I AM ENCOURAGED!
How disheartening it must have been to Moses to know that of the Israelite soldiers that were numbered at Mt. Sinai, 603,548 of them (that is 99.9997%) would not be able to enter the land of Canaan. On the other hand, how encouraging it surely was to know that the only other two soldiers counted at the same time, Caleb and Joshua, would be able to go into the land of promise because of their faithfulness. How disheartening it must have been to the prophet Jeremiah to see multitudes of Jews of his day worship idols, imitate the immorality of the unbelieving Gentiles, and refuse to listen to warnings from Jehovah. Yet, how encouraging it had to have been for Jeremiah to see that King Josiah was a righteous leader.
I, too, get disheartened from time to time because of spiritual unfaithfulness on the part of some, don't you? So many things are being done and said in the church today that make me sad. It tears my heart out that so many members of the church who were raised in a Christian home have either totally lost interest in following Jesus, or else have joined up with a denomination. I cannot smile when I think of the effects that self-proclaimed change agents have had on the church. I am not happy when I hear of preachers, who once had every appearance of being sound in the faith and possessing great potential, turning away from faithful congregations to work with churches that major in entertainment and fellowship almost anybody that claims to be a Christian. Without shame I tell you in all honestly, it weighs heavily on my mind that there is so much "bad stuff" taking place in the church today.
And yet I am encouraged! Despite the affairs noted in the preceding paragraph, there is much that is happening today among God's people that causes me to have joy and praise the Lord God. While I refuse to hide my eyes to the apathy, apostasy, and arrogance that plague the church in some areas, at the same time I see many things that encourage me.
I am encouraged by the number of young gospel preachers that have their heart set on preaching the word and in the process are prepared to preach the whole counsel of God (2 Timothy 4:5; Acts 20:27). This year I have heard a number of young brothers preach, and I have come away encouraged in every case.
I am encouraged by the fact that in the last few years a number of sound congregations have begun conducting lectureships. Many of these in our general area are one-day Saturday affairs. Whatever the time arrangement, whether such lecture programs are for one day or five, they are providing an excellent opportunity for brethren of like precious faith (2 Peter 1:1) to come together to be edified by the preaching of the truth (Acts 20:32). These also make for a great chance to encourage those smaller churches and "tent-making" preachers who often get overlooked.
I am encouraged by the number of young Christian parents that I see that are working hard to bring their kids up in the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). It is uplifting to know that if they are not sick, both they and their kids will be at services "every time the doors are open." It is equally inspiring to see them closely monitor the clothes that their kids wear, as well as the TV they watch and recreational activities in which they engage.
I am encouraged to know that not a few members of the church who had not done so in the past, are now taking seriously their responsibility to teach the gospel to others (Acts 8:4). They are trying to do be more soul-conscious. That encourages me!
I am encouraged by the fact that there are still people in the world today that have an "honest and good heart" (Luke 8:15), who upon bearing the truth, with joy obey it. The majority of my private discussions and Bible studies with non-Christians end with the same result: they remain lost, i.e., they do not obey the gospel. Yet I am encouraged when I ponder the thought that when we work hard and long enough at sowing the seed (Luke 8:11), we will find receptive hearts, which translates into saved souls.
I am encouraged to know that there are still "seven thousand" that have not yet bowed the knee to Baal (Romans 11:3,4). Like many other preachers, the articles that I write sometimes "get me in trouble" with some brethren. I receive e-mails and letters from those who do not appreciate the truth of God that I have written about worship, denominationalism, liberalism, and moral issues. But, I have also gotten letters and e- mails from elders, preachers, and other Christians who love and desire sound doctrine (2 Timothy 1:13), and they have just wanted to express their appreciation for what I have written. Often such communications have come from brethren in other states or countries, and many of them I have never met. I am encouraged by these brethren and many more like them, and not because they have spoken kind words to me personally. I know that a number of other brethren are receiving similar words of encouragement.
I am encouraged to see more congregations involved in supporting overseas evangelistic works. The number of full-time workers that American churches are sending abroad with the saving gospel Romans (1:16) is still pitifully small in comparison to our manpower and financial-power. Yet, I am encouraged to know that more and more churches are using greater portions of their resources to help the Cause abroad and in evangelistic efforts in the U.S.
I am encouraged to see that in a number of places native brothers that are converted on foreign soil are being trained right there in their own country (or sometimes, in a nearby one) to prepare them to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 2:2). For a number of reasons, this approach is far superior to bringing them to the U.S. to train them here.
While broken homes continue to plague society and the church as well, I am encouraged to see Christian couples staying together for their whole lives, "through thick and thin," through good times and bad. When members of the church are able to celebrate forty, fifty, or even sixty or more years of marriage together, this sends such a wonderful message to other Christians, and especially to our young people. Yes, some members of the Lord’s church irreverently renege on their wedding vows, but many others do not. How wonderful that so many Christian couples refuse to try and put asunder what the Lord has joined together (Matthew 19:6).
I am disheartened by sin’s stronghold in the family of God. But I am encouraged by the individual saints and congregations that are doing what they are supposed to do – live and work by the Book! More than once I have heard a friend express the following sentiment (I am paraphrasing): "I choose to be encouraged by the few that are diligent and faithful, rather than be discouraged by the many that are not." I like that approach.
By Roger D. Campbell
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