As dedicated Christians, we desire to be zealous, but sometimes we just don't know how to go about it. Hebrews 10:24 gives us some instruction: "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." (KJV)
Followers of Christ
Our modern usage of the word "provoke" usually means to irritate. But, if we read this passage in the Phillips translation of the New Testament, we get the true thought: "Let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and to do good works." The concept of inspiration is in the word "encourage." We are to inspire and encourage one another! There are two sides to this equation: a source of inspiration as well as the inspired one. There may be a wonderful source of inspiration, say, an individual living a consecrated life and rejoicing in it, but if no one is paying attention, that life goes unnoticed, except, of course, by God.
In Philippians 3:17, the Apostle Paul admonishes the believers: "Brothers and sisters, join together in following my example. Also, learn by watching those who are living the way we showed you." In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he adds, "Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ." In other words, we need to find our inspiration by taking note of those who live their faith and grow in Christlikeness.
Some might say that the only example we need is Jesus. He is the ultimate example! But all will fall short of that ideal. Paul implied that we also need inspiration from those we can actually see and relate to in our daily lives.
Inspiration to Israel in the Old Testament
Let's consider a few examples of people the Lord sent to inspire Israel in the Old Testament. The work and message of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Ezra (all contemporaries) contain important lessons for us. They lived after the Jewish captivity in Babylonian, when many Israelites had returned to their homeland. Cyrus, the new king of Persia gave them permission to rebuild their temple, which had been destroyed.
When the Israelites started constructing the new temple, the Gentile inhabitants of the area offered to help them. But they were refused, for only Jews were allowed to do the re-building. So, instead of helping, the Gentiles antagonized them. They did everything they could to discourage the work, including writing letters to the king.
The letters insinuated that once the temple was complete the Israelites would refuse to pay taxes and would likely revolt against the Persian Empire. Their work was eventually forced to a stop and remained idle for 21 years! During this time the people concentrated on their own houses and personal matters.
Eventually the Lord instructed the prophets to encourage the Israelites to return to the Lord's work and not let fear, intimidation or their own private matters interfere with completing the temple.
Haggai & Zechariah
The Prophet Haggai provided one message from God. "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, saith the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:3). With these words the LORD encouraged the people. Although the temple would be smaller than Solomon's, it would be greater.
The LORD also spoke through the prophet Zechariah. In Zechariah 2:4 He says, "At that time people from many nations will come to me. They will become my people, and I will live in your city. Then, you will know it was the LORD, ALL-POWERFUL who sent me to tell you these things."
But, Zechariah wasn't really talking about the literal temple made of stones and masonry. That temple would someday be destroyed by the Romans. He was referring to the work that He would accomplish through these people in His kingdom (yet, in the future).
The true followers of Christ are to make up the "spiritual" temple of the LORD. The LORD is building it now…each devoted Christian is a separate "spiritual" stone" in "the spiritual temple!"
It is easy to get discouraged! How often have you wanted to give up and just go with the flow of life… like others around us. It can happen when our efforts don't really seem to change anything or, worse yet, when they are criticized.
Sometimes we need encouragement!
During World War II, Winston Churchill delivered the now-famous speech, "Never Give In." England had just been through 57 straight nights of German air raids with more than a million homes destroyed and 40,000 people killed. Churchill told his fellow countrymen that those days would be memorable in the history of their people; for what would be remembered would be how the people persevered and eventually conquered!
Here is an excerpt from the speech: "…for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period… This is the lesson: Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing… great or small, large or petty…never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy!"
These were forceful words, given to a nation in great distress. And the encouragement worked! The English people kept a positive outlook even while bombs rained down upon their cities. Some might wonder how Churchill could say such things while they were being dreadfully besieged. But he had given hope to the people of England. He was like a prophet, telling them they would triumph despite overwhelming odds.
The point is…hope inspires! This is how we can inspire one another!
We should be quick to share our hope and remind one another of the conviction we hold, especially as we see others becoming discouraged or losing faith. We can view every little service we do as contributing to the completion of the temple and the work of the kingdom.
The victories of the true followers of Christ will be some of the most memorable experiences in the history of mankind! We can have a part in it!
Remind each other of the power of our God and His willingness to be with us through it all! When the Israelites were fearful of taking up the work of rebuilding the temple, the LORD said in Zechariah 2:5, "For I…will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her."
If God made that commitment to protect the city of Jerusalem, how much more will He be a wall of fire around the New Jerusalem (the true followers of Christ, the spiritual body of Christ) as it is being built? (1 Peter 2:5)
The prophet Ezra also played an important part in encouraging the people. In Ezra 7:10 we read, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."
