A Lesson in Encouragement

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I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

(Ephesians 1:15-19)

There was a time in my life – after coming to know the Lord a little bit, but before joining seminary – when I was living something of a double life. With one group of friends I was fully invested in growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and with another friend or two I was compromising my dignity as a son of God. I was aware of the contradiction, but had no real desire to stop either way of life, so I let it continue. Then one day I received a letter out of the blue from a friend. This friend thanked me for being such a good man of God, the kind of man who pursues virtue and lives with integrity. A day or two later I was out to eat with some friends and one of them said something similar to, ‘That’s what I like about Bryan – you just know he’s going to strive for holiness.’ Following these two encounters, I was convicted to stop living the double life and do all I could to live only for Jesus Christ and his glory. These people, without even really being aware of it, were calling me on to greater holiness by their words of affirmation and encouragement.

St. Paul does two things in this passage: he encourages the Ephesians and he tells the them of his regular prayers for them (and it’s safe to say he actually does pray for them). Through his words of encouragement he is calling the Ephesians on to greater holiness, and through his prayers he is trusting that God will aid them in the pursuit of holiness. Not only this, but he also reminds them of the greatness of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, mentioning the glorious inheritance of the saints and the immeasurable greatness of his power in those who believe, as if to say, “Don’t lose sight of this, especially when the world wants you to think otherwise.” His words transformed the lives of the Ephesians and still transform the lives of disciples to this day. Our words, too, are meant to transform the lives of those around us!

In your prayer, ask the Lord who he wants you to encourage and pray for. Often times we want to have great and powerful messages for random strangers on the street, and we expect these great and powerful messages to transform the most hardened of hearts. Most often, though, simple words of encouragement to those most familiar to us are the most powerful and transformative words we can speak, because those closest to us will know of our sincerity and genuine good will towards them. St. Paul typically would form a relationship with a community before calling them to believe in the Gospel, and this is no exception. We ought to see our relationships with people as the greatest possible occasions of bringing about the glory of God. So many disciples slip through the proverbial cracks in the Christian life because no one has encouraged them to keep their eyes on the prize. If the Lord puts someone on your heart, he’s probably asking you to reach out to that person and encourage him or her, and so build up the community of believers. At some point we all need to be reminded of the glorious inheritance of the saints.