For God, whom I served with my spirit by preaching the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how continuously I mention you in my prayers; always pleading that somehow, by God’s will, I may now at last come to you. For I long to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift, to strengthen and establish you; that is, that we may be mutually encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
I have a friend who is as close to me as a brother. In fact, I would say that we are pretty much family. In the years that we have walked together in Christ, an interesting phenomenon has occurred. I can recall times when I have been down, and he has been there to lift me up and confront me with honesty to whip me into shape. Likewise, as imperfect as I am, I have been his source of fire when life has caused his spirit to grow a little faint and cold. There are times when I may feel like I only receive encouragement from him without returning the favor. However, there are times when he may feel the same way. We have viewed each other as anchors in the raging sea, but that is no one-way street. Encouragement flows in both directions. Each one of us has times when we are the strength that the other one needs. This circle of support is what we all should experience within the body of Christ.
As we go along this journey of sanctification, we will encounter people who we feel are so far beyond us spiritually. We may gravitate to these people because we want to know what they know. If we find one who has an incredibly close relationship with God, we want to know how that person got there. We must, however, remember a critical component of this faith. No one simply shines all the time. We have hills, and we have valleys. We cannot think that we have nothing to offer those who seem so far ahead of us in their faith. Those with decades of spiritual experience beyond ours still require encouragement. In today’s passage, Paul himself is asking for encouragement from the Roman church. These are baby Christians that he is trying to teach, but they still have something to offer him. He was not so proud to think that only they could receive encouragement from him. He knew that he would need their support as well.
It is easy for us to see encouragement as something that the greater offers to the lesser. For example, we expect that a father would provide this type of support for his son. However, it is completely possible and pretty typical for a son to encourage his father in return. We see this when the wide-eyed optimism of a child confronts a parent’s critical perspective with the idea that maybe even the impossible is possible. It is the faith of a child that Jesus said we should have. Sometimes children, who we would think are not as spiritually advanced as we are, are the ones who can best encourage us to simply believe. The truth is, no one fits the role of being an encourager without also being someone who requires encouragement in return. Father, thank You for using the lesser to strengthen the greater, and teach us not to be proud when we choose from whom we will seek to be encouraged.