“And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
We are reminded here that as believers we do not live independently of one another, but rather interdependently toward one another. We have the responsibility before God of caring for and looking out for one another in the body of Christ. For this reason, the author of this letter began this section with exhortations that will bring spiritual strength and stability to us individually – exhortations of drawing near, holding onto hope, and being ever mindful of God’s promises. We cannot minister to others out of a vacuum. We will not have the willingness or even energy to look out for others if we are not spiritually healthy. We learn to minister out of the overflow.
When navigating difficult circumstances, we can become so self-focused that we fail to see the opportunities to minister to those around us who may need encouragement. No matter how hard our situation may be, we are to be an outward focused people. A couple of examples from scripture come to mind. First is Stephen as he is being stoned to death in the book of Acts. He is going through a horrific experience, even life-ending, and yet he has the wherewithal to say to the Lord, “do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Secondly, the ultimate example is Jesus as He hung dying on the cross. Again, like Stephen, as His life was ebbing away, His focus was completely upon those around Him and not on Himself. Think for a moment with me about Jesus’ words to John about taking care of His mother; then there was His interaction with the thieves crucified with Him that day. He gave assurance to the one who had faith that He would join Him that day in paradise. Where did followers of Christ learn to forgive others, even those who were killing them? They learned it like we do all things, from the example of our Lord. “But Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Our circumstances no matter how bad, are never an excuse to shut down toward others. What better way to reflect our eternal perspective as well as the supernatural nature of the kingdom we are a part of than to serve others even when we are hurting too? We are reminded in scripture that God allows our pain and suffering either to provide a platform of greater ministry for us, or to make us more tender-hearted, sympathetic, or empathetic to the hurting who are around us continually.
Consider these words from the apostle Paul to the Corinthian believers. “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God comforts us so that we may be able to comfort others.
Adversity and hardship, pain and suffering are never purposeless in the lives of God’s children. Either we are learning to be more upward focused – relying and depending on God increasingly, or we are learning to be more outward focused – seizing the opportunities to encourage others who are hurting too!
To whom may God want you to reach out to encourage today?