APOSTLE PAUL—My Biblical Encourager
Encouragement is “. . . encouraging others to remain true to the faith.”
Who, in your life, has influenced you to remain true to your Christian faith? Who pulled you back from a dangerous lifestyle that threatened to suck you down the wrong path in life?
Have you ever thought about just how much you’ve “caught” in your spiritual walk, by observing other godly men, or godly women, live out their Christian faith day by day? I have!
I admit, much of my spiritual maturity has come from watching and learning from others, as well as, studying and learning from God’s Word. I was not raised in a Christian home. When my mother died, I was eleven. Our big family of children was parceled out to the willing relatives. I, along with two of my younger siblings, was placed with my uncle, and his wife, whose faith was nominal. BUT their married daughter, Janet, did love the Lord–and she loved me–and my soul!
Janet faithfully took me to her church. Her enthusiasm for the Lord and her love of God’s word was contagious. She taught me many things about God, prayer and living the christian life. Many years later, when my husband and I left our home town to live on the mission field, Janet was one of my chief encouragers. She was so proud of us! I owe much to her for this mentoring.
What would our spiritual lives be like today–if we had no mentors?
Sometimes when I am in a reflective mood, I wonder what my spiritual life would be like today, if the faithful men and women, whom God strategically placed around me, had not been there to pray for me, encourage me, and yes–even admonish me to remain true to the faith. (That picture is not very pretty!)They were my mentors–modeling for me how to live the christian life--they saw potential in my life, and they poured theirs into mine! And they did it selflessly for the Lord!
I have also been mentored by great authors, whose books have been my companions when people were unavailable. Spending more than 38 years of my life in missionary service, and living abroad for more than 20 of those years–having spiritually mature people around us was sometimes scarce. Hence the great writers of our time, and beyond, served as my mentors. I still look up to certain ones and give them credit for shaping me into the person I am today. Among these authors are the writers of the Bible. Chief among these is the Apostle Paul.
Who was this man called Paul?
The Apostle Paul is, perhaps other than Jesus himself, the most prominent figure in the New Testament. There are twenty-seven books comprising the New Testament—twenty-one of these were written as letters—some to individuals, but more often to churches or individual Christian communities. Thirteen of these twenty-one were written by the Apostle Paul. Of these thirteen, nine fall into the category of ‘letters to young churches’. Most of these churches, to whom these letters were addressed, were founded by Paul himself, having been converted by this man’s powerful presentation of the gospel.
The impact this man had on the direction and spread of the Christian faith in the first generation following Christ’s death and resurrection is impossible to measure. F.F. Bruce, in his book, Paul & His Converts: How Paul nurtured the Churches He Planted, asks this question: “What might have been the course of Christianity had Paul never become a Christian?”
We will never know the answer to this question, but it is fun to ponder. If Paul had not been converted to Christianity, Europe, Great Britain and eventually, America would be vastly different today.
Paul’s influence in spreading the gospel to Europe impacted all these countries–and even beyond. If you are of English, European or American decent—and if you are from a Christian background, then you can thank the Apostle Paul and his hard work! You are a spiritual decedent of Paul’s ministry.
The father-heart of Paul is revealed towards his ‘children in the Lord’.
Saul, of Tarsus (the name by which Paul was known at the time immediately following Christ’s life on earth), came to believe in Christ in a most dramatic and life- changing way. For his full conversion story read Acts, chapter 9 verses 1-30).
As one reads the letters Paul wrote to the newly established churches, one quickly sees his father-heart. Paul had a deep connection with the ones he led to faith and never forgot them—even though he traveled extensively as a missionary. The strength and warmth of his affection flows through his writings. He commends that which is praiseworthy in his people; he reprimands them for their shortcomings, warning them sternly to mend their ways; he encourages them from the depths of his heart and urges them to ‘grow up’ in their spiritual lives—becoming 100% followers of Christ—so that, he says: “. . . you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. . .” (Phil.2:15-16a)
Paul’s zeal stemmed from his ever growing relationship with his Lord, Jesus Christ.
In order for those new believers to grow in their faith, they too, must know this Savior more deeply. For Paul preached that it was through the power of the Holy Spirit, that Christ could release them from their bondage of sin and selfishness–and set them free.
Paul knew that spiritual growth is a process.
The great Apostle knew that spiritual growth took place over time, and that the best context for this growth was within the body of Christ—the local church. For new believers to grow in grace and maturity, they needed love, acceptance and encouragement from others who had walked the Christian journey longer than they. And they would need the constant fellowship of other like-minded individuals. At a time in history when the followers of this new, and extreme faith were much persecuted, Paul knew that proper encouragement and mentoring was essential to their nurture and maturity.
Paul knew that spiritual growth requires good teaching and mentoring.
This man spent a significant part of his missionary career mentoring younger men who showed leadership potential. Two of his disciples, Timothy and Titus, went on to be pastors of churches in Europe and Central Asia. Paul taught them, and modeled for them how to live the Christian life. He trained them to do the work of the ministry. One day, Paul commissioned young Timothy, to take up the mantle of leadership and wear it. He sent Timothy to the young church in Ephesus.
In his first letter to Timothy, he urged him to stay in Ephesus. His mandate was to stop those who were teaching wrong doctrine, and to encourage and build up the believers there, to live lives filled with “love that springs up from a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith in Jesus Christ (1 Tim.1:5)”.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged him in his ministry by giving him instructions that would help him to continue to mature personally, and to equip him to lead the faithful men who were qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2)
Encouragement was a way of life for this man, Paul.
Encouraging others was important business to Paul!
Encouraging others was so important to Paul that he emphasized this teaching in his letters to the Galatians and Roman churches. Encouragement was a way of life for Paul. He saw God’s redemptive potential in others. He made it his goal to stir up their gifting, to urge them to use their gifts for the Lord. He was faithful to demonstrate his love for others through the powerful preaching of the good news of the gospel–to the very end of his life. His passion was that every believer walk 100% for the Lord Jesus Christ—so that through their lives—Christ would be glorified. What a man of God!
“Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful gift of your Word—the Bible. Thank you for the written letters of the Apostle Paul, and the powerful message of exhortation and encouragement and sound teaching that comes through so loud and clear. Thank you for preserving these books through out history, so that we, in this generation can have them to instruct us. In the precious name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Thank you for reading this post today. I hope, that as you picked up some fresh insights into the Apostle Paul’s lifestyle of encouragement–it wet your appetite to get to know this man more . To do that more fully, a deeper study of his life would be beneficial.
If you would like to see what more of what God’s Word says about the topic of encouragement, I have written a Bible Study entitled, A Letter of Encouragement: A Study of 2 Timothy. You can obtain weekly installments of this Bible study free of charge, by simply clicking on the following link: http://www.lindakbridges.com/free-printables/
Each week for the next 6 or so, there will be a new lesson for you to download for FREE. Please feel free to use this study with your study group or pass on to someone who may need God’s encouragement! My only stipulation is that you give credit to the author–(it is copyrighted material). If you like it—please ‘like’ on my blog post so that I will know! Thank you.
Come back next week for the next part on this series on: Encouragement–God’s Word Says. . . ‘Being a ‘Doer’ of God’s Word’