When you think about faith, we constantly need more of it. Whatever you had yesterday, you needed extra of when you lost an hour this morning. You need constant growth in our faith. It's something that we just need more and more and more. Each season of life, each twist and turn, more faith is required. But I'm yet at the same time, I'm so grateful that faith is the one thing that if we can grow in, it really is the one tool, the one weapon, the one thing you want to bring to any challenge in your life is faith. Because with the faith, the side of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Doors can be opened. Your life can be changed and the lives of others can be changed. Faith is the biggest difference maker. And that's why we're going through this series is I believe that God wants to do so much more with you individually, so much more with us collectively as a region, to change the world around us. The only way we're going to do that is by increasing our faith. That's how God works, and God works through our faith.
That's why we're covering this series and we're covering seven powerful steps that if we each take, you'll change individually and we'll change and grow collectively. Remember what we talked about the first week, the first step that we all took? Remembering past blessings, that past victories and blessings are stepping stones to greater victories in the future. Remember, we covered the second week? Persevering in trials. That you either get reduced or you get refined by the trials in your life. And how you respond to trials determines your level of faith. Then what we talked about two weeks ago because we had an off week last week because of the retreat was digging deeper into God's Word, that the Bible has a supernatural ability to increase your faith as you read it. I hope we've all felt that as we've taken these steps of faith, even just through the last three weeks, that your faith has grown. And today I'm excited to talk about, encourage one another. And we all need a little bit extra encouragement today. I do, too. I've bobbled details this morning. I'm actually going to pray for benevolence at the end of this because I miss telling them to do that.
It's just been one of those mornings where you lost an hour. I already lost many sleep to a young baby yesterday, and I'm just a little bit all over the place. So you can encourage me as I'm speaking. I want to encourage you this morning, but we need encouragement. We just do. We're all better when we're giving encouragement and receiving encouragement. I'm not talking just about kind words or inspirational thoughts. The definition for encouragement pops up on this screen. It's the act of giving someone support, confidence, or hope, or this persuasion to keep on going, to keep continuing through a challenge. Another part of the definition is this is trying to stimulate or develop a state of belief or action. We just need encouragement. We need one another to help breathe this type of courage into us. Encouragement is this act of instilling courage and support and to hope. God uses our one another relationships to do this very thing. Don't you need help and encouragement when you feel like your faith is wobbling? Don't you need some confidence when your faith is shaky or you've been knocked down? Don't you need hope when you're feeling hopeless to something to hold on to?
Don't you need persuasion at times to be faithful when you feel fearful? We all need encouragement and we all need to give encouragement. This is our theme verse for today. It's found in Hebrews Chapter 3. You get to see the powerful supernatural impact that encouragement really has in our relationships. Hebrews Chapter 3, verses 12 through 14 says this, See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it's called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We've come to share in Christ. If indeed we hold to our original conviction firmly to the very end. The writer of Hebrews here is compelling and convicting and commanding the church that we have a responsibility. We're supposed to see to it that no one in this room, no one in our relationships that calls himself a brother or sister in this church has a sinful, unbelieving heart. That it's one another's responsibility to be in each other's lives, to look out for each other, to know the condition of each other's hearts, to know what's going on in our lives, to be there, to be the friend who intervenes with encouragement.
Is it hard to have a sinful, unbelieving heart? No, it's so stinking easy. I found myself when Aspen spilled her entire full cup of milk all over the couch this morning that it's not hard to have a sinful heart. It's not. It's not hard to go from joyful thoughts to all of a sudden angry thoughts. It's not hard. Sometimes I wake up sad. I woke up sad this morning. I'm like, Why is it so early? And I was like, Oh, yeah, daylight savings. Sometimes all it takes is one past memory to put you in a bad mood. One person looking at you weird to give you a bad mood. Someone's tone of voice to induce a sinful, unbelieving heart. It doesn't take much to have an unbelieving heart. It's easier to doubt than it is to believe, right? It's easier not to trust God than to trust Him. It's easier to doubt His words than to live His words. It's hard to keep believing, and it's much easier to have unbelief. A heart that doubts, a hopeless heart, a numb heart, a critical heart. We're all susceptible to this. This is the daily arena called life.
