The Lord’s church is composed of both strong and weak members. Each one needs encouragement at times, but certainly the weaker brethren need a greater amount of special attention. Also, there are some members who are not necessarily weak, but who have special physical problems, causing them to need special attention. The apostle Paul taught that the responsibility of helping the weaker members rested upon the shoulders of those who were mature, full-grown Christians (Romans 15:1; Galatians 6:1-2). In the minds of some, this type of responsibility is the work of the elders, deacons, or preachers. Indeed it is; but the instruction is given to all Christians. Sometimes elders and preachers are negligent. Sometimes there is simply more work to be done than a limited number of men can accomplish. Which ones have you encouraged?
Some Members Are Forsaking the Assembling of the Saints
This sign of weakness is obvious to any mature Christian. It takes no special training or skills to make a phone call, write a note, or drop by for a short visit to say, “I’ve missed you.” Would it be presumptuous to say almost all Christians could render service in this area?
Some Members Are Attending Without the Support (Perhaps With the Hindrance) Of Their Spouse
A mother rises early on Sunday morning to prepare breakfast and dress the children to get them to Bible class; and they leave home with the father still in bed. Sometimes the fathers have the same problem, leaving the mother at home. All recognize the special problems faced by such parents, admire their effort, and are encouraged by their faithful attendance under less than ideal circumstances. Are we not obliged to reciprocate some type of encouragement to these faithful parents?
Some Members Are Presently Experiencing Family Problems
There are parents who are struggling with a rebellious child. There are married couples who are experiencing serious problems, perhaps resulting from an immature spiritual life. There are adults who have aging parents who are sick or confined, and demand much of their time and attention. In many cases, an encouraging word may be all that can be offered. Who offers it?
Some Members Are Facing Problems Associated With Aging
The elderly and widows find it more and more difficult to do the basics, such as driving to services, shopping at the market, visiting with others, etc. Many live alone, without the encouragement or support of a faithful companion. Encouragement may be extended both verbally and actively.
This list could go on and on, but the initial question would remain the same, namely, “Which ones have you encouraged?” As the members of a congregation consider one another, the opportunities to serve are abundant. Christians may avoid the question for the present, but one day all will stand and give an answer.
By David Thomley
Count It Joy
As humans, we have a tendency to ask “why” when we experience difficulties in our lives. We may look at a situation as being the victim. God gives insight on how to handle these situations so that we may look at them as being a victor. We can expect experience difficulties as a Christian. After all, Jesus, the apostles and first century Christians endured hard times. James tells us how to approach these times in chapter 1.
We must first embrace the trial and count it joy (v.2). Jesus said that we will have trials (John 16:33), so we should not be caught off guard when they occur. These trials may be caused by satan, the world, our family and even brethren. Peter tells us not to be surprised by these trials, but to rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12-13). Rejoicing occurred after suffering persecution for the cause of the gospel (Acts 5:41). These times bring about perseverance (Romans 5:3). We should look at the difficulty and thank God while adopting a joyful attitude when trials occur. Persecution, in whatever form it may be, is a part of Christianity and when we suffer for Jesus, we should look at it as a good thing, especially since He suffered for us.
In verse 3, James says that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Just as athletes train for their sport, we must train for Christianity. Faith tested brings out the best in us if we remain focused on God. Trials help us mature as Christians. If we never have these, then we expect everything will be easy and as a result, we do not grow stronger. Endurance denotes the ability to have consistency in the face of adversity. We must stand firm with God, no matter what is thrown at us. Testing can work for us, not against us (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Endurance must have its perfect result (verse 4). Too often, we want the hard times to be over with immediately. Instead of complaining or questioning God, we should simply endure it. We learn to continue to seek God’s will during the hard times.
Lastly, we must look to God for wisdom (verse 5). Wisdom is demonstrated when we take what Scripture says and apply it to our own lives. We must look to the One who is all knowing for guidance. Persistency must characterize our prayer life. Especially in times of difficulty, we should become more dependent on God, looking to Him for strength, guidance and comfort. James tells us to ask God in faith, without doubting (verse 6).
Seeing trials as an opportunity to rejoice is contrary to what the world thinks. Christianity is about seeking to please God. It is about humbling ourselves in good times and in difficult times. Christians are commanded to have a joy in all circumstances of life. This joy occurs because, no matter what we endure, we have the hope of heaven.
By Randy Case Jr.