be your friend.
This specific passage is talking about the loss of loved ones and it's talking about offering comfort in a situation where there has been a loss. But don’t be mistaken and think only the death of a loved one counts as a loss. There are many other types of losses in life. Experts define loss as anything that forces upon you a change of identity.
The loss of a spouse means the married person become a widow or widower.
The loss of a job means, the employed person, becomes an unemployed person with a different identity and place in society.
The loss of a marriage means the divorced person is no longer part of a couple, they become single again.
The loss of health means an active and healthy person becomes an unhealthy or even a disabled person.
The loss of mental capacity through dementia can mean the loss of a husband or wife, or a mother or father.
Following every kind of loss there is always a readjustment to a new of identity, one that has been forced upon a person through no choice of their own, But whatever the loss is, the response is always the same.
Be there, listen and identify. Then and only then, should we do the 4th thing which is shown in this passage. (Eph 4: 13) We don't grieve as other do because have hope a hope that we shall be with our loved ones again one day. I personally believe we are primarily reminded of the end times and the return of Christ in order to remind us that we are all going to be together again one day. We need not suffer with loss as others do. When someone is grieving a loss of any kind one of the best things you can do is remind them that it’s all going to be better in the future and in the case of a death, that we’re all going to be together again. It doesn't mean you're not going to grieve. It doesn't mean that you're not going to feel the pain of separation. It just means that in the midst of it all that, there is still hope.
Let me give you a second scenario. This one is also found in Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians, this time I chapter 3. Paul and Titus had set up the church there and then been run out of town. Can you imagine how discouraging that must have been for the congregation. They might be thinking, am I next? Should I give up this life of faith I’ve chosen? There are also some more everyday examples that also lead to people becoming discouraged in their Christian faith. Non-believers criticized and making fun of what we believe, or people from inside the church criticizing our service or ministry. What does Paul advise us to do when people are feeling discouraged. (1 Thes 3: 2) He sends Timothy with a letter to pass on encouragement to those who are discouraged. When people are discouraged, they usually think, I can't go on, I can’t do this anymore. Paul can’t go back to them because the authorities ran him out of town but he sends Timothy with a letter and tells Timothy to tell them, you can do this, you can still make it.
When there's discouragement people need encouraged, and they need by being reminded they can do it, if they trust in the Lord. Encouragement is one of the main reasons why Christians are told they should gather together. Any group of people can enjoy themselves together, but Christians can enrich each other’s spiritual lives when we spend time together. Just being together can have an eternal significant impact on one another.
The Book of Hebrews was written to a group of people who needed encouraging. It was mainly written to Jewish people who accept Jesus as the Messiah. People who no doubt where experiencing a lot of pressure from their peers and wider family members. Some of them got to the point that they were thinking of backing out of Christianity and going back to Judaism. The writer of Hebrews encourages them by saying (Heb 3: 13) They were being discouraged to the point where they were thinking of bowing out and going back to their old ways. (Heb 6: 1) The type of encouragement needed here is not just carrying on but it a call to seek out deeper spiritual maturity. When people are discouraged, they need to be encouraged not give up but instead make their goal further spiritual maturity. Because it is moving forward into spiritual maturity that will allow people to put their discouragement into perspective and leave it behind them.
There is a third area wherein we are sometimes called to minister to one another. (Gal 6:1) Some are called to help restore believers who has fallen away. This is the area that has the most serious repercussions for the church if it is not handled correctly. To share with someone on this level is the most difficult and delicate of ministries. You’ve got to know that person. You got to have been there for them, been on that journey with them. Lived alongside them, listened to them, and really understand where they are coming from. Then and only then have you earned the right to share with them. I can't tell you how important this is for the people on the receiving end of this ministry that it is done appropriately. I think I have witnessed more damage done to the church by people, who claim to be speaking the truth in love than by any other single thing in the church.
You know I define myself as an evangelical Christian and I believe 100% in the authority of scripture. I believe also that the word of God is perfect, for all situations. (2 Tim 3: 1) But it is always best if each of us to looked into you own hearts and if you think there is something that’s not right in our life then we should find someone we trust and go share the burden with them. I believe the bible as examined here every Sunday should by the conviction of the Holy Spirit challenge people to their very core and when it does, then people should be convicted that they need make changes to your life. If the Holy Spirit challenges, you because of issues in your life I do passionately believe that you should respond to that prompting which may mean sometimes seeking someone out. Someone you respect as a believer, someone who has been there for you, someone who will listen to you and understand. Maybe because they have been through a similar issue themselves, then ask them to pray for you, and maybe even ask them for some advice or wise council.
So please, hear me people, love and care for one another. Let others know how much they mean to you. Tell someone in this church how special they are to you. Go today and do it this Sunday, and every Sunday.
All of the time, in fact.
Serving One Another