I wish life was more encouraging. It's not. It's like a war each day, a spiritual war for your faith. Either you're going to grow and increase in it, or it will be stolen and decreased in your life. The antidote, the Holy Spirit inspired solution for a sinful, unbelieving heart is what? Daily encouragement. God knows that if another brother and sister can be involved in another brother and sister's life and provide encouragement on a daily basis, this is the antidote, this is the cure for a sinful, unbelieving heart. You can't do Christianity on your own. It was designed as a team sport to be played together. I am called and you are called to see to it that no one has a sinful, unbelieving heart. It's our shared responsibility that when someone says Jesus is Lord on this stage, they enter a covenant, a pact with you, with the body of Christ, that we are in this together. You are now my brother or sister in Christ. Now I'm going to see to it until the day we make it to heaven that we do not give into a sinful, unbelieving heart. But how do we do this?
It's encouragement. Encouragement is intentional. It takes time. It takes bandwidth. It takes intentionality. But it's God's supernatural plan to increase our faith. It's not just nice words. It's not just, Hey, you look good today, sis. Although it's nice to have a comment about your clothing or your lifestyle. It's beyond it. It's courage. It's placing courage, hope, faith, and to somebody else to overcome a sinful, unbelieving heart. That's why fellowship is so important. We come together on a Sunday like this to be given to and to give. We need each other, and we're better together when we're encouraging one another. It's so inspiring to think that I could have an impact on someone's faith by just some words of encouragement. An act of encouragement can change somebody's sinful, unbelieving heart, which we all have. We're all one step away from a sinful, unbelieving heart. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonia, Thessalonic, he writes here in 1 Thessalonians 3.10, Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Paul understood, if I could just make it back, if I could see the Thessalonians, if I can just go back to that city that booted me out, look a brother in the eyes and say, hang in this fight, stay faithful, it wouldn't make a difference.
If I could just pray some words of encouragement with this friend of mine, they could get through this battle. They can get through this challenge. He prayed most earnestly, I want to come back. I want to be with you in person. There's things that are lacking in your faith that I want to supply. This idea of encouragement is oozed all throughout the letter of 1 Thessalonians. He just cared about them and wanted them to know and see God through every twist and turn of life. That if he could just be there, their faith would change. Not because Paul is so great, but because he came with the heart to give encouragement. Let me ask you this, do you feel that way coming to midweek? Family group, the church this morning. If I can just get there, you know what I can give to Richard? You know what I can give to Beckett? If I can just look Anthony in the eyes and tell him this Scripture, what it would do for his faith. You feel needed at women's midweek this week, men's midweek. Man, if I can just get there and sit next to this brother and give him a hug, what could it do?
What could I do? What could my presence and encouragement do? Because you are needed. You are needed to supply what's lacking in others' faith, and we need each other. This goes around and it comes around. Sometimes you're the giver, sometimes you're the taker. If I could just make it to family group, if I could just make it to this discipling time, faith will be increased. When you understand how encouragement increases faith, it changes how you view meetings of the body. It does. It changes how you view your presence because the truth is, you matter. You're important and we suffer when you're not here, and we're better when you are here. That's how encouragement works. The truth is, you're needed. Either, you're going to increase others' faith or you're going to let others' faith suffer and your faith suffer. But your heart and presence to encourage, it makes a difference. Paul's heart was, I just want to put faith in my friends, the Thessalonians. I just want to get there. I just want to be there. Is that your heart with your other brothers and sisters in this room? It didn't just this act of Paul putting faith in to him.
