The familiar words of Ecclesiastes 3 remind us that “to everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. A time for …” and a lot of different, in fact opposite things follow, but today I am adding one: A Time for Encouragement. In chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews thought that encouragement was important. “23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The song, “Home on the Range” claims that “seldom is heard a discouraging word” but evidently we are not on the range because it seems that wherever I turn, about all that I hear are discouraging words. On my drive to Tripoli today, the radio station was promoting an afternoon program that was going to have interviews with people whose families had split apart because of political differences. The few political ads that told us about the positive differences their candidates would be making have been transformed into claims that their opponents hate the police, hate babies, hate young families, hate senior citizens, and will do everything in their power to ruin our country, our economy, and our churches. They will do nothing to stop the coronavirus, and right after the election you can expect a knock on your door and storm troopers will come in to take away anything of value that you possess.
I think it is time for an encouraging word. It is at this point that you might expect the pastor to quote Bible verses that remind us how God has brought people through difficult times before. Think world-wide flood, times of famine and war, 400 years as slaves in Egypt, 40 years in the desert, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Roman occupying armies. Or perhaps more recently, our ancestors crossing an ocean to settle in a new land, WWI, Great Depression, WWII, etc. Throughout the history of the people of faith, we have faced countless difficult times. We have struggled, we have endured, we have overcome and we have done it TOGETHER! Perhaps in addition to Bible verses, what we really need right now is PEOPLE REACHING OUT TO OTHER PEOPLE. In times of great darkness, people of faith have been shining lights through their focus on God and on caring for each other. We have encouraged one another instead of blaming and condemning each other. We have come together in whatever ways we can when we could have easily run away from each other.
In these difficult and tragic times when our differences are tearing us apart, let the people of faith continue to rise above those destructive forces and continue to care about EVERYBODY. Let us bring the ENCOURAGING WORD that God cares, and so do we. Let our lives and words be the Bible that touches the lives around us.
Pastor Dennis Niezwaag, November 2020