S52P4 – Outside ourselves: faith in action

Rom. 1:8-12

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Dancing was a glorious thing for her when she was a child.  That first recital, however, was bittersweet.  She had practiced with all the other little girls until they had every move down pat.  Then, they began rehearsing on the stage where they would actually perform.  That changed everything.  Even with no one in the seats, that small theater still overwhelmed be 8-year-old.  She froze.  No amount of verbal encouragement could get her past that nervousness and fear.  The night of the performance came, and she found herself not on the stage but in the audience.  As she watched all the other little girls perform that dance just as they had rehearsed, she finally realized something.  If they could do it, then so could she.  For her, true encouragement came not from hearing that it was possible but from someone showing her.

Paul’s words here speak about something specific regarding encouragement.  Often, we see encouragement as a conversation.  We think that saying certain words to a person will get them to move past the insecurity or fear, and that will be enough to take them over the line. In some instances, however, mere words will be insufficient.  There will be times when a person needs to see those words in action.  When it comes to encouraging others in faith, words are not enough.  We need to live out our faith so that our brothers and sisters can see that it is possible and fruitful.  It is good to talk about the fruit of the spirit, but it is better to exhibit it for the brethren to see.  Encouragement is so much more compelling when it is active and alive. Which is more encouraging: to hear that man can be healed or to see it happen?

When we read through scripture and see how great people of God acted, we are encouraged in our faith because we see that it is possible to live that way faithfully.  We are not just being told stories, but we are reading about how the power of God manifested through those who believe in him.  How much more encouraging is it for us to see those great moves of God right before our eyes today!  When people say that seeing is believing, they are right.  The one who struggles with being faithful to God needs to see a real life example of right Christian living. That is the encouragement that God gives us the power to obey his precepts and follow his commands.  Father, make us living spiritual examples so that we can encourage our brothers and sisters in faith by showing your power through our lives.