Why Should Christians Need Encouragement?

“Working vacation” and “original copy” are oxymorons:  the words cancel each other out. “Discouraged Christian” should be an oxymoron, but it isn’t. Why?

Nine ‘Ds’ of Discouragement
We human beings are very often dejected, disappointed, depressed, dispirited, disillusioned, downcast, disenchanted, disheartened, and in the dark! No wonder the encouragement theme is so pervasive throughout the thousands of years of biblical history.

But why should Christians need encouragement? Here we are, children of a loving Father-God. We know He is Love, He is Light, He is Just and all-Knowing, all-Powerful, all-Wise, and Present everywhere. The more these truths about God soak into our minds, the more we set ourselves to live right, love others, speak kindly, make biblically sound decisions, and fill our minds with pure, uplifting thoughts.

And what is the result?
We, His children, the ones He says He loves, suffer the same sudden disasters that fall on those who live selfishly without any thought of God. We also experience deep disappointments, car accidents, killer cancers, botched surgeries, and financial failures.

In fact, the more Christians live in obedience to God and His Word, the greater the attacks of Satan. Witness, for instance, the growing antagonism the Alberta government is focusing on Christian parents right now.

Encouragement in the Bible
Before Joshua started his invasion of Canaan, God told him, “Be strong and courageous.” These words were passed on seven times to Joshua, to Moses, to the leaders, and to God’s people. David repeated the theme in the Psalms, saying, “Be of good courage.” Jesus, after telling his followers they would have lots of trouble in this world, encouraged them by saying, “But cheer up, I have overcome the world.” The apostle Paul constantly urges his readers to encourage each other.

Eight Ways to Encourage Ourselves and Others
1) It may be too soon to judge if something that happened is good or bad. We may only be halfway into God’s story of our lives.

2) When we receive comfort and encouragement in hard times, we are better able to sympathize with others and to comfort and encourage them. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4

3) Like a grower who uses a pruning knife on his vines to produce more and better fruit, so God uses persecution to purify His Church, sorting out the lukewarm, easy-believism church goers from those who are willing to pay a high price for following Christ closely. John 15:2

4) Just as Jesus suffered so mankind could be saved, so we need to suffer to bring His salvation to others. Colossians 1:24 (TLB)

5) God wants each of us to live bringing glory to Him. Some will do this by being highly successful in business or in ministry, others by quietly suffering under multiple stresses. Philippians 4:11

6) God has given every person on earth the ability to make choices. Every choice, good or bad, has consequences which affect other people, even Christians, but God works out all things for our good. Romans 8:28

7) Even if the story ends badly in this life, God is no one’s debtor. He is just and will reward suffering for Him in this life with glory in the next. 1 Peter 5:10

8) A well-known poem tells us God answers our prayers, although not always in the way we expect:

I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to go through.
I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.

Encourage Ourselves in the Lord, Not in the Circumstances
We can’t help but get discouraged at times, but we don’t have to stay discouraged. We can be like David after raiders had kidnapped his own family and the families of his followers, and his own friends wanted to kill him. David “encouraged himself in the Lord” and with God’s help, went on to win a great victory. (1 Sam. 30:6)

The Surprise Visitor

It had been more than three years since our expulsion from the Canela village. We prayed for our Canela friends and daily longed to be with them.

One Saturday evening as my family and I were sitting down to our evening meal there was a knock on our door. I got up, opened it and there, to my utter astonishment, stood Jaco, our very best Canela translation helper—nearly a thousand kilometres from his village! I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say.

“Jaco, what are you doing here? How did you get here? Come in!”

“I walked for two days. Then I caught a ride on a rice freight truck for a day. Then I got on a bus for a day and a night, and I walked some more. Now, here I am. And what’s to eat?”

“Sit down, sit down. It’s so good to see you. Here, fill your plate.”

We had a great time visiting that evening and all day Sunday. Then on Monday, after a big breakfast, I asked him,

“So, Jaco, would you like to translate some more of God’s Word.”

