Today we begin a new message series simply called “Relationships.” God created people for relationships. First of all, a relationship with their creator and secondly, relationships with other people.
Genesis 2:18 (ESV) Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
God knew that Adam was not created to live life on his own. It’s not good to live life without relationships with other people. In Genesis, God created Eve to be Adam’s wife and helper. God brought Eve to Adam and they were married in God’s eyes, one man and one woman for life. The relationship of husband and wife in marriage is the foundation of a godly family and a godly society. Of course, God also chooses a minority people to be single, either for a period or the entirety of their adult life. Jesus Himself was single and completely focused on God’s purpose.
Yet, not all relationships are godly or appropriate.
2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV) Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
The principle of this verse means that as believers, we are not to have close relationships with unbelievers. This would apply to marriage, close friendships, dating relationships or even some types of business relationships as much as it is within our control.
The principles that we’re going to be talking about in this message series on relationships will apply to all kinds of relationships. It will apply specially to close relationships, but also to more casual relationships. The most important relationships in our lives, according to Scripture, are our physical family and our spiritual family in the church. So, we will concentrate on application to families, physical and spiritual
Today, my message is entitled “Be an Encourager.” An important ingredient in any relationship is encouragement.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV) Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
What does it mean to encourage someone else? To encourage is to give support, confidence or hope to another person. As a believer, to encourage someone is to direct them in God’s plan and purpose for their lives. All too often, we tend to focus on pointing out other’s faults. Now, there is a place for that at times, but encouragement brings out the best in others.
The greatest encourager is God Himself. We can learn from Him how to be encouragers in our own relationships. Today, we’re going to look at how God encouraged a new leader in Israel named Joshua. From the passage, we’re going to draw out some ways that we can grow in encouraging others. And this morning, if you’re feeling discouraged, you can apply these principles to your own life first. Then you can share them with someone else. The first way to be an encourager is to encourage someone to …
God created us with two eyes on the front of our heads, facing in the same direction that our feet are pointed. God wants us to go through life looking to the future, not looking back to the past. Some people look back at the past with regrets over past failures, mistakes and heart breaks. Others look at the past and blame others for their present problems. Yet others look to the past to relive their glory days, their past successes, but are discouraged about the future. God wants you to look to the future with hope, no matter what has happened in the past because …
There really is nothing that you can do about what has happened in the past, you can’t change it, it’s history. There’s no use living in the past, what matters is the present and the future.
In the passage that we’ll be looking at this morning, Moses the greatest leader in Israel’s history had led the nation out of slavery in Egypt. He had led them through the wilderness for 40 years and they were now poised to enter the Promised Land. And that is where Moses died, just before entering the Promised Land. The leader that God had chosen to take over was named Joshua. The transition in leadership was frightening and intimidating for Joshua. How could he ever expect to fill Moses’ sandals? Would the people really follow him or would they revolt? Not only was Joshua taking over leadership, the nation was on the verge of prolonged warfare. The Promised Land was not just sitting there for the taking. It was filled with fortified cities and armies defending the land. The new land was a land of promise, but also a land of danger.
Here’s what God said to Joshua …
Joshua 1:1-2 (ESV) After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise …”
God began by reminding Joshua that Moses was gone, he wasn’t coming back, the past was behind him. So now it was time for Joshua to arise and take the leadership position that God had prepared him for.
The wonderful part about God is that He doesn’t just tell you to leave the past behind you and leave you floundering with regard to the future. God has a great plan for your future, a wonderful plan. God had a plan for Joshua and He told him …
Joshua 1:2b-3 (ESV) “… go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.”
The first step in the plan was to cross the Jordan river with all the people and enter into the Promised Land. Then God gave Joshua His promise. First of all, God promised that He was giving Israel the Promised Land. Secondly, the Lord promised that as Joshua led the people, the land he walked upon would be given to them. Although Moses was gone, the promises that God gave to Moses would be fulfilled through the leadership of Joshua.
God has a plan for your life as well. No one can thwart God’s plan for your life, except you. Oftentimes people get to feeling that other people have messed up their lives and they get stuck in a victim mentality. So, let me repeat, according to God’s Word, no one else can derail God’s plan for your life. You can mess up His plan by not following it or by giving up on it. Yet, even if you do, God still has a plan B for your life, all is not lost.
Joshua 1:5s (ESV) No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.
God told Joshua the same thing. No human being, no human army could stop God’s plan for Joshua’s life. So, this morning, look to the future, leave the past behind you and follow God’s plan. What’s true for you will be true of those that you are in relationship with. Encourage them with these truths.
