For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 15: 4-6 (ESV)
It seems quite often that Christians can always be looking for encouragement in all the wrong places. If we are to be honest we must admit that we live in a cold and harsh world. Sure there are ups but it tends to seem they are outweighed by the downs. Maybe we do not appreciate our joy as much as we commiserate with our pain. Whatever the reason, Christians always seem to be on a quest for encouragement. Something to make us feel better. Something to make us feel like everything is going to be OK. This quest should not be as arduous as we often make it out to be. After all anyone who is truly saved has the Comforter indwelt. We have the assurances of God Almighty. Yet despite these things, often times our quest leads us astray.
What I have found utterly amazing in my writing is that people who lie to Christians routinely are considered encouraging and yet people who tell the truth of Scripture can be considered divisive. Christians flock to false teachers who sell them untruths. That this is your best life now. That you just have to speak more positively. That God is about to open up the windows of heaven just for you...and apparently everyone else listening to the same message. That we do not have to worry about our sin anymore. I understand why these messages are so popular. I mean, who doesn't want to hear how rich God wants us to be? The problem of course is that it is false encouragement. This is not our best life now. If it were, by definition we would be going to hell. So what happens then when we speak positively and our life still falls apart? What happens when the promises of an open heaven are realized to be fluff? What happens when ignoring our sin leads to real temporal consequences? Do we take proper stock of the situation? Do we learn? Or do we go right back out on the encouragement trail; looking again in all the wrong places? Beloved, there is plenty of real encouragement available for us today. God did not leave us to fend for ourselves. His will is not that we continue to go around the same mountain for twenty years. Never feeling like the conqueror Christ has made us.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8: 37-39 (ESV)
Truth be told we often feel more conquered than conquerors but again this goes back to where we seek our encouragement from. Chasing false apostles and prophetesses may make us feel all tingly when they are staging their act but when the smoke machine is put away, we are still left with the same life we had when we walked in. Following fake healers or sending away for anointed prayer cloths will only guarantee we become poorer and that we will wake up with the same life we had when we went to sleep. Some may already be saying - this isn't very encouraging! Hear me very clear - yes it is! The truth should always be encouraging to a Christian. Our key verses today deal with the perpetual search for encouragement. Let us exposit them together.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. - Romans 15: 4 (ESV)
Verse four begins with Paul discussing Scripture. That is "whatever was written in former days." Remember that the New Testament had not been fully written yet and would not be formerly agreed upon until a few more hundred years. There were no bookstores and printing presses. Paul himself does not realize that the very words he pens here to the believers in Rome would become part of the very Scriptures he is referencing! Why beloved, did God inspire the authors of the Bible to write what they did? For our instruction. The first point today is that we are not in charge! We are in need of instruction! If you find yourself wondering again how this is encouraging I need to remind you that is a worldly perspective. The world sells independence as this great positive trait. The world sells this "go it alone" mentality - where you are solely in charge of your life and as a result; your happiness. How has that worked out for us so far? It should be encouraging for us to find out that as believers, we are not responsible for everything - God is!