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Today we are honored to teach you about a gift of the spirit. There are several gifts, 18 to 21 in total according to theologians all found in the bible. In Romans 12 Paul tells the Romans about some of these gifts starting around verse 6. But we would like to lay some foundation for you on why God saw fit to give us gifts in the first place. So, bear with us as we start laying some context. Verses 1-2, reads, I beseech[a] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your [b]reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Two of my favorite verses) 

Paul is writing to the newly converted Christians, the Romans. You remember they were the ones that were or are in power at that time. They are the ones that didn’t associate with Jews, they thought of the Jews as lower than themselves, but we have the book of Romans so that tells me that somewhere the word of God penetrated the heart of the Roman man and woman.

In my mind Paul is giving the basics or expectation, but when I say basics I mean the core or essential details for these new creatures in Christ, to know what is required to be ALL IN, he is telling them they have to be a living sacrifice, to be changed by God from the inside out, meaning no more animals to slaughter, nope, Paul is explaining it is us, us that is on the alter, God is going to do some spiritual surgery, He is asking you and me to lay down our will, our ways, our desires, our training, our understanding, our traditions if they get in the way of this reasonable service. We are to be placed on the altar and be a willing sacrifice to be a Child belonging to the Most High. That is what we all say yes to when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Dying to ourselves.

Paul is leaning in. Leaning in to tell them what it means to be committed to Jesus. They are learning what is required and what is required is, Nisey said it earlier, ALL of THEM.

Here’s some great news though, isn’t it like God to give us good news! God doesn’t expect us to be all in – in our own strength people of God. We would be doomed if we had to serve Him with no supernatural assistance. In verse 3 it says: 3 Because of the privilege and authority[c] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[d]

I wanted to pause here for a second, we are almost done with the foundation laying but thought, this was so significant in receiving and operating in our individual gifts. Paul is going to be talking here in the next few verses about spiritual gifts that God has given the body of Christ to function with, the help that we were talking about earlier. But I wanted to point out a warning that Paul noted: he said Don’t think you are better than you are (or more highly than yourselves), be honest in your evaluation of yourself, measuring yourself by the faith God has given. This is interesting to Henry and me, we wondered why Paul is jumping into the description of gifts with this being his opener?? He is talking about personal inventory here. When Henry and I do this in counseling, this is where we start, the personal stuff, we require self-reflection. Paul is saying, if they or we assess ourselves above of what God has called us to be then we are always overreaching, our expectation will always result in disappointment. So, this is why the warning here, we are one body made up of many members not all called to serve in the same way but for the same purpose. This is also saying don’t settle or think too lowly of our calling, if we settle in our faith, this will cause us to not reach out and we won’t hit those targets that our Father has put inside us to hit.

So, each of you ask God what HE has given you faith to do? Jump down to verse 8: it says… If your gift is to encourage others, THEN be encouraging. People of God today we get to share the spiritual gift of ENCOURAGEMENT. The gift of encouragement is a speaking gift, but some encouragers may think I wish I could have the gift of healing, or prophecy or interpretation (remember we talked about overreaching, Paul told the people to look inward and find the gift that God has placed there). Some may not size-up the gift of encouragement as the heavy hitter it truly is. Encouragement protects us. Encouragement keeps us. Encouragement goes toe to toe with doubt. Encouragement squares up with lies, encouragement chases faith down when doubt has it on the run. Exhorting is the instrument in which God pursues us. Exhorting means to strongly encourage. God pursues us in the exhorting. My wife and I operate in this gift when husbands and wives are at a breaking point, when friends are struggling, or sisters and brothers are doubting.

Now God gives us gifts not for ourselves, no, a few weeks ago Pastor Brittany shared something very powerful to me, that open doors are for opportunities, this is the obvious piece, but what stuck in my mind was open doors mean work, work for God and His Kingdom. While in the work these gifts are intended to help build up His church and to glorify our Father.

