Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”

Hebrews 10:24

 

What a beautiful start for spring. Folks are talking about preparations for planting gardens, flowers, and cutting grass. It is a busy time for Alaskans. God gave us all things to enjoy, but He also wants us to remain focused every day.

Sometimes we get so busy and self-consumed that we forget we are surrounded daily by people who are hurting and hoping someone will see them and provide hope and help in their situations. People everywhere are struggling terribly, not realizing they need a special act or word to encourage them. All they know is they hurt. This is especially sad when it happens inside a church because we are supposed to be a family who genuinely cares for one another and helps meet each other’s needs. That is why Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”

The word “consider” is from the Greek word katanoeo, a compound of the words kata and noeo. The word kata depicts “something that is moving downward,” and the word noeo depicts “the mind; to think.” 

When you put the two words together, the word means “to thoroughly think something through and ponder it from the top all the way to the bottom.” It gives us the idea of mulling something over, carefully contemplating a matter, ruminating over a situation, and examining something completely. It is not a brief thought.

This word describes someone who is so concerned about others that he or she has taken the time to put aside their own needs and responsibilities in order to carefully pray and consider another’s needs. They are familiar with the person’s ups and downs and their highs and lows, and if they aren’t familiar, they start immediately. They have taken the time to intercede and find out what it will take to encourage that one, and why they are in the situation they are in. 

This cannot be done in five minutes. Nor can it be solved with a quick, “Oh, you look a little down. Bless your heart. I’ll be praying for you,” that ends with a brief shout out to the Lord with something akin to, “God, please touch her.” This command calls for a determined pursuit.

The local church is not just a building or just where we come together to worship and hear the Word of God preached and taught. It is a place where believers should “consider one another” as this verse commands. It is a living organism, a community where people are vitally and sincerely concerned about each other. Concerned enough to put some action to their words. The Christian populace in Delta Junction is a place where you are on the lookout for people who need love, a listening ear, or help of any kind.

Consider one another to provoke love and good works. This word “provoke” is the Greek word paraxusmos. The word para means “alongside; around; surrounding or closing in on someone.” The second part of the word is the Greek word xusmos, which means “to sharpen something,” such as a knife, and indicates a “very sharp situation.” 

When you put the two words together, the compound word describes “someone who has come alongside someone else for the purpose of encouraging or impelling, compelling that individual to do something in their situation.”

You might have already guessed that provoking one another can be either a positive or a negative act. The Bible exhorts parents to not provoke their children to anger. I found one translation for the word paraxusmos, and it said, “to call into combat.” 

Throughout the New Testament, the word usually means “to irritate to incite, to anger, to inflame, or to enrage.” Obviously, that is not what the Lord is wanting us to do. But in Hebrews 10:24, the word “provoking” is telling us that our relationships with other believers should incite both parties to become better, stronger, and bolder in the Lord.

This takes effort on our part.

It takes prayer. It takes time. It may cost you more than you had planned. How do we do it? How do we leave others better off than before we first saw them? How do we impart life, hope, and faith in another who God places smack dab in our path? How do you help another who is consumed by bitterness and possibly feeling like a failure change their current path and instead walk in love and forgiveness? Some may be wounded, some burned out, and others in need of hope.

How can you and I sharpen and inspire someone who is in desperate need of endurance? It takes a laid-down life. It requires being available. It is usually an inopportune time. It requires stopping, pausing, and being willing to dump our plans and schedules and offering a substantial investment into that person. Remember — Jesus left the ninety-nine to search for the one who was lost. It would also be a great time to refresh yourself on the Good Samaritan.

If you are merely a “lip-service” believer, a decoy, then you will probably have no interest in such a sacrifice of love. Are you content with pew-warming once a week and tossing ten bucks in the offering plate? I used to love listening to the singer Keith Green in the 1970s. He wrote a song imploring Christians to go into the fields and not just write a check.

It does not mean traveling to Namibia. The love of Christ in you might be needed next door. Or in the parking lot downtown. Are you willing to possibly be uncomfortable yet available to help lift someone out of what could become a pit of despair?

You see, fair-weather Christians are clueless when you talk to them about being dead to self in Christ. It is a foreign concept to them. They think only Jesus and His Apostles lived like that. Not so. If we are ever going to see results, have an effect, and see victory, we are going to have to follow Christ and his example. We must remember, we are His Body in the earth. In Delta. When you “call” God, you should never get a busy signal.

Do not laugh. That is exactly what a “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll put you on the prayer chain,” is. It is a “I’m too busy doing my own thing, with my own agenda, to stop and listen and discern what the true hurt is and proceed to apply the balm of love to your pain.”

When you go to a doctor when you are ill, you are usually examined, treated, and required to come in for a follow-up. We too must follow up on those we minister to, making sure they are on the path to healing, recovery, and restoration. If not, it all looks so fake and insincere. We can come alongside a person in need and love him enough not to leave him in discouragement and defeat. We can sharpen him, prod him, exhort him, and inspire him through the Spirit to keep on fighting the good fight of faith. 

All of us need to be provoked at times, no matter how mature a Christian we may or may not be in the Body of Christ. Everyone needs a loving push in the right direction now and then.

A paraphrase of this verse might be:

“And constantly be observing one another as loving family members, serious contemplating, studying, and examining each other – especially if someone is going through a difficult trial or period in their life, until you know exactly how to minister hope and healing, and incite and stimulate them to love and to good works.”

Life can be extremely lonely if you feel there is no one looking out for you.

If you get sick, no one calls. You are facing a huge loss in your life, and others appear totally unmoved and disinterested. Your child is developing frightening behavioral tendencies, and your friends take the position of, “Glad it’s you and not me!”

We must step out of our own selves and embrace the fact that the Spirit of Christ not only lives within us, but it wishes to rule and minister in and through us. With your hands, with your mouth, with your checkbook, and with your time. All that we have belongs to Him anyway. And when we give, we increase. If we are selfish with our time, money, and attention, we end up in poverty. Never forget.

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24-26

We need people who will love us, observe us, and support us when we are struggling to stand in faith on a word from God. But at the same time, others need our assistance too.

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Real friends love us and stand with us no matter what we are going through, always looking for ways to assist us and lift us up when we are going through difficult times of any sort. And God is faithful to bring someone into your life during to most painful times to lift you up in every way.

God has been so patient with His people. But the times are short, and it is high time we put our hand to the plow and not look back. Each gathering in this city should be a place of victory where faith is built up, the soul is encouraged, and wisdom and strength are imparted. It should be a community where faith lives and triumphs through a family of believers’ love and concern one for another. There is just nothing like living in an atmosphere of faith and love where you are surrounded by believers who genuinely believe and practice the Word of God. Having like-minded friends gives you strength to be the overcomer you were created to be.

Let’s pray this prayer today as we ask God to broaden our horizon and our love for Christ and His people.

“Lord Jesus, please forgive me for being so self-consumed that I have neglected to see the needs in people around me. Forgive my selfishness and the times I failed to recognize when I could have been a blessing and an encouragement to a hurting soul. I repent and I make the decision to reach out to those around me. Just as others have strengthened me, I want to be a source of strength to those around me. Help me to pay close attention to people’s ups and downs. Help show me how I can provoke them to good works. In Jesus Name, I choose to wake up, take my eyes off myself, and do whatever it takes to plant love and hope one life at a time. Amen.”

Ruminate on that.