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Essential Encouragement

socialmedia@cityrise.org January 19, 2021 sermons, baptist, cityrise, cityrise missouri city, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, houston church, Roger Patterson, sermon, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday January 17 at our West U Baptist Church campus and in our Online Experience. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTubpage.

Stop and think about a person in your life, or multiple people, who have been an encouragement to you.

What sort of impact have they had on you?

Pastor Chuck Oak is one of my encouragers. He doesn’t know it, but he is. He may be that for you too. But Pastor Chuck Oak, one of the finest men I know, often comes by at just the right time and gives me encouragement, or he stops what he is doing to pray with me, or he sends me a note. He has a way, with his words, both written and in person, to strengthen my faith walk. As a matter of fact, after I wrote these words in preparation for this talk, I went home and there was a card in the mail.  And guess what: It was a card of encouragement from Pastor Chuck arriving on a day that the Lord knew that I would need it.

Do you have someone like that in your life?

Better yet, are you an encourager to someone like that in their lives?

We all need encouragement.

To Encourage

to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope 

To encourage someone is to come alongside them and impart inspiration, strength, and an attitude of YOU CAN!

Now, last week, we introduced the book of Romans to you.  In our introduction, I told you that Paul had a three-fold purpose in writing his letter.  It was:

Three Aspects of Romans

  • Missional
  • Apologetic
  • Pastoral
  1. Missional – the scope of the gospel mission was all of the nations…and in this missional purpose, he knew that if the good news could really take hold in Rome it would go around the world, because all roads led to Rome.
  2. Apologetic – Paul had an apologetic purpose to convey a logical defense of the good news to all who would hear.
  3. Pastoral – Paul’s desire was to come alongside the churches in Rome and inspire them to growth in Christ, obedience to Christ, to unity together.

And so, to do this, Paul knows that he must connect with their heart.

Did you know that making a heart connection is far more important in moving people than making a connection to the head?

Before he lays out his logical defense of the gospel, Paul is going to come to them as a pastor to inspire them.  He is going to come to them and “ENCOURAGE THEM!”

Let’s read Roman 1:8-15.

Roman 1:8-15

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Notice verse 12 again…

Romans 1:12

12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

As we step into week two of our study of Romans, I want you to see Paul’s heart. It was a heart to encourage, to lift, to strengthen. I believe we need to be encouraged and to become encouragers now more than ever.

David Jeremiah, in his book, The Joy of Encouragement states…

Encouragement is an urgent need of our day. A church which does not equip its people as encouragers will soon phase out of any meaningful ministry in its community. God help us learn to be encouragers.

How relevant we become in people’s lives when we encourage them!

I received a sweet note recently. It was a note to give me courage….to give me strength. I showed it to my wife and said, “What a gift!”

What is it about words of encouragement? What is so powerful about a word aptly spoken?

Proverbs 25:11

A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

A word that is well timed to be of encouragement is GOLD!   More than that, it’s GOLD set in SILVER!  In other words, it’s precious.  We could all use an apple of Gold in a setting of silver, couldn’t we?

We could all stand to be better with encouragement. What can we learn from the way the Apostle Paul encouraged the church at Rome?

Here is my simple outline to give to you today…

How does Paul encourage the believers in Rome?

  1. Paul affirms their impact (vs. 8)
  2. Paul prays for them continually (vs.9-10)
  3. Paul plans to visit them face to face (vs. 11-13)

Let’s look at this first one together.

How does Paul encourage the believers in Rome?

I. Paul affirms their impact.

Look again at Romans 1:8.

Romans 1:8

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 

  • Paul says, “First” and then he goes on to talk about how he thanks God for these followers of Jesus in Rome.
  • He is writing to them from Corinth and he’s never met them. He knows some of them from his time in other places, as you will see at the very end of the book when he lists 28 of them by name.  But he doesn’t know all of them personally.
  • But notice this… his first course of action is to encourage them! He could have started with anything as he began his letter, but intentionally chose encouragement and thankfulness to God.
  • He says… “I know of your impact!  Wow!…The world is talking about your faith! I’m so thankful to God for you // extremely proud of you. There is a “publicness” to your faith, something tangible/actionable/evident about your faith in Jesus that has the entire world talking, and it’s amazing, and I’m so proud of you.”

