It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Brother Lukewarm and Sister Wayward need encouragement!” Is this the end-all solution to unfaithfulness? Someone throws a childish tantrum and quits the church. Another gets angry over something said in Bible class or sermon and forsakes the Lord. Is it just a matter of needing to be encouraged or is there something else needed?
Please don’t misunderstand. I agree that discouragement is a problem for lots of individuals and congregations. Elijah was faithful to God but he was discouraged in his work (1 Kings 19:4). I accept that Christians have a responsibility to encourage one another. Paul wanted to be “encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” when he addressed the Romans (Romans 1:12). In fact, we assemble for the purpose of provoking one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). Paul tells Christians to restore those who have sinned and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). We must do all that is in our power to aid one another to make it to heaven. However, the question is, are we encouraging one another to greater spiritual service or are we coddling immature Christians and tolerating sin?
The one sin that will condemn more individuals to hell is the sin of failing to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). When Peter closed his second epistle, he gave this command. Notice, I said command! He didn’t give a suggestion. This makes our growing in grace and knowledge as necessary to salvation as baptism for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38).
The Hebrew writer rebuked those to whom he addressed the epistle by saying they had failed to grow (Hebrews 5:12-13). Their failure to grow had caused them to remain spiritually immature. In this state, they could not teach others nor spiritually digest the “meat” of God’s word (Hebrews 5:11). It takes a mature Christian, one who has grown and exercised their senses in righteousness, to be able to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14).
We’re alarmed when we hear of the failures within the public school systems. We expect our children to be educated when we send them to school. We set goals for their future, knowing that to reach those goals they have to receive a good education. We wouldn’t think of coddling our children by allowing them to get their way when it comes to education. If we did, they’d stay home and never learn. Why do we not have the same expectations for those who are Christians?
We all need to be encouraged occasionally, so let’s be diligent to do so. But we can’t coddle the immature and get them to heaven. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). I want to do all I can to “uphold the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14), but I realize that only those who bear their cross will enter into the eternal rest promised to the faithful.