Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Jesus…went about doing good.”
Acts 10. 38
“The finest of all fine arts is the art of doing good; and yet it is the least cultivated.”
T. DeWitt Talmage
Today’s Study Text:
“The woman said to Elijah, ‘Why did you ever show upon here in the first place -- a holy man barging in, exposing my sins, and killing my son?’”
1 Kings 17: 18
The Message Bible
“The Test of the Home-Life Part 4
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10: 24, 25
How have I been blessed by the encouragement others have given to me?
In what ways can I provide encouragement to others?
“Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.”
George M. Adams
“One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. There is a regulation of the Royal Navy which says, ‘No officer shall speak discouragingly to another officer in the discharge of his duties.’”
Her son had died. It didn’t seem possible such a tragic event could happen. Especially when you consider the fact that the widow of Zarephath thought that because of lack of food, both she and her son would not survive the terrible drought.
Now, after Elijah’s arrival, and the miracle of the meal and oil never running out, I’m certain the widow probably thought the worst was over. If she did, how wrong she was for the worst thing she could imagine happened. She lost her only child, her boy. And for a widow -- the loss of all their male children was a tragedy beyond belief, both emotionally and financially.
What could this mother do? The only thing she felt like doing and that was to ask, “Why did you bring this trouble into my house?” But this wasn’t her only accusation. She continued down a path with her verbal assault that frequently happens. She asked Elijah if God was using him to bring punishment upon her for some unspoken mistake.
Before we get caught up thinking to ourselves, “Where did her outburst come from,” we need to remember that during this time in history, especially in heathen nations, when evil befell a person, it was frequently viewed as punishment from their gods. Even the Israelites mistakenly believed that much of the sickness that came upon people was due to the hand of the Almighty.
But I want to go a step further, for unfortunately, even today, in our treatment of others, who are in distress, and sometimes even ourselves when we face tribulation, we wonder, “Am I or are they being punished for something we did wrong?” It is this self-blame or inner pain which brings me to look at the spirit of encouragement. A spirit that is the opposite of what we witness when someone takes their hand and pushes another person farther down by reminding them of their mistakes and folly. Instead, the spirit of encouragement is seen when we take our hand to lift others up and to apply the healing salve of love. As Paul and Nicole Johnson expressed in their book, Random Acts of Grace, “Real love does not keep score. We are never more like God than when we put down our score cards -- and forgive.”
This is a lesson we can learn from the interaction between the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. As I pondered the reason behind God sending Elijah to this particular woman’s home, I thought about where Elijah had been before he arrived in Zarephath.
He had nearly a year of private communion with his Father by the Brook Cherith. It was here that a trusted friendship developed and Elijah learned first-hand that the mercies of God are truly new every morning. He watched the ravens arrive right on time every day. And even when the brook got down to a small little puddle, his Father -- Jehovah-Jireh -- provided for him.
Now I ask you, could God have sent a better “encourager” to the house of the widow? I don’t think so. I can just hear Elijah, during the first few days upon his arrival in Zarephath, when every morning there was enough meal and oil to provide for the daily necessities, turn to the widow and her son and say, “It’s just like it was at the brook. God is providing for us. He is taking care of us. He won’t let us down -- never.”
What an encouraging message for the widow to hear. And this is why, when her son died, rather than Elijah exhorting her to have more faith and to just “buck up,” Elijah only made one request of the grief-stricken mother. He asked her to place the child she loved more than her own life, in his arms. In Encouragement: The Key to Caring, Larry Crabb highlights the quality of encouragement we see demonstrated in the life of Elijah: “Encouragement is not a technique to be mastered; it is a sensitivity to people and a confidence in God that must be nourished and demonstrated.” This is precisely what Elijah did -- he demonstrated to the widow of Zarephath, through his encouraging spirit, that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was also the God of Sarah, Rebekah, and Miriam. And that He was the God of the widow of Zarephath, too! He was a God who lifts up all His children!
I ask you to take another look with me at the text from Hebrews 10: 24, 25. But this time I’m using the Amplified Bible:
“Let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up to love and helpful deeds and noble activities. Not neglecting to assemble together…but encouraging one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”
I love this passage for it contains a key element that was the longing of my heart over ten years ago when Transformation Garden began. It was my prayer that this would become, with God’s help, a garden of encouragement. Not a place to replace the gathering together of believers at church or in study groups, but instead a 24-hour place of prayer that encourages you in times when you feel alone or find yourself needing someone to pray with you and for you. This is what encouragement in the home-life is all about. Stephen Doughty explains the vital role and function of encouragement:
“Encouragement is vital in the community of faith. It can uplift us in the midst of difficult work, cheer us when we feel alone, inspire us when we wonder if we are up to the task at hand. In times of distress, encouragement can come as a deep remedy for our pain.”
This is exactly what Elijah brought into the home-life of the widow of Zarephath. The only miracle that happened in her cottage wasn’t just the fact that the meal and oil never ran out -- there was also the miracle of heavenly encouragement, sent by the God of heaven to the earthly home of a widow. This was the biggest and best miracle of all. Today, there may be someone God has brought into your life that needs your encouragement. What a gift you can share for as William Barclay so touchingly expresses, “Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man (or woman) on their feet. Blessed in the man (or woman) who speaks such a word.”
“Teach me to feel another’s woe.
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.”
“The faintest whisper of support and encouragement uttered by a Christian in the ears of her fellow believer is heard in heaven.”
John J. Murray
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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