Our mission today, saints, is to encourage you, we want to share this gift of encouragement with you. But let’s not forget we ALL are called to operate here; please stand to your feet as we read our main text.

Turn to Hebrews 3:7-14

7 So it is just as the Holy Spirit says:

“If you hear God’s voice today, 8 don’t be stubborn as you were in the past, when you turned against God. That was the day you tested God in the desert. 9 For 40 years in the desert, your people saw what I did. But they tested me and my patience. 10 So I was angry with them. I said, ‘Their thoughts are always wrong. They have never understood my ways.’ 11 So I was angry and made a promise: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

12 So, brothers and sisters, be careful that none of you has the evil thoughts that cause so much doubt that you stop following the living God. 13 But encourage each other every day, while you still have something called “today.[a]” Help each other so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become too hard to change. 14 We have the honor of sharing in all that Christ has if we continue until the end to have the sure faith we had in the beginning.

 The writer of Hebrews here is saying encouragement keeps us from deception. You can consider times in your life when you have been deceived, I can almost bet that you can trace its origin to discouragement.

For example, in the book of Numbers the Israelites are on the verge of crossing the border of the wilderness into the Promise Land, but before they all entered, 1 from each tribe, a total of 12 was selected, as spies to gain understanding of the promise of God, right? But as they entered seeing the inhabitants, 10 of them saw themselves as grasshoppers scampering before the giant frames of the warriors of the land. They had allowed evil thoughts to enter in and doubt the promises of the Living God. Does that make sense?

Maybe you’re in a season of loneliness, and in this season your mind starts to tell you that no one loves you or sees you, or maybe you’re lonely because you are all you need in this life.

Or maybe you work and serve, and you find yourself fatigued and your mind starts to deceive you by saying that no one cares or appreciates what you do.

Discouraged by your circumstances you start to deceive yourself to comfort yourself. But the work of encouragement, if you had the scriptures like don’t grow weary in well doing, Galatians 6:9. Or if you had the ability to uplift yourself from your circumstance, if you had an encourager in your corner that knows God’s word, the work of encouragement would throw you a rope and pulls you back towards reality, by acknowledging the season that you are in and speaking God’s word into you. What it would look like is yeah, you’re lonely BUT you are not alone, or yes, you’ve stumbled but you don’t have to stay down. Or maybe yes, your marriage is in shambles BUT God is a mender if you give Him all the pieces.

The bible says in Hebrews 13:5, I will never leave you (this is God promising never to abandon you), never to forsake you, never to allow you to be alone. What encouragement does is it gives us the confidence to trust our Father again, to live and dwell in the promises of God when we start to believe the whisper.

Discouragements very definition means to deprive of courage or confidence. Confidence not meaning vain confidence like I’m cute?? No, the confidence we are talking about is being able to plant your feet on something secure and uncontestable. So, if discouragement takes away my confidence, then it’s not a stretch to think it has the potential to weaken my faith! And if discouragement has the potential to weaken my faith, then it’s going to mess with my relationship with my Savior, because without faith no body can please God. Everybody say be an encourager.

The text said:

“If you hear God’s voice today, 8 don’t be stubborn as you were in the past, when you turned against God. That was the day you tested God in the desert. 9 For 40 years in the desert, your people saw what I did. But they tested me and my patience. 10 So I was angry with them. I said, ‘Their thoughts are always wrong. They have never understood my ways.’

11 So I was angry and made a promise: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

So that means discouragement is not a feeling or state of self that we need to stand in. Discouragement not only has the capability to influence your faith, but it has the power to make you walk away from it. I’m not being extra people of God, look at verse 12.

12 So, brothers and sisters, be careful that none of you has the evil thoughts that cause so much doubt that you stop following the living God.