“Yes!”

So we sat down across from each other at my study table. I dusted off the translation manuals and other books that I hadn’t been able to use for three years. It wasn’t hard to pray and thank God for bringing Jaco. I asked God to help us translate some more of His Word. I was, of course, praying in the Canela language, and when I was done I said,

Hamre,” meaning Done or Amen.

I opened my eyes and was about to open my mouth to start talking when I noticed Jaco still had his eyes closed. And then he started to pray.

“Hello, Great Father in the sky. This is me, Jaco, You’ll remember me. I’m one of those who just recently has turned to You, and begun to follow You.”

That’s when I began to cry.

Because after thirteen years of study, translating, praying and waiting, this was the first time I had heard there were any Canelas who had turned to God. And even though it was the first time I had ever heard a Canela pray, I could hardly wait to hear him say “Hamre” so I could ask him,

“When did this happen?”

“I have been reading those printouts of Luke and Acts every day for a long time. Then a few months ago, I was sitting in my hammock reading those papers and I asked myself,

‘Jaco, how much longer are you going to just lie here and read this stuff? When are you going to believe it and obey it?’

And I answered myself,

‘Right now.’

So I got up out of my hammock and walked out behind my house. I looked up into the sky and said,

‘Great Father in the Sky. This is me, my name is Jaco. According to those papers I have been reading, I am in a really bad relationship with You. I have not lived the way You wanted me to live. Will You please do something for me?’

And then, do you know what the Great Father did?”

“No, what did He do?” I asked.

“He adopted me into His family,” Jaco said, using the same term the Canelas used when one family adopted me as their son, and another adopted my wife as their daughter, and we became true citizens of the Canela village.

Popjes (206)I looked at Jaco, sitting across the study table from me and I thought, There sits the first Canela citizen of heaven.

“Then I went into the village,” Jaco continued, “and talked to some of my friends. They read the Great Father’s papers too and now there is a whole group of people who are following the way of Jesus.”

There had been no missionary, no evangelist or pastor in the village for three years. All there was of God was an early draft printout of a couple of Bible books. But God’s time had finally come.

He had begun to build His Church among the Canelas.

 

Just a Little Bit Pregnant

A few months after Jo and I returned to Canada, having finished the Bible translation project among the Canela, we started worrying about the Canela believers. The rumors we heard and the sporadic notes from our Canela friends in the village were not reassuring.

We had planned for a missionary family to live in our village house and keep teaching reading and do Bible studies. But they encountered many delays. A well-funded community developer from Germany had arrived with medical personnel, teachers, and other workers. The leader kept ridiculing the Canela believers. “Why are you reading that book?” he would ask whenever he saw a Canela reading his Bible. “That’s not for you people.”

A Reassuring Visit
We calmed our worries by praying much for them but kept longing to see them again. The chance came when we returned to Brazil 18 months later to renew our permanent residency visas. During the few days we were in the village many Canelas came to tell us how they loved reading the newly translated Bible–great evidence of God’s work among them.
“I just love reading God’s Word.”
“I read it every day.”
“I read it through once right from the beginning to the end, then I read it through again, and now I am reading it for the third time.”
“People in my house are always asking me to read it to them.”
“When I read, I understand.”
“I pray the songs of King David every morning.”

crowdThe Note That Made Us Cry
The day we left a young woman handed me a note as I pushed through the crowd with a bag to put into the jeep. I glanced at it then gave it to Jo in the back of the house, saying, “This is from Jirot”, and walked out with another bag. When I came back into the house Jo was crying. “Read this” she sobbed, holding out the note. I read it and sat down with Jo and cried too.

