Exhorting Each Other

Let's be specialists in encouraging people by bringing the comfort of God to them.

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:12


Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? You doin’ alright today? Well, I trust everything’s alright at your house. Bless your heart. I’m fine, thank you. Nice to be back with you. I’ve just been praying that God would put His love and blessing and truth and power and comfort and inspiration into what is said during these moments. We can’t see each other, I can’t use any particular kind of gesture as I preach. [chuckle] It’s just the voice backed up by the heart based on the Word. And maybe that’s a good thing because, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” the Bible says. And so may the Lord minister His love and peace and comfort and blessing to you, beloved, in these moments.

We’re in I Timothy 4:13, Paul said, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Reading. Most people don’t read enough nowadays, especially in the age of television. It’s a sensate culture-don’t bother me with ideas and just I wanna feel good. But reading is still necessary in order for you to know what you’re talking about, know what life is all about, and know what God wants you to do.

And the first book to read, of course, is the Bible. Beyond that, be an omnivorous reader. Read literature for beauty of expression and for illustrations. Read history. “If we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it,” someone has said. Read scientific books. Get up on the latest march of science. Read psychological books. Read books that have to do with current happenings and current events and the lives of people. Every now and again, pick up a book of poetry and read it. Poetry with its beautiful expressions and its deep thoughts that go beyond the verbiage itself will enrich your own soul.

An old time preacher named Hoss, Dr. Hoss had seven points about reading. Let me give them to you. The first place he says, “Read with discrimination. The world is full of books. No small portion of which are either worthless or hurtful.” Read with discrimination. You’re not required to taste the garbage of the world to know that it is garbage. Read with discrimination, that’s his first point.

Second, read with attention. Never take up a book merely for amusement or for the sake of whiling away time. Time spent that way is worse than lost. Read with attention. Three, read with reflection. Think about what you’re reading. [chuckle] Every college sophomore has had to learn that lesson. And many of us have to relearn it, don’t we? Have you been troubled about the fact that your mind tends to wander even while you’re reading something to which you should really pay attention? This is something that you and I need to learn and relearn. To think clearly while we’re reading. Read with reflection.

Fourth, read with confidence. It’s often said that man does not know his weakness, and it’s quite true as well that he does not know his strength. Many fail to accomplish what they might because they don’t have confidence in their own powers. “When you sit down to the reading of a book,” says Dr. Hoss, “When you sit down to the reading of a book, believe that you’re able to understand the subject on which it treats and make up your mind that you will understand it. If it calls you to a severe effort, so much the better.” Read with confidence.

Fifth, “At the same time,” he says, “read with humility and candor.” We know so little in comparison with what ought to be known and we have always much more reason to be humbled of our ignorance than puffed up by our knowledge. Real science is always humble and docile. Pedantry is proud and self-conceited.

Then he says it’s a good thing to read with people. Now that scarcely ever happens. When can you remember sitting down and having somebody read a book to you. [chuckle] My, my! That’s a practice that went out, I guess, in the early 1900s. But it still is a good thing. Why? Well, because like the modern technique of brainstorming where people get together to trade their ideas, when you gather together to listen to the reading of a valuable piece of literature, the interchange of ideas is always very helpful.

And seven, finally, read for improvement and not for show. The great object of reading is not to be able to tell what others have thought and said but to improve your own mind and useful knowledge. Establish your heart and virtue and prepare yourself for right performance of the duties of life and for a joyful acceptance with God. Read for improvement not just for show. Isn’t that good?

Well, I thought I’d pass that along to you. Reading. Reading. Now, what else? He says, “Till I come pay attention to reading.” And then he says, “to exhortation.” It’s an interesting word, Greek word, paraklesis, which strangely enough is translated differently. Exhortation here and seven other times in the New Testament, it’s translated exhortation but it’s also translated comfort, and 14 different times it’s translated consolation. Once this Greek word is translated “entreaty.” Exhortation, I have oversimplified it by saying this is our concept of persuasion. Persuasion, leading another person to make a decision on his own based on the facts, based on the Word of God. Exhortation.

But interestingly enough, the concept of comfort and consolation, 20 different times in the Bible this word “exhort” has the overtones of comfort and consolation. The literal meaning of it is something that calls you near, to call you near, alongside of. Now put that all together, what does it say to us? Exhortation.

Number one, your job is to help to heal the hurts of people, to love them, and to comfort them, and to encourage them. Be an encourager rather than a critic. You know how you feel when someone comes up to you and says, “Now you’re not gonna like this, but I’m gonna tell it to you for your own good.” And immediately you feel defensive about it and try to protect yourself from whatever criticism is coming.

Far rather, brothers and sisters, let’s be specialists in encouraging people and in bringing the comfort of God to them. There are some people who make you feel better just when they arrive, isn’t it true? You feel like saying, “Thank God, you’ve come.” There are other people who make you feel happy when they leave and you feel like saying, “Thank God, they went.” [chuckle] Oh, yes. There’s a difference, isn’t there? Yes, and both kinds can be believers but some people just encourage you and others have what my friend, Roy McCandless, calls the gift of discouragement. [chuckle] Well, be that as it may he said, “You pay attention to this very important function of your ministry.”

Now in a moment or two, we’ll get to the idea of teaching doctrine but it’s important to me that Paul listed in the order of their importance: First, the reading that fills up your own cup of information and blessing; and second, the outflow of divine love that helps to heal the hurts and lift the burdens of other people. Helps them to decide for God on their own because of the blessing and comfort you have been.

Then he speaks about teaching. Bob Pierce used to say, “You have to deserve a hearing. Before you preach to people you have to deserve that hearing whether it means to feed them and house them and clothe them or whatever it does mean, you have to do what ought to be done in order to deserve a hearing for the Gospel.” Well, there’s a lot of truth in that.

Now what does it really mean to you and to me in the 20th century when we say exhortation, comfort, consolation, entreaty? Huh? What does it mean? Alright, let me just tick off a few things that it means to Bob Cook, alright? First of all, it means notice people and accept them for what they are, valuable human beings in the sight of God. It does no good to lecture people if they know that you’re rejecting them inside. You can tell when someone is just tolerating you and you can tell, can you not, when someone is looking down on you in thinly disguised contempt? Of course you can, you can feel that, we talked about that in I Timothy 4:12, under the heading of the word spirit, the envelope of influence that surrounds every human being which telegraphs our feelings to other people without a word being said. So yes, you can tell.

So if you’re going to do any persuading, any exhorting, any comforting, give any consolation, use any form of divinely strengthened entreaty to persuade them to do God’s will. If you’re gonna do any of those things or all of the above, you have to start with accepting the person as he or she is in love. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost Who was given unto us, you open your heart to the Holy Spirit and He’ll fill you full of love. You then can go to the unlovely person and just spill over the love of God on them.

That’s the first thing. What else? I’ve often said to the students at the college where I served for 23 years as president, but in those years when I served as president, I would tell the students, “Everybody you ever meet is hurting somewhere. Find out where the hurt is and help to heal it, and you’ll be a blessing.” Everybody you ever meet is hurting somewhere, find out where the hurt is, and help to heal it and you’ll be a blessing. Notice the person, accept the person, and then strive to heal the place where the hurt is. Lift the burden, and solve the problem, and meet the need. Consolation. Comfort. It’s not just talking, it’s doing what needs to be done. And we get at this the next time we get together.

Dear Father today, make us comforters of people. In Jesus’ name I ask this, Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today, and be a blessing!

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