I believe his faith was increased as well. We'll get to that a little bit later on. But fellowship is so important to open up our hearts, to encourage others and to receive encouragement. It makes a difference in our faith. It's easy when your faith is shrinking to start distancing yourself from the fellowship. You know what I'm saying? I don't know if I'm going to log into family group tonight. I don't know if I'm going to drive to midweek. I've been working all day. I don't know. I don't know. And all of a sudden, if you start making decisions to distance yourself from the fellowship, you get weird, don't you? You start looking like, oh, I'm on the outside now. I'm not feeling as close to that brother. Did you see how that sister looked at me? You start feeling weird. And when you start feeling weird, you distance yourself even more. And before you know it, Satan's got you exactly where he wants you, alone. And when you're alone and you feel disconnected from your body, the ones who are supposed to give lifegiving encouragement to each other, you're on a deadly slope of a sinful, unbelieving heart that will get hardened.
And we've all seen people's hearts get hardened to the point of no return. It doesn't take much. It doesn't even take much time for Satan to get you. God himself made the church a body. We all fit in this body. We are the body of Christ and each one of us is valued and needed and important. Whether you believe that or not, it's what the Bible says and it's true. The eye can't say to the ear, I don't need you. The foot can't say the hand, I don't need you. We are interconnected. If you distance yourself from the body, you get cut off from the body. If you get away from the blood flow of encouragement and faith, it's a matter of time and you will die spiritually. You will. There's no way around it. You can only drift so long before unbelief and your sinful, unbelieving heart overtakes you. A body part only lasts so long without blood flowing to it. And by the minute and by the day, you are losing spiritual life. I don't know if you've ever lost the body part. I came really close one time. I was 15 years old, it was winter break, and me and my best friend, Nick, which you can check these facts, he'll be here two Sundays from now, we wanted to go fishing. And fly fishing there in the winter is cold. I mean, it's cold. There's snow, there's ice, the water's cold. But we did not care. We just wanted to fish. And when young boys get an idea of what the day is going to be like, there's no stopping it. He had this '83 Volvo that there was something wrong with the floorboard. And if you turn on the heat, exhaust came in too. And it's December. It's single digits out. Who knows what the wind chill. We don't have cell phones. This is the early 2000s. We don't have cell phones. We didn't check the temperature. The nearest city from where we're going, or I should say town with a payphone, was 30 minutes away. And we get into this Canyon. It's called 11 Mile Canyon. It's absolutely beautiful. One of my favorite places in Colorado. We laced up our boots. I got thick wool socks on so much, I could barely move my toes. I got every layer of clothing I got on, and I got my fly rod.
And we shimmy down the snowbank into the ice, into the river, and we're fly fishing and we're fishing and we're not catching anything. All those dreams are being crushed every minute of freezing. And I start to shiver and I start to not feel things. I can't feel my feet and so I kept tripping over rocks. I kept getting clumsy. I felt myself starting to breathe heavier. I'm like, This is not good. What are we doing here? And about an hour and a half into it, I look at Nick. I'm like, Nick, what are we doing? He's like, I don't know what we're doing. I'm like, Let's go get in the car. Let's go warm up. And so we're trying to get up the bank, and my feet just aren't working, and everything is just feeling sluggish. We get up to the car and I'm like, Man, I think we need to turn on the car and deal with the exhaust because we need to warm up. We start taking off the layers. I remember I unlaced my frozen laces. I take off my boots and the wind blows the door shut on my foot and I don't feel a thing.
At that moment, panic and fear floods my heart. I'm like, nick, I didn't feel it. He's like, What do you mean you didn't feel it? I didn't feel it. He's like, Take off your socks. I take off my socks. And it's like this yellow purple color. Beyond red, beyond pink, a yellowish purple. I'm like, nick, this doesn't look... I can't feel anything. I'm poking it. I was up, he's like, Well, put your hand warmers on your feet. So we got my hand warmers on our feet. I got socks on. We're rubbing it. I'm doing kinesthetics in the car, trying to get anything, and nothing's working. I'm like, Nick, we got to get to the nearest fire station. We got to get to emergency vehicle, he's like, That's 30 minutes away. I'm like, Let's go. He drives the 83 Volvo like it's a sports car. We're going down this dirt road, hitting holes, going. About eight minutes in, blood hits my heel and I could feel it. It's like this slow engage in all this burning of needles. About 12 minutes in, it starts to get to the ball of my foot and my foot is just swelling.
