Strengthen, Encourage, Comfort

“Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel” (Proverbs 20:15, NIV).

When Jesus taught, people were amazed at his teaching. John describes him as being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV). They said that they really couldn’t find anyone else who taught with authority the way Jesus did.

As a result crowds gathered around Jesus, seeking his teaching. And when they heard what he had to say, many of them went away strengthened, encouraged and comforted.

Today, when we read Jesus’s words, when we gather around him and listen to what he teaches us in the Bible, the very same thing is likely to occur. I come burdened, carrying my baggage, with my head spinning and full of the disruptive, discouraging thoughts of life in a fallen world.

Then Jesus speaks to me through the words of the Bible, and his words lighten the burden on my heart. I am strengthened, encouraged, and comforted. The gospel extends to me the forgiveness of my sins. It assures me of the Spirit’s life-changing strength. It gives me solid hope — especially the hope of a future in heaven.

Now Jesus has passed onto us the authority to share the gospel with others. And there is no greater gift, no greater responsibility, no greater cause, than to clearly and accurately teach Jesus and his promises to others.

To desire to do this, Paul write to the Corinthians, is to desire the greatest gift of the Spirit. And it is to seek the ability to strengthen, encourage and comfort those around us.

Someone who desires these things is indeed “a rare jewel.”

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort… I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:1-3, 18-19, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, August 20, is 2 Chronicles 10:1 – 12:16, 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 and Proverbs 20:15-24.

Lord, help me to teach your gospel message accurately, helpfully and compellingly. I want those who are around me to be strengthened, encouraged and comforted by your gospel promises, and the love that caused you to make those promises.

Header image based on "Carmen Lucia Ruby" by Cliff, CC By 2.0

They Know

I have to imagine that he was choosing his words very carefully. This was Jesus’ “final shot” at teaching his disciples, reminding them of the things he wanted them to remember always.

He wanted them to know that although he would be leaving, he would return. He told them that he was returning to his Father, and that while he was there, he would be preparing places where the disciples would one day join him.

He assured them that he would listen to their prayers, and that great things would be done by them.

He promised them that he was not leaving them alone. No, he would send his Holy Spirit to live with them, to be their counselor and advisor, and to bring them confidence, joy and peace — whatever life might throw at them!

Jesus saved some of his most challenging and comforting words for that last meeting with his disciples. And those words are words we still need to hear today.

Jesus will return. That’s not guesswork or conjecture. It’s a certain promise from the Son of God himself.

Jesus hears our prayers. And he wants us to be confident and courageous knowing that we always have the ability to connect with him through prayer. We matter to him.

Jesus gives us his Spirit as we listen to the gospel and as we celebrate the sacraments. And the Holy Spirit continues to bring us confidence, joy and peace when life throws the kitchen sink at us.

Others may not be able accept this to be true. But the ones who have experienced this peace, this joy, this confidence in the face of adversity?

They know.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:16-20, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, May 24, is 1 Samuel 14:24 – 15:35, John 14:1-31 and Proverbs 12:28 – 13:9.

Header image based on "fire" by Soreen D, CC By 2.0