GOD'S WAY OF ENCOURAGING US
By Rev. Ernest O'Neill
We ourselves, when we talk about God's encouragement have a kind of watered down wishy-washy diluted version of it. We think that it's God kind of comforting us or it's us looking at the industry averages and saying, "Well, it may come about anyway and then I'll give the glory to God", it isn't that. God's encouragement is something coming so deeply into Gideon that he has a time over a period of days to look very seriously at the mathematical facts of the size of his own army and the size of the enemies. Too often we think of encouragement as a matter of laying out a quick fleece, grabbing at some encouraging or discouraging sign, then hanging on to that finger hold of hope by your fingertips and hoping for a miraculous deliverance that comes quickly before you lose what you call your faith. Isn't that right?
And so often that's what we think of as encouragement, "Okay, okay I grip onto it. I hold on to it. Do something quick Lord before I lose my faith." Well, that's not it. It's Gideon receiving God's promises, knowing that God will act to back them up and then looking over a period of days at the size of his army, at the size of the opposite army and being absolutely sure that God himself will come in and will deliver.
In other words loved ones, it's really found in our word "encouragement" itself. Encouragement, for those of you who know French, comes etymologically from the same stem as "le coeur" in French - "le coeur" -- heart and encouragement means that. It means a strengthening of your heart. It’s a strengthening of your heart convictions about God going to do something in this situation for you so that you have it springing up from inside you; it's not some power of positive thinking. It's not some little mental thought that you've got your hands on. It's not some little intellectual theory you have of what God will do in this situation. It's the strengthening of your heart so that you know this is going to happen. Indeed our English word "comfort" has etymologically the Latin word "forte" in it and "forte" is the word for strong. So the whole meaning of paraclaesis and encouragement and comfort, is a strengthening of our heart so that we are absolutely convinced that of course, God is going to act in this situation.
Now, loved ones that's what enables the God of encouragement to act in your life. It isn't you looking at Wall Street and totting up the industry averages and the likelihood of your pulling the thing off any way, it isn't. It isn't you, looking at your abilities, examining them and thinking, "Well, maybe with a little help from my friends, I'll manage it"; it isn't that kind of teeter-totter, fiddler on the roof, "Hope everything will turn out for the best." That isn't it. The God of encouragement is you having an absolutely sure and deep conviction "This is the God that enabled Gideon to do it when one of them was fighting 437. Now my odds are much less than that. So I know that God is going to come through for me," and when you're sure that God is going to come through for you, God comes through for you.
But loved ones, it has to be in your heart, do you see that? It can't be you here saying, "I feel I feel a feeling that I feel I felt before, I do, I do. I feel something uncomfortable about this, as you talk about it Pastor. If I can just keep this from falling out of my heart before I get to Monday morning." No, that's not it. God looks for your faith in him being the God of encouragement. He looks for it in your heart. He's no fool. He looks deep down in your heart. He sees whether there's a tremor there, whether you're just hoping for the best or whether you really have faith and confidence that he who did this for Gideon will do the same for you. God looks into your heart.