Can I stop here for just a moment and affirm you for your faith?

I want you to see the GLOCAL – the Global and Local Impact you as a congregation have, even in the midst of the pandemic. I want you to see the faith you are exhibiting that truly is reaching around the world.

Let’s talk global impact for just a moment.

The Global Impact of Your Faith

  • 40 students attending ESL Zoom classes from their home countries around the world (East Asia, Japan, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Chile, Turkey, Venezuela, Honduras).
  • 61 patients from around the United States stayed at a Mercy House for a total of 1,259 nights of care.

A Few Testimonies From Email from the past two weeks…

  • This week one young man named John, 23, living in Europe, gave his life to Jesus.  John is a customer service/cashier person in a casino in Switzerland.
  • This week one young man gave his life to Jesus. He is a 33-year-old IT specialist in Montreal.

My friends, when you give, when you pray, when you serve, lives are changed.

And, they are being changed here in our city as well. Remember, I mentioned a Glocal Impact…Global and Local!

Look at the Local Impact of your Faith…

The Local Impact of Your Faith…Some Statistics

  • 70 students attending ESL Zoom classes from the Houston area.
  • 8 Food Drives for CCSC assisted them in distributing 25,197 grocery packages in the pandemic. These packages served 105,075 people.
  • Blood Drives resulted in 1,344 lives being saved.
  • 40 Houston families joining American Chinese Fellowship via Zoom on Friday nights.
  • 19 Go Bags given to the Freedom Church Alliance to provide needed items for rescued victims of human trafficking.
  • 68 Teacher Appreciation bags given to teachers at Shearn Elementary.
  • 6 gardens prepared for students to plant at Shearn Elementary.

Just this week alone…ESL Numbers from week of 1/4/2021

Monday, 1/4/2021, Ecuador Teenager ESL Class

  • 14 Students (all in Ecuador)
  • 2 Teachers (1 in Ecuador, 1 in Houston)

Just this week alone…ESL Numbers from week of 1/4/2021

Wednesday, 1/6/2021, ESL Class

  • 31 Students (8 in other countries, 23 in Houston)
  • 7 Teachers (1 in Dallas, 6 in Houston)

Just this week alone…ESL Numbers from week of 1/4/2021

Saturday, 1/9/2021 ESL BIBLE STUDY Class

  • 7 Students (3 in other countries, 4 in Houston)
  • 2 Teachers (1 in Dallas, 1 in Houston)

Just this week alone…ESL Numbers from week of 1/4/2021

Sunday, 1/10/2021, ESL Class

  • 52 Students
  • 6 Teachers (1 in Canada, 6 in Houston)

Just this week alone…ESL Numbers from week of 1/4/2021

Sunday, 1/10/2021, Creciendo Firmes (New Believers/Seekers Class)

  • 6 Students (3 in other countries, 3 in Houston)
  • 1 Teacher (1 in Houston)

My friends, this is just a small segment of the impact and influence of your faith.

  • This doesn’t include continuing impact and influence with our mission partners around the globe.
  • It doesn’t include our impact with our church planting partners here in our city.
  • It doesn’t include the work of Casa El Buen Samaritano, or our Church Planter Partners.
  • It doesn’t include the counseling ministry of STCH.
  • It doesn’t include the work we are charting with Attack Poverty or the launch of our new campus, CityRise Missouri City.
  • It doesn’t include our children’s ministry or youth ministry or adult’s ministry.
  • It’s just a piece of the expression of our faith.

One of the prominent things I see in this passage is that a healthy church’s impact in an international city will be global, local and personal.  And Paul hears this, knows this, and affirms them for this!

What can you affirm one another for?  How can you bless another with your words?  How can you strengthen them in their service? In their roles as a husband and father, a wife and mother?

Oh, that we would be a place of great encouragement!  And may it be what is common, not uncommon.  You see, this was not uncommon for Paul to do this.  No, this was actually a normal pattern in Paul’s life.  Paul led his conversations…hard conversations and normal conversations, with encouragement.

1 Corinthians 1:4

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…

Ephesians 1:15-16

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…

Philippians 1:3-7

 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

Application: Here’s a question for us to think on.  How do we begin our conversations?  Do we connect to people’s hearts to encourage them…to assist them…to help them find strength for their day?

We must grasp that encouragement is essential to the journey.

