Written by Dr. Bill Bagents
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
During a visit to Athlone Church of Christ in Cape Town, Africa, my assignment for the class and the sermon was simple: encourage the brethren. In class we talked about the nature and importance of encouragement. We looked at biblical examples of encouragers. We talked about ways we can be more encouraging to one another. I’m not sure about others, but it certainly encouraged me!
The sermon title was, “Satan’s Goals and God’s Goals in Conflict.” It’s so easy to be encouraging with a title like that. We know Satan’s goals: to distract, discourage, and destroy. He tries to get us to doubt God, deny truth, and devour one another (Galatians 5:15-21).
God’s goals are just as clear. He uses even conflict to help us learn to love one another (1 John 3:10-15). He teaches and commands loving behavior (1 Corinthians 13). He knows that love builds faith, hope, and character.
It seemed appropriate to use examples that were local and immediate. An outstanding young man was placing church bulletins inside the songbooks before handing them out. Three or four precious children were helping him, and he was welcoming their help. As the children handed out the books, I heard a few people say, “No thank you. I already have one.” My recommendation in the sermon ran like this, “Please accept the songbook. It won’t hurt you to have two. Please let those precious children serve with joy.”
One of the sweetest older brothers was to lead the closing prayer. Before he prayed for those who responded and for the congregation, he said something like this, “Brethren, I have been one of the ones denying our children the opportunity to serve with joy. Please forgive me. It will not happen again.” I continue to be moved by his humility.
He heard a suggestion of a better course of behavior; he embraced it immediately and enthusiastically. His example made the sermon. When it would have been so easy to have taken offense or to have saved face by saying nothing, he took the bold step of seizing the moment to draw closer to God. It was a perfect application of James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:6-7. His example blessed my heart and moved me to tears.
It’s one more reason to meet with the saints every time the saints meet. We never know how or when we will see the grace of God and be made better by it (Acts 11:23).