THE BOTTOM LINE
"But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." ". . . let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Heb. 3:13-14; 10:24-25).
en•kur•age•ment -- that grace from God through the words or deeds of another that strengthens believers in their faith. Fellowship emphasizes what we own together, and edification what we build together, but encouragement, what we galvanize together. It's a retardant against sin and an accelerant for good deeds. It's what causes a runner to run the distance and a fighter to stay on his feet. A few observations concerning its importance:
First, encouragement is a divine mandate. God commands us to encourage (1 Thess. 5:14) and be encouraged (Rom. 1:12). Those who forsake assembling together become skilled at excusing sin's deceitfulness. The result is a hard heart and a falling away from God (Heb. 3:12). As one writer put it: Either go to church or go to hell. There are no exceptions.
Second, encouragement is a daily essential. Its frequency underscores its necessity. Sin's lies never take a break. A hard heart is 24 hours away. If you wait till church for encouragement you're six days removed from the living God. Every fighter is only as good as his corner, and no corner is going to wait till the end of the round to encourage.
Lastly, encouragement is a driven dynamic. To give encouragement is to impart an energy, a perspective that the discouraged doesn't have but desperately needs. Maybe it's an affirmation of some truth, the praise of some task, a consolation that shoulders sorrow, an acceptance in spite of failure, even a loving kick in the pants. Regardless, it strengthens for the task ahead. Which is why if unbelief is the worst of the poisonous plants, discouragement is the greenhouse it grows in.
A race car driver is only as good as his pit crew. People are going to fall down -- it's natural. Your job, Barnabas (Acts 4:26), is to keep them from staying down. "Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed." (Heb. 12:12-13).