But let’s put the full weight on the right culprit. Discouragement is not the enemy; no discouragement is only a tool to get you to the true enemy unbelief… Remember the 10 spies back in Numbers?? But as we mature in Christ, discouragement can become an opportunity, a place to grow from, a time in His hands to be shaped, a spot in His kiln where you cure in long-suffering, but patience is produced. It’s a place for you and your Father to deal with the weakened parts of your faith. For His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), wisdom or wise people see discouragement as a tool, but we must be steadfast and persistent to spend the time needed with Him, to be around your sisters and brothers that are encouragers to stimulate their gift of encouragement and pour it in you and pull you out. The enemy wants nothing more but to isolate you, to let those evil thoughts be on loop in your head and whether you know it our not people of God this is what scripture calls evil.

People of God this is a dangerous place to be, if you are not careful and you find yourself in this place of discouragement without a rope to pull you out, not spending time with God, not spending time with encouragers, but spending time with your discouragement, sinking deeper and deeper into now what you call true. You find yourself straddling the line of doubt or unbelief. This is where your thoughts flip, where you start to believe good is evil, and evil is good, like we find in…

Isaiah 5:20 – 20 Look at those people! They say good is bad and bad is good. They think light is dark and dark is light. They think sour is sweet and sweet is sour.

And it most likely started on some level being discouraged by a trial. Being discouraged by suffering. Being discouraged by scriptures, feeling that it is just beyond what you can live up to, being discouraged by unanswered prayers, being discouraged by your circumstances not changing. Being discouraged by drugs or alcohol, being too powerful (J & M), being discouraged because you come from a broken home, being discouraged by the church and things you hear or see within it that you feel is out of alignment. Being discouraged that your marriage is so far off track and how will you ever get it back on.

What saddening me is as we were spending time with the Holy Spirit to write this message I thought of my very close family member, a gifted singer from childhood to adulthood, a worshipper, a PK (Pastor’s Kid), lived church week in and week out, but some how she started to listen to the whisper. She started to comfort herself with boys (we were young when this started happening, so yes boys), she started to drink and dabble with other things. The discouragement grew and instead of finding encouragement in God she started to think sour was sweet and sweet was sour. She started to date women and finally now she says what we were taught as kids…. Is a lie, she took her hand from the plow. I don’t know the specific trial that took root in her, but I do know she struggled with her identity, with her confidence, and discouragement led her to suffering, my family, my very young Christian sister did not have the divine confidence to endure or the encouragement to hold on to. She did not have stable footing to trample the snakes and scorpions, no she befriended them, she came to a point where her thoughts were always wrong, like the writer in Hebrews talking to the early Christians warning them about hardening their hearts to God and not entering into HIS rest. He must have known they were going astray. He exhorted them, he was encouraging them to stimulate truth, to strengthen faith, to plant their feet on the Rock, to remind them they were snake stompers! So, they would NOT take their hands from the plow, to stir them up with encouragement…

(Romans 8:31) -- If God is for us, who is against us?

People of God the bible tells us to encourage one another…

· 1 Thessalonians 4:18: "Therefore encourage one another with these words"

· 1 Thessalonians 5:11a: "Therefore encourage one another"

· Hebrews 10:25: "Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near"

· Hebrews 3:13: "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness"

· Ephesians 5:19-20: "Encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"

The enemy has a job, and his job is to cause us to doubt, when we are doing the opposite of encouraging one another we are aligning with his plan, whether we know it or not, with our words that cut, our gossip, our disrespect of each other or our discouragement.

I saw something on Instagram the other day and it was POWERFUL… And I thought it fit here: We all know the story of Job, we know that satan had a plan to take him out. God said you can do anything but take his life. So satan proceeded by taking the life of all his children, servants, livestock and his health.

Why didn’t he take his wife?? I think this is the answer in Job 2:9, His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job’s wife turns up after the final blow, after Job has been struck with boils. Seeing her husband sitting in the dust, scraping his sores silently. There was no encouragement, but she blurted out CURSE GOD AND DIE. Now think why would satan take her out? She was in alignment with his plan, whether she knew it or not. She was the weapon of discouragement that satan could use. People of God we are encouragers! Not a weapon in the hands of the enemy.

