Prophetic Momentum

Jon Cressey writing mostly about church, prophets and prophecy...

Keep the tank full!

Keeping the ‘Encouragement Tank’ full

Have you ever run a marathon? The thing that carries you through the final three or four miles of the gruelling, muscle-numbing race is the encouragement, cheers, and applause of the crowd, urging you ever onwards. I know this is true because I have observed from the side-lines the effect that encouragement has on others! It lifts the spirits of the tired and weary and stirs the runner to give their all. It truly makes a difference. (For me, the marathon remains a spectator sport!)

It is essential to keep our ‘Encouragement Tank’—a metaphorical measure of our readiness to support and uplift each other—full and even overflowing. A full tank ensures that we are prepared to face life’s challenges together, maintaining our spiritual edge and the strength of our communal bonds. We absolutely must watch out for each other, never allowing our encouragement tank to get anywhere near empty, continually replenishing it with acts of kindness, supportive words, and fervent prayers.

It works for us!

My own church is profoundly committed to fostering a family-focused community that doesn’t just survive but truly flourishes through mutual encouragement. It’s more than honouring one another; it’s a determined, wilful, proactive stance. One of our values as a church is for everyone who worships with us to flourish. The word “flourish” speaks of a vibrant, thriving existence, achieved by the grace-led determination of supporting and uplifting one another. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with the words, “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11); we are called to do just that! The intent is a congregation where every member actively seeks to boost the morale of their brethren, being a people that does not merely exhibit the love of Christ but resonates with it, extending a powerful testimony to the world. It’s a radical challenge, and it starts with you! Can you rise to the challenge?

Overcoming Discouragement through the Power of Encouragement

In the face of all that is going on in the world, with all the uncertainties and the threat of war troubling many, it is not uncommon to see spirits wane and hope diminish within the church; however, there is a remedy. Encouragement serves as a potent antidote to such despair. Consider how Barnabas, well known for his encouragement, stood by Paul, facilitating his acceptance among the apostles when suspicion could have easily turned them away. When he came to Jerusalem and attempted to join the disciples:

“…They were all afraid of Paul, for they did not believe that he was a disciple, 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.” (Acts 9:26-27)

In the same spirit, we also are called to be pillars of support for our brothers and sisters whom God has joined us to—not just on Sunday morning—offering words of hope and actions of reassurance. Even a simple affirmation or a prayer prayed with conviction can be the very lifeline a struggling friend needs.

Empowering Ministry with Affirmative Support

One of the reasons for keeping our “Encouragement-tank” full is that encouragement is crucial in helping each other discover and employ our spiritual gifts. There’s an evident element of this in the ministry of Paul when he was mentoring Timothy. He urged him to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). Encouragement assists the timid and cautious in embracing their gifting and affirmation, especially when they are yet to be convinced that God indeed has a purpose, gifting, and adventure for them—it’s easy to believe that God has grand purposes and plans for others! When we affirm and support one another in our ministries, we unleash the full potential of the church to make a significant impact for Christ.

There are a few words I really like that should be preserved for the Christian vocabulary when discussing the work of God in our midst—words like “awesome“, “unprecedented“, “contend“, “audacious“, and of course, as has just been said, “unleash!” May God unleash an astonishing measure of encouragement in the Church today. Encouraging a young leader or recognising the emerging gifts in others can significantly propel the Gospel forward, but don’t stop there—encourage everyone you can; earn a reputation as an encourager of God’s people. Being a world-class encourager will not lead to issues of pride.

Strengthening Bonds within Our Church Family

The fabric of our relationships within our churches is strengthened through encouragement. As Proverbs 27:17 eloquently puts it, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Our encouraging words not only improve relationships but are also of great value in solidifying the essential dynamics of fellowship and friendship. A spontaneous or thoughtful kind remark, or a timely social media note of encouragement, can cultivate an atmosphere ripe with love and mutual support, which is indispensable for a healthy church community. Social media is not going away—so you might as well use it. But let me encourage you to do something extra: consider what you are going to say to your friend, colleague, or even a stranger. Pause for a moment and muse about where Scripture might be saying the same thing—and include that verse in your encouragement. Never underestimate how powerful Scripture can be when the Holy Spirit affirms it in the heart of the believer.

A Testimony of Love to the World

Before I conclude with a compelling example, I should mention that our culture of encouragement stands as a testament to Christ’s transformative love. Jesus Himself said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). That love is powerfully demonstrated by encouragement.

When outsiders observe a church marked by genuine encouragement and support, they are naturally drawn to its Source—Jesus Christ. I want Emmanuel Sheffield to be known not only for our doctrinal integrity and vibrant worship but, above all, for our profound and enduring love and encouragement toward one another. I encourage you to aspire to this in your church too!

Look at Moses!

Going back to my analogy of keeping the “Encouragement Tank” full, a compelling biblical example can be found in the story of Moses during the battle against the Amalekites, in Exodus 17:8-13.

In this powerful story, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climb to the top of a hill while Joshua leads the Israelites into battle in the valley below. Moses holds up his staff, and as long as his hands are raised, Israel prevails in the fight. However, when he grows tired and his hands fall, the Amalekites gain the upper hand. Encouragement? Recognising the need for sustained support, Aaron and Hur bring a stone for Moses to sit on, and they stand on either side of him, holding his hands steady until sunset. This act of support ensures that Joshua and the Israelites achieve victory over the Amalekites. Sure, it wasn’t a comfortable stone, and no snacks were provided, but they were there for him.

This story illustrates the concept of an ‘Encouragement Tank’. Moses, physically unable to maintain his supportive posture alone, relies on Aaron and Hur to keep his hands lifted. This teamwork and mutual support show the importance of encouraging one another, ensuring that no one has to bear their burdens alone. Can you relate at this point?

By holding up Moses’ arms, Aaron and Hur literally and figuratively filled the encouragement tank, allowing the Israelites to continue fighting and ultimately succeed. In a similar way, in our fellowship, in home groups, in coffee shops together when we see someone struggling or weary, it is our call to come alongside them, offering our strength and support to keep their spirits lifted. This mutual encouragement ensures that the entire community can continue unleashed, audaciously moving forward and overcoming insurmountable challenges together.

Encouragement doesn’t happen by accident—it is intentional. Don’t just have a full tank of encouragement—try your very best to use it all up, and God will keep replenishing it.

Keep the tank full!
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