Grace Nurtured

Over the past few weeks we have already looked at some of the 5 strategic priorities of the Baptist Union of NZ, of which we are a member church. The list of them is on the back page of the latest Baptist mag. We have already discussed Grace Shared and Grace Discerned.

Today we are looking at Grace nurtured.

In the goal, the preamble is: Because gifts of God’s grace have been bestowed on every member of the Body we shall value and nurture all of those gifts as we seek to prepare all of God’s people for the service that each is given to fulfil for the glory of God and the realization of His Kingdom.

Each person confessing Christ as Lord, living with the body of Christ, is given a gift by the Holy Spirit of the building of the body.

1 Corinthians 12:Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Today I do not want to talk about the spiritual gifts per se, but how we encourage people into using their gifts.

Bill Hybels in one of his books suggests that Christians who don’t know their spiritual gifts and aren’t serving in the right place are missing out on some of the greatest blessings of the Christian life. [1]

 

Our job as fellow Christians to encourage people into the fullness of their Christian life.

 

It is our job to teach them, coach them, mentor and grow them to Christian maturity, cast vision into their lives, empower and release them.[2] And this task is applicable whether you are a one year or 40 year Christian, so if you are a new Christian don’t turn off, saying this is not for me.

 

We are accountable to God for how we lead and nurture those entrusted to our care.[3] Again I am not just talking about those in leadership positions. I am talking about all of us.

           

1 Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

The former Mongrel Mob member and now Christian Tuhoe Isaac wrote in his book: I had become born again to the spirit of God through Christ and resurrected from the pit of death, but I had grave clothes still to be removed, wounds to the healed, and my emotions to be comforted by the love of men I could trust, who could disciple me and mentor me for life.[4]

Think of the words he uses: comfort, mentor, disciple, and can I add another encourage.

The responsibility for growing Christians is often left to the vague ‘someone else’.  We send our kids to Sunday School to learn about Jesus but we don’t talk about Jesus at home.  We go to an Inspire group to be about the Bible and how to live it but don’t go home and talk to our kids or partner about what we learned, we go to church on Sunday to hear the preaching but we never mention what we have learned in our workplace.

We are accountable to God for how we lead and nurture those entrusted to our care.[5]

So let’s unpack those 4 words:

Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

“So that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received”

You don’t need to go on a course to learn how to comfort. Just reach into your own experience and remember what God did for you. Then give support to those who are going through the same troubles you went through and help  them to avoid the potholes that you fell in.

 

Second: mentor

Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

 

Mentoring is more task oriented.  I have some skill in whatever task or ministry I do – normally because I have made mistakes and learned from them – so I can help someone who is just learning the role.  Again, no certificate needed to pass on your knowledge, just helping others in the ministry that they have been gifted.

 

Third:  disciple

No matter what our maturity level in the Christian life, we have something to offer. Too often, we believe the lie from Satan that we don't really know enough or haven't been a Christian long enough to make a difference. Not true! Some of the most enthusiastic representatives of the Christian life are new believers who have just discovered the awesome love of God. They may not know a lot of Bible verses or the "accepted" way of saying things, but they have experienced the love of the living God, and that is exactly what we are to share.

 

If you have walked any distance as a follower of Jesus, you are able to help those who still have that distance to go.

 

And the last word is encourage:

To encourage means to give support, confidence, or hope to someone; egg on · spur on · stir · stir up · whip up · fire up · stimulate · animate · invigorate · vitalize · revitalize · embolden · fortify · rally · incite · lift the spirits of · raise the morale of · stiffen the resolve of · buck up · pep up · give a shot in the arm to · light a fire under · inspirit · spirit someone up · fillip · incentivize · promising · hopeful · auspicious · propitious · favourable · bright · rosy · cheerful · full of promise · heartening · reassuring · stimulating · inspiring · uplifting · cheering · comforting · welcome · pleasing · gratifying · supportive · reassuring · affirmative · sympathetic · sensitive · understanding · helpful · positive · responsive · enthusiastic · appreciative

antonyms: discourage · discouraging · unsupportive

§to persuade someone to do or continue to do something by giving support and advice; topressurize · exhort · spur · prod · goad · egg on · prompt · influence · sway · put the heat on · put the screws on · twist someone's arm

antonyms: dissuade

§ stimulate the development of an activity, state, or belief.

 

Barnabas accompanied Paul on many of his missions. Barnabas means son of encouragement.  There is no greater compliment than to be called a son of encouragement.

 

There are those in this church that are my Barnabas, my sons of encouragement. Thank you to those people.

 

We all need people on the sidelines cheering us on. If you have ever been at the end of a marathon (watching, not running it). Some friend will come out of the crowd to join his mate over those last few miles, running with him, encouraging him with words and actions to get to the finish line. That is what we are called to do – encourage others to broach the finish tape, by getting on the running track with them, not being armchair critics.

 

Nay sayers are a dime a dozen.  We need to avoid being the person who says that you can’t do that, and we need to be the one who says “go for it!”

 

Remember Paul’s advice to Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

 

Paul knew there would be nay-sayers in the church that Timothy was leading so he was encouraging him to continue in his focus.

 

And similarly, he wrote to the church about being encouragers, not nay-sayers.

 

1 Corinthians 16:10 If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am; 11 therefore let no one despise him.

 

None of these actions are beyond the scope of anybody.  You don’t need a degree in any of things in order to encourage or mentor or disciple or comfort. You don’t need to pass a course at church to do them.

 

There is an adage that says people watch us to see what being a Christian is like and they are encouraged to try themselves when we have modelled it and they find it attractive.

 

If you model what you teach, people will want to become as dynamic as you; if you don’t, all your teaching and mentoring will be in vain…Teach them, coach them, mentor and grow them to Christian maturity, vision cast into their lives, empower and release them[6].

 

The truth is, a church program never changed a life. Only God does that. Church ministries are nothing more than busywork unless God initiates them. As people see God at work around them and as they are encouraged to join him, they will demonstrate much more than compliance. They will enthusiastically participate in those activities they sense God is orchestrating. [7]

 

If you are a parent, you know that praise and encouragement brings the best out of your children.  Constant put downs and negativity does the exact opposite.

 

The old saying is that you attract more bees with honey than vinegar is so true.

           

We have to create, sustain and nurture communities in the same way as we sustain and nurture children and families. We can no longer take our communities for granted. Even small rural and seemingly isolated groupings need to work on their relationships if any real notion of community is to be maintained and further developed.[8]

           

2 Corinthians 13:11 Dear brothers and sisters,  I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

Our homework this week is threefold.

1. In what way can you use a talent that has been given to you? Go on, be brave and try and name them! 

 2. How can this wonderful gift of grace be nurtured?  What supports do you need around you to realise that? Then come to the leadership team or me and tell us what your gifts are so we may help you realise them.

 3. Consider a person in your community that you might be able to nurture.  Who do you need to comfort, disciple, mentor or encourage.  It may be someone in the church but it might be someone in your family or your community or your workplace or school.

Lord give us eyes to see and the courage to act.

 



[1] Bill Hybels Honest to God – Becoming an Authentic Christian Page 112

[2] Gordon Miller “How to grow great disciples” Daystar December 2007 23

[3] Engstrom & Cedar Compassionate Leadership, 31

[4] Tuhoe ‘Bruno’ Isaac True Red: the life of an ex-Mongrel Mob gang Leader  147

[5] Engstrom & Cedar

[6] Gordon Miller “How to grow great disciples” Daystar December 2007 23

[7] Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God's Agenda  Richard and Henry Blackaby 111

[8] Jim Consedine “Community – different but the same” Tui Motu Interislands September 2012, 5