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Background Text: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Devotional Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Everyone needs encouragement. Whether it is from friends or family or the word of God, encouragement helps us to feel better about ourselves and gives us trust that things will work out all right.

There are two points of encouragement that we will look at today. The first has to do with getting rid of thoughts in our minds that are harmful to us. These include destructive words and phrases that we heard from family or other people during our growing up years — words that served to tear us down, not to build us up.

I call these “destructive tapes” that run through our minds and show up whenever we feel we have failed or are depressed. These are words from our youth, during our formative years as children. These are words that, unless we get rid of them, tend to follow us throughout our lives.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, we read Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth. These are the words of encouragement: “Do not lose heart ... our inner self is being renewed day-by-day ... as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

Furthermore, we read in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

These are just two examples of how we can switch the bad tapes in our minds to words of encouragement. Our goal is to stop the destructive words that echo in our minds, and replace them with the encouraging words of God. It is helpful to have a list of those Scriptures that show us God’s love and care for us.

Psychology tells us that in order to break a bad habit, we need to stop doing it for 30 days. After the 30-day mark, it becomes easier to turn away from the temptation.

The same is true for those thoughts in our minds. Stop them when they first surface. Pray to God for help in getting rid of them. Fill your mind with encouraging Scripture. All of these positive actions work together to replace negative words, with the fulfilling love of God.

Another part of turning from the negative has to do with forgiveness. As believers, we should remember that our sins, our past destructive behavior, has been forgiven through Jesus Christ.

As God has forgiven us, we need to also forgive. Forgiveness wipes away bitterness and allow us to live a life of joy and peace and freedom.

'Be Strong, and Let Your Heart Take Courage'

The second point concerning encouragement is not to forget to read your Bible, for in it we find many teachings about how to live in God’s mercy and grace.

In Ephesians 4:31-32, we read, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

A popular saying is “hurting people, hurt people.” There is much truth in these words. It is true that hurtful words are as destructive as physical hurt, and often remain with a person much longer.

Going further back in Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul tells us, “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up.”

Thessalonians speaks to us in a similar way: “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

It is important to meet together with other believers. Just as the early church met together constantly and were a help to one another. Today, our weekly service should be the same kind of place where we praise God, hear the word of God, and care for one another.

The words of Hebrews 10:25 reiterate the importance of meeting together in fellowship: “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”

As believers, we can take heart in the words of Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since, as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Reading the Bible gives us the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and the teachings of God. We become less fearful, more trusting in God, and we find ourselves being used by God in helpful ways toward others.

Colossians 2:2 tells us that when we have faith in God, the hearts of believers “are knit together in love.” That is, God’s love.

God’s love inside us helps us to stand firm against temptation. It helps us to do what is right and to live in God’s joy and peace.

We are much more open to destructive temptation in both word and deed when we are not standing firm in trusting God. Those who have struggled with these problems know that they do not usually go away all at once. However, the word of God gives us the hope and courage to stand firm.

Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all who wait for the Lord.”

We also have the uplifting words found in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The many Scriptures of encouragement can turn the tide when we are feeling low. They can replace destructive tapes from the past and remind us that God always loves us and wants the best for us. They can be our constant source of encouragement.

So, do not fear that you have failed in life. Do not think you are unloved or forgotten. As Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit of God has not given us fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”

Be an encourager, as God encourages you.

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.

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