Colors are changing. And then my left foot, for some reason, comes back to life first. Each toe that got hit swells up and you just feel blood go into it. And it wasn't labor. I just watched Christine go through labor. But as a man, I was moaning. I was crying. I was screaming because each part blood entered the body part was excrucianary. I could barely handle it. We're going, I'm like, I'm giving nick progress reports. I'm squirming, I'm sweating, I'm all the above, and we're a little hazy from all the fumes in the car. Every toe starts to come back on my right foot, swelling up like little sausages, except my big toe. I'm like, we're like 25 minutes in this 30 minute drive and my big toe will not come back. I'm like, nick, if I don't have my big toe, I can't walk straight. I learned this in science class. If I can't have my big toe, I won't be able to play baseball. I won't be able to do this. I won't be able to go dancing at my wedding. He's like, I need my big toe. He's like, calm down, Brian.
I'm like, I will not calm down. We're pulling into this fire station. There's no one around. And this thing swelled up like a banana. My big toe, his blood just starts to go into it. I'm screaming. My feet are just swollen. I mean, it cankles. You just can't see anything that looks like a foot. And we're sitting in the parking lot and we're like, Well, I don't exactly have money to get an emergency vehicle. He's like, Either do I. I'm like, What should we do? He's like, I heard aspirin thins your blood. Maybe that's a good idea. So we go to a gas station, we get aspirin. I popped double the dosage. And we're sitting in the car. We're like, Well, what are we going to do? We're two and a half hours from home. We use most of our money to get here and gas. I'm like, Well, let's go back and fish. We go back, we pick a sunny spot. I don't get back in the water. I actually ended up catching a 27 inch rainbow that day. It was incredible. But my right foot has never been the same. The joints weird. It gets cold very easily. But it almost died. It almost had to get chopped. But luckily, blood flow got to it.
But by the minute, there's a couple of medical professions in the room. I didn't research how many minutes I had left, but it was dying. It wasn't going to make it much longer. Some of us are like that right now. Some of us know people that are like that right now. Without life giving, faith and encouragement, you're not going to make it. It's been a funky three years. Church over Zoom, not in person, in person. It's been a funky time. Satan has had a heyday with singling out Christians and getting them alone. My body was okay. It wasn't in jeopardy, but my toe was. The body will get through losing a body part. But the body part that's cut off will not survive. You need the body. That's how you get the blood flow. The writer of Hebrews says, do not let each other drift in chapter 6. Do not let each other have a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. It's our responsibility to see to it. If someone calls themselves your brother or sister, that you're encouraging them.
Encouragement isn't just always nice words. It's putting courage in them. It's putting faith. It's helping them to fight the good fight. You know what I've learned over the years, it doesn't matter how you feel about your relationship with God. It doesn't even matter if you're following all the steps of faith I'm talking about. You could be digging deep in your word. You could be persevering through trials. You could be remembering past blessings. But if you do not have each other, you will die spiritually. It's a lie of Satan and progressive fancy theology today that says it's all about just your personal relationship with God. You don't really need other people. It's about you and God. And if that's good, you don't need anything else. That's a lie from Satan. It's unbiblical. You cannot read the New Testament that's littered with one another passages in teams and church and body and think that you could be a Christian on your own and make it. We all need this. The strongest of us need this. I know some of you honestly probably barely made it here today, and there's some that didn't make it here today.
