Sermon on Colossians 3:21 – “Be An Encourager”

Sermon for Sunday Evening, February 25th, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Sermon Text

[Col 3:21 ESV] 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

 

Introduction

 

About a year ago I gave a sermon on encouragement, brilliantly titled … “encouragement.”

 

And I didn’t want to reuse that title, so I have a new one … “Be An Encourager.” And the subject is a bit different as well.

 

A year ago we were in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4 where Paul encouraged the Christians to continue to live holy lives; to keep up the good work. And I encouraged you — at least I hope I did — to continue in the great work you are doing in life, in your families, and here at church.

 

Now the subject is a bit different. We’re in a topical series on “living in these times,” and instead of me encouraging you to “keep up the good work” I want to look at how you can be a better encourager. I’m encouraging you to be an encourager.

 

I. Young Ministers Chastise, Old Ministers Encourage

 

A new idea came my way a couple weeks ago. And it really got me thinking. A person said “Young ministers in their preaching tend to chastise; old minister tend to encourage.” Like any simple statement, there are exceptions to the rule, and we might even find something wrong with the idea, but I think we must admit some truth to the statement, and wisdom in it. “You ministers chastise, old ministers encourage.”

 

For many ministers, their choice of career was made because of their love for truth. And they want you to know the truth and to live according to the truth. And the most natural way, it seems, to enforce these truths is to chastise. That is, to scold, to discipline, or — the thesaurus says — even to berate, flog, or punish. I can only hope my sermons haven’t been punishing.

 

And there can be a problem if a minister doesn’t chastise at all. The truth is the truth and it must be preached, even if it is not always comfortable.

 

But the wisdom in that statement continues to strike me. “Young ministers chastise, old ministers encourage.” Maybe it is not so nice to call them “old ministers.” So we could say “experienced ministers.” And perhaps it is from years of reflection from much work of the Holy Spirit on them that they learn that encouraging is more successful than chastising. It is akin to the ideas about proper leadership; bad leaders push, good leaders pull. Bad leaders say “attack on the right flank”;, good leaders are out there LEADING the charge.

 

I created this idea a few months ago, and I mentioned it in a sermon – “The quiet minister.” The loud minister is the brash young man throwing his weight around. The quiet minister is the man who’s presence speaks with sufficient weight in most circumstances. So too the quiet minister is “the encourager.”

 

Well, whether minister, elder, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, or friend, we want to know HOW CAN I BE AN ENCOURAGER.

 

II. The Need for Encouragers

 

People need encouragement in these times. There is so much doubt, so much fear, so much anxiety. People often say “I don’t know about this world … it doesn’t seem like a world I want to live in; and I can’t imagine what it will look like in the future for my children.” No doubt it is easy to be discouraged about the state of the world. There are billions of dollars of media constantly telling you how bad things are. And maybe there will be aspects of the future world that are worse. But you know what? … this is God’s world. Therefore, you can live in it. Your children can live in it too.

 

But we all could use some encouragement.

 

III. What is Encouragement?

 

What is encouragement?

 

One dictionary has it that “To encourage” means to provide support, confidence, or hope.

[REPEAT: To encourage means to provide support, confidence, or hope.]

 

The Biblical New Testament Greek term translated as “encourage” is “parakaleo.” It has a variety of meanings. Beseech, comfort, exhort, desire, pray. What is notable is that all of these meanings of he Biblical term relate to a SPOKEN encouragement. It is possible to encourage in ways other than speaking; encouragement can be through the act of giving for example. And, as they say, actions speaks louder than words. But essentially encouragement is in the Scriptures is a spoken encouragement.

 

IV. How Can I be an Encourager?

 

How can I be an encourager…

 

My first answer might sound a bit strange, even perhaps disingenuous. But it is worth consideration.

 

A. Don’t Be A Discourager

 

Don’t Be a discourager.

 

And that is what we see in our text.