So, who can you encourage this week in written form? Text. Email. Handwritten Note. Maybe include starbucks card or something, just to say I thank God for you, I see God at work in your life, I’m proud of you.

Let’s look at our next principle.

How does Paul encourage the believers in Rome?

  1. Paul affirms their impact (vs. 8)
  2. Paul prays for them continually (vs.9-10)
  3. Paul plans to visit them face to face (vs. 11-13)

How does Paul encourage the believers in Rome?

II. Paul prays for them continually.

Notice verses 9-10.

Romans 1:9-10

 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

Paul here, is writing them a letter.  And as he wants to encourage this people, he says, “I pray for you all of the time.  As God is my witness, I don’t ever stop praying for you!”

Now, two things I want you to see about praying for someone.

Two things about Prayer

Prayer gets me invested – When I take something before the Lord, it moves my heart to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.  And that’s why it grieves me when people say, “Oh, I don’t need your prayers, I need…”

Illustration: I’ve seen it twice of late.  Once on a facebook comment of a pastor friend of mine.  He was talking about praying for the nation and for the covid situation.  A woman who apparently no longer went to his church lashed out…She is a nurse. She is overwhelmed.  And basically she said, “we don’t need your prayers…we need people to stay home and stay masked!”  Clearly she was pretty angry.

And he handled the situation with such grace.  He personally reached out to her to minister to her.

The second time I saw this was on my pastor’s zoom call this week.  We had 8 pastors from around our city on a call together. And one of the guys was asking about how we should instruct the people to pray for our nation right now.  And someone said, “I find that we are in such a hot political situation, that if I ask people to pray this way, they react like this.  And if I ask them to pray this way, they respond like this.”

In other words, its such a polarizing environment right now people read into statements or hear what they want to hear.

Another guy said, “yeah, to just ask someone to pray for the nation…I don’t know.  Some guys say, “that’s sort of vanilla and not a good way to approach this.”

I responded…But here is what prayer does.  When I go before the Lord, I engage my heart and not only do I share mine with Him, I am moved to hear from him.  We don’t need to tell people what to pray. We need to get them before the Father in prayer.

You see, here is what I am absolutely convinced of: No one can change another person’s heart.  I have yet to see a single spouse, with all of the couples I have ever worked with, play the role of the Holy Spirit and change their spouse’s heart. You can’t do it.

But when I start to pray…when I invest my heart into a situation and put that situation before the Heavenly Father, the Heavenly Father does a work in me.  He speaks to me.  He burdens me. He convicts me. He changes me.

And when someone says, “Oh, I don’t need your prayers…” do you know what they are saying?  They are saying, I’m disappointed with God. I have hardened my heart to God.  And so, though you can’t change someone else’s heart, you can certainly change your own…you can harden it.

If you have listened to me preach at all through the years, you will know of my affinity of the book of Proverbs. A proverb a day will keep the fool away.  I start my day in the book of Proverbs…its so potent and pointed and pithy.

But of all of the Proverbs, here I believe is the most significant one.

Proverbs 4:23, NIV

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

Another translation says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Above everything else…guard your heart.

When you pray, you are allowing our Lord access to your heart, and you are getting invested in what is happening in another’s life.  This is why prayer is so important.

Paul was saying to them, I am praying for you all of the time. I’m invested in you big time!  I am for you.

When someone says that they have been praying for you, you need to know that they are invested in you!

The second thing I want you to see about prayer is this:

Two things about Prayer

Prayer Gets Me Invested

Prayer is a Gift to Us

  • Prayer is a gift to us.  It’s a gift from God that he uses to move his hand.

James says of prayer…

James 5:16b

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I like this phrase, “…as it is working.” It seems to convey that it works and goes on working.

You see, I often see people bail on their prayers. They bail!  They pray and pray and pray and then, because of their impatience, they bail.

It’s as if they say, “Okay God…you told me to pray, and I did. But you didn’t fix this nearly as fast as I wanted you to fix this. So, Lord, I’m taking it back from you and I am going to do this my way. I’m going to fix this myself.”

So, they bail on their prayers and because of their impatience, never realize what the Lord was working out.

Another scripture that conveys the gift that prayer is, is Hebrews 4:16.