There's some of us who may or may not make it to midweek this week. Not based on actually, can you physically get there or not? But based on your sinful, unbelieving heart. If it's not next week, it may be two weeks from now or a month from now or a year from now. When you're wondering, is it really worth it? Do I really matter? Do I really need it? Do others need me? And you do. You are needed and you need it. Don't drift. Don't lose heart. Don't let your heart be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Have this daily encouragement. You want to grow in your faith? You want to grow? You got to give encouragement. You got to give it. Acts 20, verse 35 says this, this is Paul quoting a well known passage. It's not found in the Gospels, but the new first century church quoted to each other, new. It says in verse 35, It is more blessed to give than it is to what? Do you believe Jesus' words? Do you believe that if you give, you actually benefit more than if you receive. If you believe that, have you been giving much lately?
Have you been dishing out encouragement left and right? Do you really believe it with your actions and your words? It's more blessed to give than it is to receive. Well, Brian, keep preaching about encouragement because no one's encouraging me. Brian, I went to midweek last time and no one sat next to me. No one encouraged me. Brian, I hope you're preaching. I hope that sister is thinking about this because she needs to encourage me. You got it all wrong. You can't blame others for your sinful, unbelieving heart. It is more blessed to give than it is to receive. I'm tired of hearing people blame others. We have a personal responsibility to give encouragement. Very rarely do you encourage someone, they don't turn around and then what? Encourage you. Comes around, goes around. We can't forget this. What excuses have you been making for not giving to others? Proverbs 11, verse 25 says, He who refreshes others will Him himself be refreshed. As a Minister, I'm not immune to not wanting to go to church. I'm not. I'm just like you. I have sinful unbelieving hearts that come up. I don't always want to stay to the very end of church.
I don't want to get here early every Sunday and it's not like because I'm a minister I'm immune to that. The opposite, I think, actually. We all have to wrestle with this. We all have to battle with this. Last week, I'm pushing around at the marriage retreat, my five week old baby in this empty ballroom. We just been praying outside. I'm up early. I got bags underneath my eyes and Travis is coming. Aren't you just so glad to be here? What a great weekend. You can tell they've had a great weekend. I just look at them and go, I love them. I can be honest, I said, I love this church. I love my job. I love my marriage. This is the last place I want to be right now with a five week old daughter staying in a hotel, not sleeping. It's not where I want to be, but I know it's where I need to be. My marriage benefited from it, and we came with the heart to give at each fellowship opportunity. We wanted to give, we stayed, we engaged, but it's not where I wanted to be. But I didn't drive home Sunday afternoon regretting it.
I left feeling like, I am so glad we came to be given to and to give. And I hope you feel that way, too. I've never left a meeting of the body that I've chosen to go and be giving, regretting it. Never. 17 years not regretted once. I tell you what, I've regretted many times. I've copped out, backed out, excuse doubt, but never for showing up. Because I believe others need it and I believe I need it. When I encourage others, I myself am refreshed. Doesn't it feel good to be refreshed? Doesn't it feel good to refresh others? We were designed, the body, to do this and to be this. I'm going to end up with some tools for encouragement. You guys ready for that? Five practicals for encouragement, which Christina should be given these. She's naturally way more encouraging than I am, and therefore I've become better because of her in my life. The first tool is this, use the Bible. The Bible builds people's faith. Digging into God's Word, hearing the words of Christ, increases people's faith. You get to kill two birds with one stone. You get to encourage someone with the Bible.
It's like double faith increase to be encouraging and with the Bible. Rarely is there a time, I'm around Ken Astroske, that he's not quoting a passage or sharing about a passage because he knows it's double the effect. It's just who Ken is. When's the last time after church, you just opened up your Bible like the old days and just walked around sharing passages with someone? Remember, open Bible fellowship? It's just good to encourage one another with scriptures. Andrew Flores is this way, too. He's always quoting the Scripture, saying the Scripture just on the tip of his tongue in fellowship.
The second tool is this praise specifically. You hear, Bro, you're awesome. You hear, Andrew, I am so grateful that you bailed me out at men's midweek with the most engaging, pull everyone together song when I am drowning in all that I have to do. I'm like, There's a difference there. If I just tell Andrew he's awesome, I share the ways that I'm so grateful for him. It changes how someone thinks or feels appreciated. I was with a lunch with Greg Chalmers this last week, and he gave me some of this encouragement about feedback, about speaking and what I'm trying to do and help the hearts here in Metro and it was encouraging to hear something specific. It just does. Don't we all feel more grateful when you hear specific feedback or praise?
