It is good to be with you, are the words I often start a service with. They are more than just words, they are my heart and encouragement to you. I pray that as your words of encouragement to me have lifted my spirit, my words will do the same to you. A few years back, I spent time with a young man who’d just completed a three-year prison sentence. It took him a considerable time to adjust to being back in society. Every time he was in a group, he’d make a point of putting other people down. It wasn’t physical, but it wasn’t just friendly banter either. It was a lesson he’d learned in prison: if someone else was up, that must mean he was down. If we spend any time on social media, reading the papers or simply living life, we see this attitude all around us. There seems to be an unhealthy desire to see people fail, or simply to be suspicious of people’s motives, rather than encouraging people.
The Bible is not short on encouragement. Over and over, we are told to ‘build one another up’, to ‘stir up one another’, to ‘encourage the fainthearted’, and so on. I won’t tell you where I plucked those verses from, but you can discover them for yourselves, and plenty more besides. I think we can safely assume that God wants us to encourage one another! One striking proof of that comes after Jesus’ resurrection. You will remember that Peter had claimed he’d stand by Jesus and never leave him, only to fail miserably and deny he even knew Jesus three times. When they meet again after Easter Sunday, think how Jesus reacts to Peter. First, he allows him to restate his commitment to God – three times. Then he gives Peter a new job, vital to the growth of the church. In effect, Jesus says: ‘Go on! You can do it!’
There are many people who need to hear those words of encouragement. I’m sure that within the church there are people who need to hear they can do it, whatever ‘it’ may be. There are also people we meet in our daily lives who need to hear how great they are and what they can achieve. Perhaps they need to hear that from a God who loves them, through someone who follows that very God. They may need to be told, ‘God thinks you are great.’ Or they may simply need to be told, ‘I think you are great. You have huge potential. Go on: you can do it.’ Perhaps they need one of us to encourage them. Perhaps they need our encouragement now….
Go on! You can do it.
Revd Max Cross
St. Mary Magdalen, Sheet