Paul Forsythe – Associate Campus Pastor
One of my favorite words in the New Testament is the word that is often translated “encouragement” as it is in Hebrews 10:24. There we are told that a key reason for meeting together is to encourage one another. The Greek word parakaleo is so rich that no one English word can translate it so the context has to help determine the meaning. Essentially there are three basic ways it is translated. The word can mean “urge” which is found, for example, in Romans 12:2 where in light of God’s mercy Paul urges us to be all in for God. This firm tone may be missed if we think of encouragement as always being nice to people. If you’re wired like me (I’m a high “S” on the DISC test), this nuance of the word is harder for me to live out. I too often want to be Mr. Nice Guy. I’m much better “comforting” which is another key use of the word found several times in 2 Corinthians 1. We are to comfort others who are experiencing trouble as God comforts us in all our troubles. The more I learn about people I meet at the weekend services, the more I realize how many people are going through troubles and desperately need comfort. A third tone this word takes brings us back to Hebrews 10:25 where the word means “to give courage or hope” so the word “encourage” is used. Encouragement is linked to the future hope we have in Christ’s return. All our troubles here will fade in the bright light of His Return.
Let me wrap it up with a couple of summary thoughts. Jesus uses the noun form of this word for the Holy Spirit in John 14 where He is called Helper, Counselor, Comforter, or Encourager, depending on the translation you read. If Christ followers are to be filled – totally influenced and controlled – by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), who is the impersonation of encouragement, the greatest evidence that we are a Spirit-directed community is that whenever we meet we provide the most encouraging environment you can find anywhere in the world.
Finally, our life groups (a circle of believers trying to live out their faith in the real world) are the place where each nuance of this rich word can best be lived out. There are times when I desperately need comfort – something horrible may have just happened. Who can I tell? There are times where I need that push of accountability to be all in and not just messing around. Only people I allow into my life can do this. And all the time I need those in my life who remind me that God’s plan is moving forward and I can take courage in the midst of present circumstance. He is my King; I have every reason to be encouraged, in the fullest sense of the word!