The third vision, our third one is this, give vision. Where would you be without a brother or sister looking in the eyes and believing in you, pointing out gifts and strengths that you don't see in yourself, developing things in you that your own eyes can't see. I wouldn't be in the ministry if it wasn't for people giving me vision. I wouldn't be the type of husband, a dad, if it wasn't for vision. Riku and I were working out a few weeks ago and it was vision time. His chance of a lifetime is coming to an end. He's trying to figure out, what am I going to do with my future? We're working now and it's not very hard work. We're not even breathing hard. I just said, Riku, you are the future of the Johannesburg Church. That if you don't go back with all your faith and overcome your fears and give this a wholehearted shot, there's a generation that could be missed. There's a part that's going to be missed. You're essential to this. I kept laying it on because I know the Johannesburg Church, I know Southern Africa that they need the next generation. Well, he started breathing heavily, not because of the workout. He looked like he was going to puke, not because of the workout. But it was vision, it was truth. We need to hear truth and vision and how we're needed. The fourth way is this written encouragement. Isn't it funny? Not funny, but how about you? If you get a really encouraging card, do you ever just read it once? No, you read it multiple times. Top drawer of my dresser has this card that I go back to, read and reread. There's something powerful that's about written encouragement. Text messages that I save, voicemails I save, messages on social media. There's something about written encouragement that just makes a difference. The Loweys are really good at writing these little cards or texts. Howard sends me these thoughtful, constructive texts. Christy and MJ drop off more little knickknacks and gifts at my house that has been just things every three or four days is something special, like a birthday. And it's not, but they make her feel that way.
Just little thoughtful things go so far. And the last tool for encouragement is to encourage each other publicly in a family group setting, in a D group, at a midweek, on a date, and to hang out, but also encourage each other privately. There's a power of just looking at someone, just the two of you. And there's something about acknowledging someone in front of others. As we follow these five tools, and there's so many more tools to encourage one another with. You'd be amazed by how much your faith grows and how much the faith of others grow. All right, each Sunday has a challenge. You guys ready for this week's challenge? I want you to write down whatever you're taking notes with because hopefully you were convicted about notes a couple of weeks ago, write down three people that you want to encourage this week. You might be thinking, for Tim Sparks, I'm going to use one, three, and definitely four. Or you might be thinking, With Phil Arsenal, what would possibly encourage Phil? Number five. You just think about it. But you come up with your numbers, come up with who you want to encourage and do that.
There's three people this week. We can all do that. Intentional three people this week and use these tools and you'd be amazed by how people's faith increases and gets encouraged. In your discipleship group, the next time you have one, whether it's this week or next week, I just want the whole time to be a time of encouragement. And you guys could practice these five tools here just the whole time. Let's just encourage one another. You never leave a time of encouragement thinking like it was a waste. You always feel like, That was great. Why don't we do this more often? You want to grow in your faith? You really want to increase your faith? You got to remember past blessings. You got to persevere your trials. You got to dig deeper into God's Word. You need to encourage one another. Amen to that. We're going to pray for benevolence. Like I said, I bobbled some details this morning at this time, we do this at the beginning of each month. It goes to support needs in their fellowship and the community around us. Let's pray at this time.
God, who are we that we get to encourage people in need by this offering of benevolence? God, I've had my back up against the wall a handful of times financially, and it's so helpful to have hope from a brother or sister, from a generous help to just get through tough times. I pray as we consider those in our membership and those in the community that we're trying to impact, there's a lot of people with their back against the wall and in tough times that this benevolence offering at this time will deeply encourage, help us to be a church that always looks out for one another and encourages one another. Pray this in Jesus name, Amen. Thank you.