The Hebrew writer quoted Psalms 95:7-11, the Holy Spirit pointed the Hebrew writer back to a warning to obey God and stay encouraged. The Holy Spirit points back to the Old Testament to add context of the exhorting the Hebrew writer needed to encourage the early Christians of his time. These verses in Hebrews and Psalms are very similar, I will read Hebrews

and I will read Psalms…

Hebrews 3:7-14 7 So it is just as the Holy Spirit says: “If you hear God’s voice today, 8 don’t be stubborn as you were in the past, when you turned against God. That was the day you tested God in the desert. 9 For 40 years in the desert, your people saw what I did. But they tested me and my patience. 10 So I was angry with them. I said, ‘Their thoughts are always wrong. They have never understood my ways.’ HANK - Psalm 95:7-11 7He is our God, and we are the people he cares for, his sheep that walk by his side. Listen to his voice today: 8 “Don’t be stubborn, as you were at Meribah, as you were at Massah[a] in the desert. 9 Your ancestors doubted and tested me, even after they saw what I could do! 10 I was angry with them for 40 years. I said, ‘They are not faithful to me. They refuse to do what I say.’ 11 So in my anger I made this vow: ‘They will never enter my land of rest.’”

11 So I was angry and made a promise: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

What the writer of Hebrews is trying to do here people of God is stir up their hearts and stimulate perseverance in them and point them to Christ. What the writer does not want is to let the Christians become like Israel and let their discouragements deceive them and not enter into the promised land.

So, the situation of the Psalm happened in Exodus 17:1-7 (ERV)

17 The Israelites left the western Sinai desert.[a] They traveled all together from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they turned against Moses and started arguing with him. They said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses said to them, “Why have you turned against me? Why are you testing the LORD?”

3 But the people were very thirsty, so they continued complaining to Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did you bring us out here so that we, our children, and our cattle will all die without water?”

4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What can I do with these people? They are ready to kill me.”

5 The LORD said to Moses, “Go before the Israelites. Take some of the elders of the people with you. Carry your walking stick with you. This is the stick that you used when you hit the Nile River. 6 I will stand before you on a rock at Horeb.[b] Hit that rock with the walking stick and water will come out of it. Then the people can drink.”

Moses did these things and the elders of Israel saw it. 7 Moses named that place Meribah[c] and Massah (Psalm 95),[d] because this was the place that the Israelites turned against him and tested the LORD. The people wanted to know if the LORD was with them or not.

So, you know this snippet of history… Israel is in the wilderness, and they get to a place that doesn’t have any water (Rephidim). They are in the middle of the desert. So naturally they get thirsty, walking through the desert.

We know how it is living in Arizona, walking from our car into the grocery store I get parched not to mention walking through a whole desert. Being thirsty can be uncomfortable, I know some of us that drink soda or juice daily have gotten used to being in a perpetual state of dehydration but put yourself in their shoes, your mouth all dry, your throat hurting from thirst, your head starting to hurt. It’s hot, you’re tired, dirt surrounding you. Your irritable, everything is annoying. Fatigue is setting in. In the natural I can see why Israel has an attitude, its easy to see why the body can begin to influence what they thought about God.

But listen, at this point Israel has a decision to make. They can let this trial, this uncomfortable moment, this discouragement influence their trust in God, or they can let this temporary moment that they feel - reveal their trust in their God. Let’s imagine they chose to trust what would that have looked like? Think again about Exodus 17 as if encouragement stimulated their faith and doubt did not have a foothold. So, picture this Israel was walking all day through the wilderness (the desert) and they stop to camp at Rephidim, their thirsty and they see no natural sources of water. No lakes, no rivers, no wells, just desert and their thirst. This could be very discouraging IF their needs and survival were dependent on their environment. But IF their survival is totally based on God, then they would know that their thirst is temporary…

Exodus 12:37 tells us that 600,000 men of fighting age left Egypt, this did not include children, women or the elderly, so it is roughly based that the population Moses was leading was as high as two million. So, what if two million Israelites began to encourage each other about the faithfulness of their Lord. What IF they began to recall that not too long ago how they were thirsty in the wilderness of Shur and how they found water but couldn’t drink it because it was bitter. But God showed them a tree when the water was bitter and made it sweet and what IF they started to praise the God of the sweet water, that’s encouragement!

