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

1 Comment

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  1. Ken, well said. Thinking of Barnabas, the name Barnabas is an interesting one and one that may have stimulated the imaginations of Christians down through the ages to help them tell the Christmas Story. English speakers with some knowledge of the Greek language, could easily see this interesting character as a Barn Abbas, Father. They would have easily linked his name with Joseph who was the Father who accompanied Mary, heavily laden with her divine conception to Bethlehem, to the city where Joseph and his family belonged. As the story goes, there was no room for them in the Inn…so they had to find lodgings in a Barn.

    What is also fascinating is the concept, the meaning of the name bar nabas as son or encouragement. Encouragement is like walking beside another or with another and saying come to me, lean on me, you who are heavily laden, I will give you rest and refresh you for the rest of your journey, for my yoke is easy and together as one we will say, my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

    So yes, Ken pulling together we Christians can become that Breath of Fresh Air. We can encourage one another to remember who we are in Christ, the Everlasting Father and remember the Woman with the Alabaster Jar every where the Gospel is Preached. Christians can become the Prince of Peace and bring Salt and Light to the world.

    Preaching and living the Gospel is hard work. Today there are people and companies in the world who are redeeming Green House Gases that come from burning Coal and Oil and Methane and other natural gases. They are taking smelly, toxic fumes out of the air and are transforming them into useful things like bath salts (https://www.cleano2.ca). In the process they are cleaning the air and bringing light, clean energy and useful products to people.

    We Christians have been doing this with people for centuries. With our faith in the Triune God, we have been drawing out the sinful thoughts and actions of ourselves and others and have transformed ourselves and our thoughts and actions to create and sustain healthier relationships with others and creation. We’ve done this by encouraging one another and our neighbours to find a way to be useful and to believe in ourselves and our faith story. Our story takes us on an eternal journey and reminds us the dead do rise (1 Corinthians 15:16). For this journey, we need not fret like Oliver Wendall Holmes who lost his ticket (A Reminder to Remember). We have a redeemable ticket that says ETERNAL LIFE, welcome aboard. So let us remember our story and encourage one another to climb on board, and if we get off for awhile and take a sabbatical…let us pray we find an inn and a conductor who knows who we are and where we are going.


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