Sunday within the Ascension-Two Ministries Of The Holy Spirit: Encouragement And Admonition
Consider the following commands in the Bible:
“But exhort one another daily.....lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
"Not forsaking our assembly, as some are accustomed; but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25).
These commands are almost totally ignored by the vast majority of those who call themselves Christian, yet they highlight two of our chief responsibilities as members of Christ's Body. The word translated "exhort/comforting" in the above passages is the Greek word parakaleo. The noun form of this verb is parakletos, which, is the word Jesus used to refer to the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14 to 16.
This would seem to indicate that encouragement and admonition are two important ministries of the Holy Spirit. And if the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us as members of Christ's Body, He will seek to express Himself through us to one another in a mutual ministry of encouragement and admonition. We shall therefore be quenching the Spirit if we fail to engage in the same such a ministry. Hence the Word of God exhorts us: "And we beseech you, brethren, rebuke the unquiet and unruly.....comfort, that is encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient towards all men.....Do not quench the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:14,19 ).
This does not mean that we shall be spending our time encouraging and admonishing others all the time. We must, however, recognize our responsibility in these areas.
Likewise, encouragement can refresh a weak and discouraged Christian and correction can cleanse a straying Christian. We must, in a symbolic since be willing to wash others' feet and have our feet washed by them in return just as Jesus did in reality.
Paul and Barnabas strengthened the souls of the disciples in the churches they had established, "by exhorting and encouraging them to continue in the faith" - so the record reads (Acts 14:22). We too can strengthen others through a ministry of encouragement - not only through the sharing of the Word, but also by offering appreciation where it is due.
Jesus was always quick to give a word of appreciation where due. He praised a centurion for his faith (Matthew 8:10), a repentant woman for her love (Luke 7:47) and Mary of Bethany for her devotion (Luke 10:42; Mark 4:8,9). To His failing disciples, He said, "you are they who have continued with me in my trials and temptations: " (Luke 22:28).
Paul when writing to the churches - even to the most carnal ones - usually found something to appreciate in them. To the church in Corinth, riddled with factions, disputes and immorality, Paul began his letter thus: "I give thanks to my God always for you, for the grace of God that is given you in Christ Jesus, That in all things you are made rich in him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; As the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, So that nothing is wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who also will confirm you unto the end without crime, in the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful: by whom you are called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:4-9). Only then did he go on to say, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you” (verse 10).
Paul tried to begin with something positive. So must we. This does not come naturally to all of us. Most of us tend to see the negative side of others first. But if we submit to the discipline of the Holy Spirit, we shall find Him showing us something to appreciate in everyone.
A teacher once spread a large white sheet of paper with a small ink- spot in one corner, in front of his class and asked the children to write down what they saw. All of them described the small ink-spot and no-one mentioned the large area of un-spoiled paper. So too, in human relationships: We often tend to concentrate on people's minor defects and do not see the good in them. Altering one's outlook requires determination but it is worth the effort. Gradually the habit of noticing people's good qualities can be acquired. The next step is to tell them how much one appreciates those good qualities.