Robert Schuller tells a story about a banker who always tossed a coin in the cup of a legless beggar who sat on the street outside the bank. But, unlike most people, the banker would always insist on getting one of the pencils the man had beside him.
“You are a merchant,” the banker would say, “and I always expect to receive good value from merchants I do business with.”
One day the legless man was not on the sidewalk. Time passed and the banker forgot about him until he walked into a public building and there in the concessions stand sat the former beggar. He was obviously the owner of his own small business now.
“I have always hoped you might come by someday,” the man said. “You are largely responsible for me being here. You kept telling me that I was a ’merchant’. I started thinking of myself that way, instead of a beggar receiving gifts. I started selling pencils — lots of them. You gave me self-respect, caused me to look at myself differently.”
That story reminds me of the exhortation in Hebrews 10:24. “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”
The word of the week is “stimulate.”
This is an interesting word. It’s only used twice in the New Testament. The other time is Acts 15:39 where Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement about taking John Mark on their second missionary journey. Luke records they had a “sharp contention.” Thayer says the word means “an irritation, violent anger, passion, an inciting or incitement.” In fact, our English word “paroxysm” comes from this word and means “a fit, an attack, a sudden rage of emotion.”
Yet, as Dr. A. T. Robinson points out, here “it is used in a good sense.” In a positive way. In a way that encourages. Uplifts. And builds.
The King James version translates the passage to “provoke one another to love and good works.” Some people can provoke us in a bad way. Provoke us to anger. Exasperation. Aggravation. But Christians use this emotion to provoke their brethren to things that are good. Honorable. Respectable. Other versions translate this word “Stir up.” “Spur one another on.” “Motivate.”
There is a tremendous need in the church for positive motivation and encouragement. With so much negativity in the world. Problems we face. Hindrances that hamper us. Temptations that try us. Sorrows that burden us. And sin that saddles us with guilt. We need spiritual stimulation to arouse us to love. To love God deeper. To love our brethren more. To love like Jesus loved.
There is also a danger to become “weary in well-doing.” To just get tired. Worn out. Fatigued. How wonderful it is when brethren stimulate each other to good deeds. To minister. To serve. To keep ongoing.
Spiritual stimulation may come in many forms. And from many sources. Shepherds encourage through their gentle and kind pastoral care. Preachers may stir us up to do more. Grow more. Be more. Teachers in Bible class can share the Word in a way that enlightens. Edifies. And equips us to good works.
But stimulation can often come in subtle ways. Small gestures. Seemingly insignificance actions. Yet, powerful in their message of care. Concern. And compassion.
Stimulating one another to deeper love and good works may come through a note of thanks. A word of appreciation. A pat on the back. A thumbs up. A warm smile. A hug. A wink. A firm handshake. A knowing nod. An email. A text message. A facebook post. A shared cup of coffee. A small gift. A single flower.
Let’s make Christianity a breath of fresh air in the stale world of sin. An atmosphere where brethren encourage, not discourage. Where they help, not hinder. Where they stimulate, not stagnate.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman