Acts 14:21–23 (ESV) — 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
This text is a snippet from the ministry of Barnabas and Paul. And you will notice in vs. 22 how in returning to cities where they had preached Christ previously, they strengthened “the souls of the disciples, encouraging them.” That word “encouraging” appears more in the book of Acts than it does in any other NT book. It is central to missionary endeavors of the early Chuch. But more, it indicates a perpetual and crying need within the Church – encouragement. A topic that is going to appear in nearly every NT letter.
Now in our text, this encouragement took on a very decided focus: Persevering in the faith in the face of tribulations which are certain to occur in the lives of Believers.
The truth is, we all face a host of tribulations of different species. Sickness and disease. Broken marriages and families. Battles with sin. Misunderstanding by those both in and outside the body of Christ. An anti-Christ culture. Personal failings. Economic uncertainty. War. Civil unrest. Personal spiritual apathy. Strained relationships. Loneliness. Feelings of inadequacy. Loss of meaning. Political turmoil. On and on. All which can contribute to distraction, discouragement, division, depression and despondency. And all of which point to why as Believers, we too need to be committed to the ministry of encouragement.
May I encourage you today to say a word to some brother or sister in the Lord to keep in the battle, to keep seeking the face of God, to remain steadfast in prayer, to get back into the Word, to offer up thanksgiving for blessings and to remind ourselves of the goodness of God’s grace in bringing into the knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, the promise of His return and the glory of the resurrection? Oh how we need one another to “lift up the drooping hands and strengthen the weak knees” (Heb. 12:12) of our brothers and sisters.
It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God. But His Word is true, His promises certain, His indwelling Spirit available to rely upon and His people around us.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 (ESV) — 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.