Instruction and Encouragement
"Instruction does much, but encouragement does everything."
What do you think about those words seen on a local "church sign"? Do you agree, disagree, or not know what to think about them? I am convinced that the sentiments found in that message represent much that is wrong with our society today, including most calling themselves pastors and evangelists.
Don't get me wrong-everyone needs encouragement at times and most of us would do well to be more like Joses, a man given the name Barnabas or Son of Encouragement by the apostles (Acts 4:36, 37). We need men like Philemon who refreshed the hearts of the saints (Philemon 7, 20). The longer I live the more I see the dangers of negativity. If we allow ourselves to be swallowed up by sorrow, be assured that Satan will take advantage of that and destroy us.
"...you ought to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow....reaffirm your love to him....lest Satan take advantage...." 2 Cor. 2:6-11
What Zig Ziglar terms "stinkin' thinkin'" is all too often the result of a lack of faith. Think back to Num. 13, 14 when the hearts of the Israelites melted and they refused to enter Canaan. Joshua and Caleb diligently sought to encourage their brethren by reminding them of God's promises and power. Are there not many times in our lives when we need to be reminded that God is with us and none can successfully oppose us (Rom. 8:31-39)? Who among us does not occasionally need to be encouraged to count their blessings and rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4)?
But having said all of that, do we not see the huge mistake that is made when the need for encouragement is allowed to trump the need for sound instruction in God's word? The Lord did not send Nathan to encourage David in 2 Sam. 12, but to rebuke him. On the first Pentecost after the death of Jesus, Peter began with solid instruction intended to persuade his audience that Jesus was the Christ, and then he charged that same audience with having killed the Christ. Once they were convinced that Jesus was Lord and Christ and were convicted of their sin, he provided further instructions as he told them that repentance and baptism would take away the guilt of their sins. When that day was over 3,000 were encouraged by the knowledge that their sins were forgiven, but that encouragement could only come after being instructed in the word of God and convinced of the need to change their lives to conform to God's teachings. (See Acts 2:14-41).
While all of us should recognize that discouragement is not what we want, let's not get the cart before the horse. God's word is capable of providing us with everything we need (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) and it will encourage us to obey God, to know that we are capable of pleasing God, to rejoice in the Lord and His blessings, and it will encourage us to persevere to the goal. But if we get it backwards and put encouragement before instruction, we will provide people with a false hope that may encourage them to continue in the ways of sin. Learn to appreciate good, sound teaching and preaching that provides invaluable instruction in God's word.
"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. My eyes are awake through the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word." Psalm 119:97, 103-105, 130, 148