Hebrews 4:16 says…

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Notice this gift to us…we find help in our time of need. That’s the bottom line/bottom shelf.  I get invested…this changes my heart.  And I find help.

And as I pray for others, I might find just the help I need for the words to say to them.

But the invitation from the Scripture is come…come with confidence…come with boldness…come near…there is a king, on his throne and he wants to help…he will give mercy and grace for your needs.

Application: Paul was continually placing the church in Rome before the throne of God, seeking to encourage them and move God’s hand to them.

May we do the same!

How does Paul encourage the believers in Rome?

  1. Paul affirms their impact (vs. 8)
  2. Paul prays for them continually (vs.9-10)
  3. Paul plans to visit them face to face (vs. 11-13)

How does Paul encourage the believers in Rome?

III. Paul plans to visit them face to face.

Look at verses 11-13.

Romans 1:11-13

 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.

What is Paul saying here?

A letter isn’t enough.  A letter isn’t the same.

Fellowship together and physical presence is how we are most encouraged.

Quote: Marshall Segal writes…

“Paul believes something will happen when he sees them that will not happen in the same way or at the same level through this letter.”

  • Vs. 11 – his hope is that when he sees them, he can impart some spiritual gift to them. (we don’t know what that is), but it was something God would do that would have great impact in a face to face setting.
  • And the goal of this spiritual gift would be 2 fold: encouragement and strength.

I know that when I have been traveling to do ministry in a certain country, I will go with expectation. We will have plans laid out, but I am always going with a listening ear… “Lord, what are you doing here…with me…in this moment in this place?”

How can I serve your mission here?  How can I serve this pastor here in this moment?  Lord, you have me in this place, how do you want to use me?

When we’re face to face with each other the goal should be to encourage and to strengthen.  And when you leave, you leave a part of you there with that person, in that moment.

#LEAVEYOURSELFHERE

I have a # I use when I workout.  As many of you know, I give Brent Gallagher a lot of credit for his investment into me and my health.  He and Cassie own Avenu Fitness on Edloe in West U and they also have an Avenu Fitness in River Oaks.

One day a few years ago, Brent had me on my face.  I was doing some sort of push ups…and sweat was just dripping off of my nose. I don’t know if he had paid the A/C bill or not (By the way, Avenue turned 15 years old this past Friday)…but I’m sweating big time.

And I thought, “I’m literally leaving myself here. I’m dripping pounds away off my body onto this floor.”

So, I made up a # —

#Leaveyourselfhere

And so, when I workout, no matter where I am, I’ll take a selfie when I’m done and send it to him…just as a form of accountability.  And a lot of times, I’ll include the #Leaveyourselfhere.  But what hit me that day was just how applicable this was to all of my relationships…not just with myself in the gym…but in my life…with my kids, with Julee P, with our staff and with you!

You see, I want to be such an encourager, such a good father and husband, and pastor and friend, that I deposit what God gives to me into others where they are. I want to #leavemyselfhere right now in this moment…not distracted by my phone, not wishing I were somewhere else, not being selfish…but giving myself away…imparting gifts that our Lord has placed in me to others.

That’s why personal engagement is so big!  Face to face is so important!

If Paul were here with us today, he would probably say – YouTube is great and a tool we need to utilize, but it’s not enough.

Marshall Segal writes…

“Haven’t our devices solved Paul’s problem – allowing us to see someone halfway around the globe with a simple Wi-Fi connection? No, I believe Paul would write or tweet the same thing today. While the ability to see someone in Cincinnati, Winston-Salem, or Los Angeles – or Cameroon, India, or the Philippines for that matter – is truly a remarkable gift from God, it does not and cannot replace the power of time together in the same room. What I hear in Paul’s longing is as real in our day of iPhones as it was in his day of no phones.” [1]

Oh, that the church could fully re-gather so that we might impart gifts of encouragement, gifts of the Holy Spirit to one another!

My friends, we cannot give out what we do not have.  We need to go to the Source, the Lord Jesus Christ and be filled up.  We need to go to one another and encourage each other, believing that God has placed us right here, right now, to be an encourager for another’s well-being.

We need to be found encouraging…lifting up…strengthening one another for the glory of God and the good of one another.

Who will you encourage this week? How will you encourage them?  Pray about this…brainstorm this…and allow our Lord to use you to impart his gifts into those you love.

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