May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (verses 16-17)
Stage-fright is real and paralyzing. I know. I experienced it intensely at age 11. I was preforming in a piano recital in a rented hall which seemed, to my young eyes, more massive than any world-class concert hall anywhere. Actually, it was simply a local High School auditorium, built in the 1920s – but that’s beside the point.
I was on stage at the grand piano, stage lights glaring down at me, ready to perform my rendition of “Greensleeves.” I’d memorized the piece, so there was no music in front of me. I launched in and played the first four bars fairly competently, when suddenly my fingers forgot where they were going. I ran out of notes. Painfully, the whole piece ground to a halt. Thinking I might be helped by a fresh run at it, I launched in again, hoping to vault over the missing memory. No doing. I got stuck in the very same spot. Undaunted, but quaking, I tried again. Same painful result.
Right then, my beloved music teacher came to the rescue. She sat on the bench beside me and gently urged me to try again. She didn’t put any music in front of me, but her sheer presence spoke courage to my heart. Trying again, I got past the glitch and managed to complete the piece. Whew.
That’s become my life-long definition of “encouragement” – speaking strength to the mind, courage to the heart, and memory to the fingers!
If encouragement from a human source can have such transformative impact in a piano recital, what might divine encouragement do for the whole of life? Especially when it is God’s own love and grace which are the well-spring from which encouragement flows. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3 that the dimensions of that love are unfathomable, beyond comprehension, yet graspable by the power of the Spirit. To be rooted and grounded in this love is encouragement indeed.
And his grace – the undeserved favour we have received in Christ Jesus – has been lavished upon us (Ephesians 1:8), superabundantly overflowing. Not only so, but it’s also the solid ground on which we stand (Romans 5:2), an immovable foundation. We are therefore surrounded! If we are enveloped in such divine, unending grace, our encouragement can’t help but be eternal in scope, just as Paul states.
The result is that we’re strengthened, right here and now, to do the very things God has prepared in advance for us to do, and to speak his message to those he wants to hear it. Our fingers hit the keys! The song rings out. Encouraged in heart, we’re able to engage fully in the music he himself has prepared.
There’s one final thing I notice. This blessing Paul speaks over us is jointly administered by Father and Son together. How rich a blessing. It flows from the very heart of the divine relationship. But more, the root word for “encouragement” is the same as that of “Comforter”, “Counselor”, “Advocate” – the very name Jesus gives the Spirit. The Triune God is working in concert in our lives. The Spirit comes alongside to work encouragement in us, eternal encouragement being the gift and purpose of Father and Son together.
The result? Good deeds and good words. All to his glory. May it be.
O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, work in me to strengthen heart and mind with your encouragement. Let me be gripped by your love. Let me stand in your grace. Let me live in the overflow of the divine relationship, to your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Are there things the Lord has called you to do, but for which you find yourself lacking courage – feeling disheartened or discouraged? Specifically ask the Lord to encourage your heart and strengthen you to carry out his calling.