Encouraging Community

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[*Before reading, know that I am from WI and not aquatically strong] My last attempt at surfing started with good intentions and excitement, but was immediately thwarted when I took a gargantuan long board into the Pacific at the exact wrong time and was pummeled by hundreds of waves barreling towards the shore. After getting completely beaten up (and laughed at by on-lookers), I defeatedly muscled my way out of the waters… Many of our faith journeys can look like that picture: starts with excitement and passion, but when the waves of life (nagging temptation, doubts, struggle) come crashing down, we may be tempted to throw in the towel with this whole Jesus thing… What do we do when we face the lows of our faith journey?

Last week we discussed Hebrews 10:19:23 in search of an answer, to which we were reminded of the reason we trusted our faith to Jesus in the first place: hope! When we feel that readiness to quit, remember and hold to the hope that you initially subscribed to! “Hold onto hope” is a pretty expansive concept, what does that mean? Let me give you a few quick examples that we didn’t discuss last week… 

Let’s say you’re battling with a nagging temptation, and ready to say, “shoot, whatever, I’m sick of feeling so guilty all the time, I’m just going for it…” Holding onto hope may look like reading and re-reading and memorizing verses like Romans 8:38 and 1 John 1:9, that promise nothing could separate you from God’s love and you are absolutely forgiven when you ask for it. For those in that situation, trusting in those promises are truly hopeful and powerful. Or let’s say you are experiencing crippling doubt in your faith, holding onto hope may look like an intentional apologetics study - study the reliability of Scripture, historical and scientific accuracies of the Bible, and do your best to seek out what is truth. The hope Jesus provides deserves that type of in-depth study, and I believe ultimate truth will surface with deliberate examinations. Maybe for you it’s not temptation or doubt, but heavy life struggle. Holding onto hope may mean to read, internalize, and wrestle with the concept of God working for good in all situations. This is not an easy venture, but looking at the struggles Jesus faced on your behalf, to study people like Joseph who went through a life of struggle only to be elevated to high power — encouragement can be found. 

As we continue to look at this question, what to do at faith lows, we continue with Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

These early Christians that read this letter, who were experiencing persecution, imprisonment, martyrdom for their faith in Jesus - they needed reassurance Jesus was superior and sufficient, as certainly many of them must’ve considered abandoning and going back to old ways. Beyond holding onto their hope of Jesus, they were told to encourage each other towards love and good deeds. Do life together! And don’t just pat each other on the back to feel warm and fuzzy, but motivate each other towards action. And this mutual encouragement (obviously) requires togetherness! Regular interaction is necessary to encourage one another, and apparently some of the early christians were giving up on meeting together. And why is this important, why should this be a high priority? The author sprinkles on some motivation at the end with “the Day” reference - referring to the Day of the Lord, speaking to the time when Christ returns to make all things new. This is an eternal mindset, to what is most important… 

So how does this passage help us? How do we continue on, endure the whole way in our faith - even through the lows? Surround yourself with an encouraging community. Surrounding yourself with like-spiritual people, encouraging each other towards Jesus, love, and good deeds is essential for faith survival. Do you have a community of people that encourage you towards Jesus? This should be high on life’s priority list, especially in times when your faith is brittle and fading, seek people to talk to, that can encourage and love. 

But one shouldn’t just be surrounded by people who encourage, but also contribute to an encouraging community. That’s how proper community functions - both give and take. There is certainly a responsibility on all of our part to give, love, and encourage. Not to mention, this very much continues to answer our question of continuing on in our own faith - when you help spur others towards Jesus, it will keep you accountable in your own faith. Having an other’s focused faith holds you responsible in your own relationship with Jesus. So ask yourself if you are pushing others towards Jesus? Do you even think to do this, is it a concern of yours? Or are we so consumed with our own personal faith/life that we forget about others… 

Throughout the Christian life, we must hold onto the hope that only Jesus can provide, we must surround ourselves and contribute to an encouraging community. This should be true at all times, but if there are low moments where we’re holding on for dear life - this is a great place to start to re-build, refresh, and start anew.