A Message From the Rector

George Conger photo

By The Very Rev. George Conger
SOTH Rector

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

Shortly after I arrived in Lecanto, I received an e-mail from a good friend of mine in Connecticut. Tired and somewhat sore from moving north from Vero Beach – and still missing my daughters, Laura and Claudia, who began their first semester of college last month – my friend’s brief word of encouragement touched me deeply.
It prompted me to open my Bible and look to see what Scripture tells us about encouragement. I was soon struck by how important acts of encouragement and kindness are, in building up God’s people. It is the oxygen of church life – it keeps our hearts beating, our minds clear, and our hands ready to serve.
Encouragement is not something that we do just to be nice. It is a commandment from God. The Apostle Paul and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tell us that our faith requires that we encourage one another. (1 Thes. 4:18, 5:11; Heb. 3:13)
We need encouragement because the world is a difficult place. Jesus tells us that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). We are promised suffering (1 Pet. 4:12), persecution (John 15:20); and trials and tribulations (James 1:2-3).
But in the face of these trials, Scripture also tells us that the early church made encouragement a regular part of their life together. (Acts 13:15) They shared encouragement with one another to spur each others’ faith (Acts 14:22), hope (Rom 15:4); unity (Rom 15:5); joy (Acts 15:31); strength (Acts 15:32); fruitfulness (Heb. 10:24-5); faithfulness (1 Thess. 2:12); perseverance (Heb. 10:25); and hope in the coming return of Christ (1 Thess. 4:18).
What encouragement means for us today hasn’t changed that much. While none of us will suffer the persecution now facing our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq, the trials and tribulations of life will nevertheless take their toll.
We must love one another and encourage one another. That means putting aside our pride at times and seeking first the encouragement and support of others above our own desires.
Please pray that God makes you an encourager. Ask him to give you a heart that loves others and the wisdom how best to share this love. Ask him to help you die to selfishness and grow in a desire to build up others. For some of us, encouragement comes naturally. I need to be reminded – and I have reminders in my calendar and notes scribbled to myself to send someone an encouraging note, to make a phone call or offer a word of support. I need this reminder to pause, pray, and then intentionally try to spur someone on in Christ.
I also pray that God continue to make this wonderful church a community that loves each other in specific, tangible ways like encouragement. Ask God to use you to help fan that flame. Don’t get discouraged if it seems some do not return your words of kindness, or if you do not immediately see any fruits from this labor. Creating a culture that glorifies God takes a long time, lots of prayer, and abundant grace. But he will answer our prayers. That is his promise.
Now is the time to start. Who can you encourage right now? Who has blessed you recently that you can thank? Have you been angry or sharp with someone? God can use this and so can you to reach out in love and kindness.

May the Lord do more than we can imagine through just a little encouragement (Eph 3:20-21).