One of the characteristics of discouraged people or those who don’t fulfill God’s purpose for their lives is that they try to go through life on their own. That is not how God designed us to live. God created us to have a relationship with Him and with other people. Encourage yourself and others that …
Joshua 1:5b (ESV) Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
No matter what you’ve gone through, no matter where you’ve been, no matter how close or distant you have been from God in the past, God is there for you right now. He is simply waiting for you to talk to Him. God is there for you to draw strength, wisdom and hope from. He will never leave or forsake you. Jesus repeated the same promise to His disciples of all time, including you and me, in the Great Commission. I am with you always, even to the end of the age. All too often, we are tempted to think that God has left us, that we’re all alone. If God is not close to you, guess who moved. You did.
The Scripture in James tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to you. You draw near to God through prayer, talking to Him. You sense His presence and strength as you listen to hear His voice speaking back to you. Not only can you draw strength from God …
Ephesians 2:19 (ESV) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
To be a member of the household of God is to be part of God’s family. Other believers, particularly in your own local church are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Your relationship with God is the foundation of your life, but it’s not enough. You need quality relationships with other believers in the church family. Joshua’s spiritual family consisted of the other leaders of Israel, from which he drew encouragement and encouraged.
As a member of God’s family, God desires you to encourage others and for others to encourage you. You cannot fulfill God’s plan for your life on your own. You need the encouragement and strength of your brothers and sisters in God’s family.
How can you draw strength from God’s family in the church? In order to be encouraged and to encourage others, you need to spend time with people. How can that happen? Let’s get very practical. On Sundays, come a little early, so you have time to talk to and listen to others. Don’t rush out the minute the service is over. Linger for a while. Come up for prayer, talk to someone else. Take time for encouragement.
The next step is to become part of a small group, where you can get to know and encourage one another on a weekly basis. If none of the current small groups work for your schedule, come to the Sunday morning Growth Class. You’ll get to know a group of brothers and sisters pretty well. Don’t fall into the trap if things aren’t going to well and you feel discouraged, to not come to church. That’s the exact opposite of what you should do. Come to your church family to be encouraged and strengthened. Finally …
It’s one thing to know and understand God’s plan for your life, it’s another to actually take action to follow that plan. A person who is discouraged or depressed doesn’t want to do anything. Of course, if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to change and you’re going to continue being discouraged. This morning, I want to encourage you to take action to follow the next step in God’s plan for your life. Then encourage someone else to take action to follow God’s plan.
Joshua 1:6 (ESV) Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.
God next encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous in following God’s plan. Why did God tell Joshua to “be strong and courageous?” Because Joshua was feeling weak and discouraged. He needed encouragement. No matter how you feel, no matter what others may be saying, be strong and courageous. A few verses later God repeats Himself to Joshua.
Joshua 1:9 (ESV) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
God’s encouragement to Joshua and His encouragement to us is actually a command to be strong and courageous. Here we see the complementary command, Don’t be frightened or dismayed which is what Joshua was tempted to give in to. Why could Joshua be strong and courageous? Because God was going to be with him wherever he went. Of course if someone is not yet a believer, this encouragement won’t work, because God is not with unbelievers wherever they go to give them strength and courage. The first step is therefore for the unbeliever to become a believer in Jesus Christ.
Besides being strong and courageous, what else did God encourage Joshua to do?
Joshua 1:8 (ESV) This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua’s responsibility was to study, meditate on and obey God’s Word. Only then would he be prosperous and successful in following God’s plan. God’s encouragement to Joshua was not just to worship one day a week or even every day. He was to mediate on and think about God’s Word all the time, day and night. The point of knowing God’s word is so that he would be careful to do whatever God’s Word commanded. We know from the record of Joshua’s life, that he was faithful to follow God’s Word and his life was a great success to accomplishing God’s purpose.
A man named William Wilberforce worked for years in the 18th century to get slavery abolished in Britain, but appeared to get nowhere. He was discouraged and about ready to give up. An elderly friend, John Wesley, heard about Wilberforce’s discouragement and wrote him a short letter which said …
“If God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? Be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery shall vanish before it.”
Six days later John Wesley died, but Wilberforce fought on for another 45 years. In 1833, three days before Wilberforce died, slavery was abolished in Britain.
God’s plans are not easy and we all need encouragement to press through difficulties until they are fulfilled.
This morning we’ve talked about being an encourager. You can’t encourage someone else, if you are discouraged yourself. So, first of all, you need to let God Himself encourage you through His Word. Then, when you’ve received His encouragement, you can encourage those you are in relationship with. Encourage others to look to the future and not live in the past. Next don’t try to live an isolated life, draw strength from others, both God and other believers. Finally, take action to follow God’s plan for your life. Don’t wander through life with no direction. It will take strength and courage to walk the path God has for you. As you follow God’s Word, you will find success and encourage many others as well.