What IF they started to talk amongst themselves about that time, they were fleeing Egypt and encouraging themselves that they served a God that could split the sea to let them pass through on dry land and collapse on their enemies, that’s encouragement!

What IF the two million lifted their voices and started to call on and worship Jehovah Jirah… The God that will provide and has this entire journey. If they meditated long enough and thought about the truth of God instead of their thirst, they would have confidence to believe, IF God can split water and IF God can sweeten water, and IF He can also create water where there is none like He did in Genesis 1. IF only they encouraged themselves about the possibilities of God’s Power.

Even now as we explained all the encouragement that Israel could have spoken over themselves -- gave you confidence… right? Maybe you’re thinking that you would have trusted God in your thirst, or you are saying to yourselves you would have remembered the manna, the quail, the red sea, the 10 plagues, the sweet water in Shur and had confidence in God to believe for water in Rephidim… But let me ask you do you trust God in your circumstances, or do you only trust God for Israel?? Can you encourage yourself in your own tests?

Do you believe God is YOUR provider in YOUR hardest times? What is your water exactly? If it comes from any other source than God, then family your thirst will never be quenched. Do you thirst for money, are finances hard, never touching and agreeing, and your confidence in God is weakened that He will not provide? The bible says in Psalm 50:10-12 that our Father owns a cattle on a 1,000 hills, and that He is a providing God, THAT IS ENCOURAGEMENT!

Or do you thirst for relationships? The bible says in Proverbs 19:14 that “house and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, He is a God that loves us and will never leave us, He knows the desires of our hearts, he saw Adam and said it is not good for him to be alone. Put your confidence in your God to know what is good for you! THAT IS ENCOURAGEMENT! Our God is a creative God! Know that it doesn’t have to make sense, He can speak a whole world into existence, He can strike a rock and quench your thirst, He can have 2 and 5 and feed 5,000+… THAT IS ENCOURAGEMENT! What exactly is your water and how will you encourage yourself? People of God if it comes from any other source than God, your thirst will always remain. Drink His living water and satisfy your thirst, have confidence in your heart that your Father will make away. Don’t let your DISCOURAGEMENT limit the Most-High!! ENCOURAGE YOURSELF! GET AROUND OTHERS WITH THE GIFT OF ENCOURAGEMENT…

Every difficulty God permits us to encounter will become either a test that can make us better or temptation that can make us worse and its our own attitude that determines which it will be. When we lean not on our own understanding and encourage ourselves that God is our Refuge, God is our Provider, God is our Water when we Thirst, Our Comfort when we are hurting, then there is no room for doubt. But if we result to complaints and despair then temptation will trap us and rob us of a fleshy heart, hardening our heart for the next test to come.

Israel didn’t encourage themselves; they didn’t remember the split sea, they didn’t think about the water made sweet, they didn’t remember the 10 plagues that passed them over. They only thought about their bodies. The heart of the problem was a problem in their hearts. They chose to complain instead, they were focused on what they didn’t have instead of focusing on WHO they were with. People of God adversity does not mean 

abandonment of God, He promised He will never leave us. We must encourage ourselves to remember we are never alone even in our trial. Faith in God being with you is what brings us to the border of the Promised Land! Our doubt and LACK OF TRUST in GOD is what will shut the door to HIS REST.

The Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 3:10-11

So, I was angry with them. (THIS IS GOD TALKING) I said, ‘Their thoughts are always wrong. They have never understood my ways.’ 11 So I was angry and made a promise: They will never enter my place of rest.’”

Let me encourage you. Say this with me -- GOD IS WITH ME!!! Say it again GOD IS WITH ME!!!

The gift of encouragement is a mighty force of Gods move in the hearts that will receive it. Speak life, speak the word of God in dark places. Don’t be a DIS-COURAGER (some of us need to lay that curse down) and pick up the gift to be AN ENCOURAGER. It could mean entering HIS rest or NOT… Stay ENCOURAGED!!

We have 5 points we want you to remember to stay Encouraged and operate in this gift.

1. Remember God is who He says He is.

2. God is with you. He is sovereign meaning He is with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. And if He is with you that means so is His power! So are His gifts.

3. Put your hope in God. (Psalm 42:5) Why, my soul, are you downcast…

· It can be easier to hope in the tangible, like medicine, money, alcohol, relationships, overtime, doctors, preachers, oils etc. But God is the only ONE that can relieve our thirst.

4. Our encouragement is needed to help our sisters and brothers stay on track of their assignment. One body with many members, all for the same purpose. It is not a competition.

5. Remember His promises… Encourage yourself in who God is and that He has never broken a promise. Your God cares for you, and He cares for your cares. He told us to cast our cares on Him. He cares!

· Encourage yourself

· Encourage your children

· Encourage your brothers and sisters

· Be an encourager

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10: 11 what happened to Israel was written down for our instruction. So, because they doubted Gods provision, we need to learn from it, so we don’t repeat it. And since they doubted God presence, we need to learn from it, so we don’t do it too. So now we have all that context starting in Exodus 17, explained in Psalm 95. You see now why the Hebrew writer in chapter 3 used Encouragement or Exhortation to stir up the early Christians, right? Because it strengthens us, it gives power to the weak and it stirs up your faith so that you aren’t deceived and led to fall away.

We are wrapping up but was wanting to leave you with some encouragement. We wanted to speak to some of the people or groups of what God has put on our hearts.

For the women nearing 40 or older I exhort you. I had at one time allowed the enemy to whisper to me as I aged, that my time was up. I was no longer the next generation. I was at a church that made me feel (which could have been me y’all) insignificant. Like I had nothing left to offer because I was older, a whole 41 or 42 at the time. That my roar never developed in my 20s, I was meek in spirit, toss dirt over me. At the age of 50 God is opening doors for me. God is calming my fears, I told my flesh you will submit to the spirit of God, you let Him operate through you. Because God still sees me! Woman of God, HE still sees you. Even when your children don’t call you back or your grandchildren don’t reach out or are miles away. God still sees you Even when the folks in your community pass over your wisdom in exchange for something lesser, God still sees you and desires to use you. Woman of God don’t stop picking up your sword of the spirit. Don’t stop polishing your armor GOD STILL SEES YOU. Don’t let the enemy whisper doubt in your ear, Moses was 120 when he died, Joshua needed to glean for many many years before he took the mantel. God sees you; you are worthy. Be worthy of His call, be ready for His purpose He has in your life, you are significant. His power did not stop working in you when you hit 40. He did not take His crown from you when you started to wrinkle. Operate in the wisdom that your age has afforded you to gain. HE SEES YOU!

As you leave here high on the gift of encouragement, feeling the power of God’s presence. I tell you today is not enough to sustain you through the week, it is not enough to keep you in the next valley...

The writer in Hebrews says in verse 13, 13 But encourage each other every day, while you still have something called “today. Operate in this, we need to be in our bible daily, we need to be around people of God daily, we need to be fasting, and praying daily, because we are easily discouraged so we have to stay sharpened and full. The word of God, the scriptures, every verse, every book from Genesis to Revelation is breathed out by God and builds you up in the spirit.

 

STAY ENCOURAGED!!!

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