Ezra was a true spiritual leader, learning and teaching the laws and precepts that had become lost over the years in captivity. He lived according to the principles of the Law and in doing so, proved to be a great example. In addition, he devoted himself to teach others. In this way, he was instrumental in planting a renewed love for the Law of God.
We can learn from his example as well. We have an obligation to study, apply and teach the truth to others.
As modern Christians, we owe a debt of gratitude to Ezra. Jewish scholars say that he was responsible for collecting all the copies of the Law that he could find, and publishing them together with all the prophetic, historic and poetic books that had been written up to that time. In addition, he wrote the book of Ezra and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. He delved deeply into God's word and worked diligently to help others understand.
Over the years, the Christian era has also had some diligent, faithful Bible scholars who have dug deeply into the true meaning of the Biblical message. They, too, have inspired many by recognizing and explaining the "deeper things of God."
So, who is your "Ezra?" Who has been your instructor? Who has planted a love for God's word in your heart?
Who is your "Zechariah" or "Haggai?" Who has encouraged you not to worry about your own temporal affairs, but to concentrate on doing your part in building the "spiritual temple"?
When we look back to Hebrews 10:24, we read that our meeting together should encourage us to "love and good works." This does not just mean we tell each other to be loving and to do good deeds but implies something more.
We are to look to examples of those around us in the way they conduct themselves under various trying circumstances. We all have different life experiences. For example, not all members of a congregation can be examples of a good mother. But one who is a new mother should look to those who are. The source of our inspiration may be different for each of us. It may help to look for those who have life situations that are similar to ours.
We are to look for inspiration in godly living by observing those who are further developed in any given area.
- How do they react under duress?
- How do they respond to temptation when they think no one is watching?
- Are they honest when it would be easy to be dishonest?
- Are they kind when unjustly confronted?
- Are they gentle when correcting someone?
- Do they accept the experiences of life without complaint?
- Are they generous…without advertising the fact?
- Do they depend on the Lord for help?
- Are they patient with the shortcoming of others?
- If complimented, are they humble?
- Do they pay attention to the desires and the problems of people in their lives?
- Are they helpful?
These are just some of the qualities to look for as examples. Of course, no one is perfect, but there are many wonderful examples we can look to. When we notice the good example of others, we can see the possibility of a "higher" level of living and can then try to incorporate the same qualities in ourselves. That's what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "Be followers of me as I am of Christ."
Another great source of inspiration comes when others share the joy or comfort they find in certain scriptures. This can be contagious! They may do this in a testimony meeting, in a card or perhaps in a simple conversation. Sometimes, when we are struggling with a trial, we need to be reminded that "sacrifice" doesn't always have to be painful. When we see a joyful expression in someone going through a difficult trial, this can be very encouraging and help us deal with our own experiences in a positive way.
The Greatest Inspiration
The greatest source of inspiration can come by immersing ourselves in the word of God. Jesus told us this is true. God's word "sanctifies" (sets us apart to become holy). When we are directed by His Spirit and understand the plan of God as it relates to His character, how can we help but be inspired?
In the Parable of the Pounds found in Luke 19, Before he went away, a nobleman gave ten servants different amounts of his money to invest. Upon his return, he rewarded those who invested wisely. But their reward was not money; rather, they were given authority. In other words, this put them in a position to serve others.
In John 7:38, Jesus said to his disciples "…out of your belly shall flow rivers of living waters." What a prospect lies before us of bringing the water of truth and the water of life to this world!
Fellow Christians, we are to inspire others by the truths we have learned, by the example in our holy conduct of daily life, by studying deeply and sharing our appreciation and wonder for what we find! We can inspire our friends and families by expanding our creativity in finding new ways to teach or promulgate Biblical concepts. We can lead by example. We can be the humble followers of Christ.
Get involved in a positive, constructive way in the service of others. Love others and show your love by being helpful. Make a phone call. Visit the isolated. Offer the elderly a ride to church. Cook a needed meal. Lend a hand.
One year at the Special Olympics, six children were running and halfway through the race one of them fell. Rather than continue running, all five of the other children stopped and helped him up and they finished the race together. They were all winners that day! The Narrow Way is like that! The Lord expects us to pick one another up.
The one who ignores the fallen but runs ahead doesn't understand why they are in the way!
Do not be a "back row" Christian. The more involved you are in the Lord's work, the more inspired you will be. It doesn't have to be big stuff, but simply whatever the Lord asks of you. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
MAY THE LORD GUIDE YOU AND BLESS
YOUR EFFORTS TO LIVE ON A HIGHER LEVEL!