Sometimes the more devoted to doing good we become, the more difficult and complicated our lives become. When Christians commit themselves to doing good, they commit themselves to exhaustion and frustration. That is why Paul told the Christians in Galatia, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9).

A Christian can become exhausted just from doing good. Paul clearly understood that. Encouragement is the greatest single source of human help available to us when we struggle with the weariness created by doing good. To be a Christian encourager is to use God's power in a special, wonderful way.

When Paul warned against losing heart and growing weary, he spoke from personal experience.

  1. In Acts 21 Paul returned to Jerusalem from a missionary journey and gave a report to the leaders of that congregation.
    1. The leaders were delighted to hear about his success in teaching non-Jews, but they were concerned about the possible reaction of members of the congregation (Acts 21:17-26).
      1. They requested that Paul assist four Christian men as they took their Jewish vows at the temple.
      2. Paul agreed and assisted the men.
    2. The process of taking the vows took seven days to complete (Acts 21:27-36).
      1. They had almost completed the process when some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple area.
        1. By shouting angry accusations against Paul, they literally started a riot.
        2. They were trying to kill Paul when a commander of 1000 Roman soldiers rescued him.
        3. But the officer thought that it was Paul who started the trouble and arrested him.
      2. Paul asked for permission to address the mob (Acts 21:37-22:23).
        1. It was given, and he spoke to them Aramaic, the local language that the Palestinian Jews used.
        2. They listened quietly to what he said until he stated that the Lord told him to go teach non-Jews, and then they shouted for his death.

  2. From that point on, for about three years, Paul's life was one disappointing experience after another.
    1. He made an appearance before the supreme court of Israel (Acts 23:1-10).
      1. Paul knew that he was in grave danger in that court, so he successfully divided the court before the hearing began by turning the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other.
      2. The argument between the Pharisees and Sadducees was so heated that the Roman officer present feared that they would kill Paul.
      3. He ordered his troops to take Paul by force and remove him from the court.
    2. The next day a group of Jews took an oath that they would not eat or drink until they killed Paul (Acts 23:12-35)
      1. Paul's nephew learned of the plot and informed the Roman officer.
      2. The plot: Ask the officer to return Paul to the Jewish court the next day, and the men would kill Paul as he was in route to the court.
      3. That night the officer sent Paul to the Roman governor in Caesarea with an escort of 200 foot soldiers and 70 horsemen.
    3. Five days later a group from the Jewish court came to a hearing in Caesarea before Felix, the Roman governor (Acts 24).
      1. The result: Paul's case was postponed to a later date.
      2. Paul remained in custody for two years because the governor hoped that Paul would pay him a bribe to be released.
      3. When Felix left office, he did not want to upset the Jews, so as a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.
    4. The new governor, Festus, wanted to "get off to a good start" with the Jewish rulers, so he visited Jerusalem (Acts 25).
      1. The Jewish rulers personally petitioned him to return Paul to Jerusalem for trial; their plan was to ambush Paul and kill him as he was brought to Jerusalem.
      2. Festus invited them to present their petition in his court in Caesarea.
      3. When they came to Caesarea, Paul realized what was happening, so he appealed his case to the emperor's court in Rome; he had the right to do that because he was a Roman citizen.
      4. Later, Festus had several dignitaries attend a hearing to try to determine a charge against Paul.
        1. The governor was in an awkward situation: he had to send a prisoner to the highest court in Rome, but he had no Roman charge against him.
        2. The hearing produced no charges to make against Paul.
      5. However, since Paul had appealed his case to Rome, he had to go to Rome.
    5. Paul went by ship under arrest (Acts 27, 28).
      1. The ship ran aground in a storm and broke up.
      2. The end result was that they spent three months on the island of Melita before they could sail to Rome.
    6. Paul's ordeal had taken almost 3 years, all of it under arrest, and some of it under the serious threat of being killed.
      1. As the prisoner Paul landed in Italy, I find Acts 28:15 insightful: "And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage."
      2. Even the tough, committed, sacrificial Paul needed the encouragement of fellow Christians.
      3. Later Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in love" (Romans 12:10).
        1. They needed to do for each other what they did for him.
    7. Paul repeatedly emphasized the importance of Christians encouraging Christians.
      1. Let me share with you three examples.
      2. Paul sent a companion by the name of Tychicus to the Christians in Ephesus.
        1. Tychicus was to give them a full report on Paul's circumstances.
        2. Paul wrote, "And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts," (Ephesians 6:22).
      3. Paul also sent Tychicus to the Christians at Colossae.
        1. Paul wanted Christians who had not seen him to know how devoted he was to them "that their hearts may be encouraged" (Colossians 2:2).
        2. Then, again, he writes regarding Tychicus, "For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts," (Colossians 4:8).

The Christian encourager plays a very special role in God's work. It is a powerful, important role. With the right heart, every Christian can be an encourager.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 June 1998

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