Here is the note translated from Canela:
Hello Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, (our Canela names) Listen to my short thought. You are now going back to your children, Pjekar, Tehtyc and Kwyrxomkwyj. (our daughters) May the Maker of this earth, who also is our Maker, take care of all of us. We Canelas are always together with each other. And we, including you, will surely someday be together with each other again. To that end I surely pray for you like this:
“Good Father, look after all of us here. And my relatives, Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, who are the ones who revealed You to me, look after them, and also look after me.” Yes, that is the way I pray. Done.
Jirot

We had received many hundreds of notes ever since the Canelas learned to read and write in their own language. But this one was special since it not only contained a prayer, it also had the words “who are the ones who revealed You to me” showing deep spiritual understanding. And it was the only note we ever got that didn’t end by asking us for something.

That note was tiny evidence of a growing Church—almost insignificant. A woman who is just a tiny bit pregnant is, however, pregnant. She will give birth to a baby in due time. So also the Canela church is alive, nothing tiny or insignificant about it.

Jo and I need not have worried during those 18 months. We should have remembered that Jesus said “I will build my Church.” Not “Jack and Jo,” or “a strong denomination.” He, Himself, will build His own Church, among the Canela, and every other people group that is reading and hearing His Word in their own language. What a comfort! What a relief!

How Much Is Left to Do in the Great Commission?

John Piper is a pastor who speaks my language!

The following is a guest blog first published in his Desiring God blog. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-much-is-left-to-do-in-the-great-commission

The only statistic I can add is that of the 6,800 languages spoken in the world today, about 1,850 languages still do not have any Scripture translated into them, nor has anyone yet been assigned to start a translation program for the 200 million people who speak these languages. No church can be planted without the Seed of the Word of God in the language of the people. http://www.wycliffe.org/About/Statistics.aspx

Now here is JohnPiper:

How Much Is Left to Do in the Great Commission?

We should be dumbfounded at how doable the remaining task of world missions is. Before I show this, let’s clarify some definitions.

Missions is not the same as evangelism. Evangelism is sharing the gospel with any unbelievers, and that work will never be done till Jesus comes.

Missions, on the other hand, relates to people groups, not just people, and the number is finite and relatively stable — like the “every people, tongue, tribe, and nation” of Revelation 5:9.

So missions is crossing a culture, learning a language, and planting the church through preaching the gospel among people groups that have no churches strong enough to evangelize their group.

According to the Joshua Project (as of February 16) there are 16,598 people groups in the world. 7,165 of these are “unreached” (fewer than 2% evangelical).

Defining things somewhat differently, the research arm of the Southern Baptist International Missions Board estimates 11,310 people groups, of which 6,405 are unreached and 3,100 are “unengaged” (no evangelical mission effort to reach them is underway).

Does that number sound large to you? 3,100? These are the people groups yet to be pursued and penetrated with a missions effort. The number is, in fact, amazingly small compared to the resources available to us.

Consider these numbers from the January 2013 issue of The International Bulletin of Missionary Research (vol. 37, no. 1):

  • There are 44,000 Christian denominations in the world — 14 for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 700 million evangelical Christians in the world — 225,000 for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 4.5 million Christian congregations in the world — 1,451 congregations for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 4,900 Christian foreign mission sending agencies in the world — 1.5 agencies for every unengaged people group.

This is simply mindboggling. I am not unaware that most of these 3,100 unengaged peoples are in places and under regimes that are hostile to Christian presence. So I am not saying it will be easy to reach them. It will be very costly.

But if God would grant the passion and courage and wisdom, the remaining task is neither vague, nor enormous, nor unattainable. Would you join me in obeying Matthew 9:38, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”?

And then be a radical, sacrificial goer, or a radical, sacrificial sender. Jesus has all authority to accomplish this. He promises to be with us to the end of the age as we mobilize for this. What a thrilling prospect! What a cause to live for! What a holy ambition.

Closing note from Jack: Since I failed to find a suitable photo, here’s a famous quote to illustrate John’s point, “The Church is like a man wearing a deep sea diver’s pressure suit and helmet, bravely stepping into a bathtub to pull the drain plug.”