This summer I am working through a Bible study guide on Hebrews in preparation for the study I will teach this fall. I love the book of the Hebrews, its consistent encouragement to look to Jesus, the better sacrifice, the better high priest, the better King and Savior. Studying Hebrews has taught me to love and appreciate the Bible as a single narrative, Old and New Testaments both pointing to Jesus.
Hebrews 3:13 instructs readers to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The study guide I’m using offers the following commentary:
‘The root meaning has to do with coming alongside to give help. The writer is saying….”Get alongside each other and help each other.”‘ Depending on what the situation calls for, encouragement can be a gentle word, a hug, practical help, or a kick in the pants. Yet it is always done from alongside, never condescendingly.Hebrews LifeChange Bible Study
When I read that, I immediately thought of those who have come alongside me to give help, friends who pray, friends who speak wisdom, friends who share a common journey. It is so encouraging to hear the gentle word “I understand.” Last week a friend and I confessed to each other the sense of grief and bewilderment we are experiencing, both of us at a confusing and overwhelming point in our lives. Transition is hard, y’all, and yet our load is helped–we are encouraged–when we know we are not alone in it.
I have friends that I know will speak truth, that “kick in the pants” the book describes. Sometimes that honest bluntness is hard to hear but I’m grateful for it…eventually. Hebrews says we need this kind of encouragement to prevent hardness of heart from the deceit of sin. My sin is serious and thus sometimes serious measures are needed to remind me, to help me, to encourage me in the good fight of faith.
Harder for me to accept is the encouragement in the form of practical help. One of the most humiliating experiences of my life was when a friend came over to my house and washed my dishes and did my laundry. True, I had just complained to her how overwhelmed I was with all these children and the stacks of dirty dishes and and the mounds of dirty laundry. It happened years (decades!) ago and still it smarts, still I find it embarrassing. It’s my pride that refuses the encouragement of practical help and my heart hardens as a result. I forget that humility is often taught through humiliation!
We need each other. Over and over and over the Bible speaks to our need of community, fellowship, accountability, and yes, encouragement. Let us be the kind of friend who offers the gentle word, the hug, the practical help, the kick in the pants. Let us also be humble enough to gratefully receive the encouragement of others. May we walk alongside one another in humility and graciousness, laboring side by side for the sake of the gospel.