 

[Col 3:21 ESV] 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

 

The previous verse is a requirement for children to obey their parents: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” And then we have that a father has the obligation to his children not to provoke them, lest they become discouraged. And by extension, anyone who has roll of authority or seniority should not bring discouragement through their actions.

 

[Col 3:21 ESV] 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

 

The “provoking” here is “irritating.” Don’t provoke your children; don’t irritate your children. One commentator says that “by perpetual fault-finding children are discouraged or dishearten.”

 

No doubt, some correction is necessary for children. But to constantly find fault in a child (or even an adult) is not of benefit to them; but positively harmful.

 

To be an encourager then, we need to take steps in the right direction, not backwards. We need to “build up” not tear down.

 

B. Look for those in need of encouragement.

 

Look around you. Who need’s encouragement? Who first comes to your mind? Identify them. If you’re going to be an encourager, you need SOMEONE to encourage. So that is step one in going forward. Look for those in need of encouragement.

 

And let me tell you a little secret. You know who need encouragement? Everyone.

 

There are no super-humans that have it all figured out and can do everything on their own with full confidence. Everyone needs encouragement.

 

C. Support others

 

Then, how are we to encourage. One ways is to support others.

 

And this includes financial support.

 

In the New Testament there is man name Joseph, who is more commonly known by his nickname, Barnabas. Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”

 

And one way in which he manifested that name is that he gave to the needy.

 

[Act 4:36-37 ESV] 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

 

This financial support is an encouragement, because it is a RELIEF to those who receive it. They people in need are desperately poor, hungry, and probably working tirelessly for their survival. Having financial support reminds them that others care for them, and that God cares for them too. It gives them hope for better things.

 

D. Befriend the New Person

 

Another way in which Barnabas is an encourager is is he befriends the new guy.

 

This is what we should do: “befriend the new person.”

 

Barnabas stood up for Paul when everyone else was suspicious. Yes, Paul was an enemy of the church, but he is changed by the miraculous grace of God. Then Barnabas encourages Paul by taking a risk on him when no one else would.

 

[Act 9:26-27 ESV] 26 And when he [Paul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

 

Let us then “befriend the new person.”

 

I think there is a tendency among many to say “I don’t want to invest a person until I know they are around to stay.” But let me tell you, if you invest in them perhaps they will stay! Friendships are not only about what you can get out of them, but what you can put into them.

 

E. Encourage through prayer.

 

Now another way for you to be an encourager:

 

Encourage through prayer. Pray that the Lord would work on the heart of the person (or persons) that you’ve identified as needing encouragement.

 

Pray for them. And then tell them: “I was praying for you.” That is encouragement. Perhaps they might think “Wow, someone cares enough about me to pray for me?”

 

F. Encourage by the Word.

 

Then, there is encouragement by the Word through the Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. Jesus says he will send another comforter. And a comforter encourages. The Holy Spirit works in encouragement in you. He encourages your heart, giving you faith.

 

And the encouragement is BY the Word of God. It is the Word of God that is encouraging.

 

[Rom 15:4 ESV] 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

So we are to encourage others with Biblical truths!

 

Remind Christians that “The Lord is with you.” Not, “you’re great.” But “He’s great.”

 

You can see how different Christian encouragement is compared to the world’s encouragement. The world’s encouragement is flattery. Christian encouragement is real hope.

 

The world’s encouragement is about you.

The Bible’s encouragement is about God, FOR you.

 

That’s where our comfort is, where our hope is, where our support is. It is with God, and God alone.

 

His Gospel encourages us to hold fast.

His Gospel strengthens our hope in the resurrection.

 

The Word of God ENCOURAGES.

 

So if you are going to be an encourager, get in the Word of God. Read it, study it, know it, proclaim it.

 

[1Th 5:11 ESV] 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

I think we can do great things through encouragement.

 

I hope we’ll all make a great effort to be encouragers, knowing that the Holy Spirit encourages us by the Word of God.

 

I encourage you, be an encourager.

 

Let us pray.