Some years ago I received life saving surgery to remove a large mass. A week after surgery I was feeling pretty rough, as my body was adjusting to, and compensating for, the portion of bowel which had been removed, and the after effects of general anaesthesia. Having left the Intensive Therapy Unit, I was recovering in a side room in the hospital ward, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly man standing at the nurses’ station.
I soon realised it was a man from my church, who regularly takes time to visit folks who are sick. I was astonished that he would remember me, and was so blessed by his visit. It was to me as though Jesus was standing there, right by my side. I wept and wept (partly because I was feeling sorry for myself, and partly because his amazing kindness had overwhelmed me). He gently reminded me of how the Lord collects our tears in a bottle, and doesn’t disregard us in our place of pain. ‘You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears. Aren't they listed in your book?’ (Psalm 56:8).
When I came out of hospital he came to visit us at home, bringing with him a little field communion set, which had a flask to keep the communion wine in, a little metal tin for the bread, a plate, a chalice and a small cross, all wrapped in a cloth. He set it out on the coffee table in our lounge. We shared communion, and he prayed that God would strengthen me and continue to heal. What a blessing this man was and still is in his 94th year! We know that we`re not the only ones touched by his amazing generosity, compassion and diligence to his calling.
On these occasions God gave me a real illustration of the value of encouragement. So, why does this man serve in this way? I believe he is motivated by the revelation of God's love for him. It’s because he really knows God's deep love in his heart that enables him to show His love to all he meets. The scripture in 1 John reminds us that ‘We love because he first loved us’ ( 1 John 4:19).
In Paul's final exhortations in his first letter to the Thessalonians he tells us to acknowledge, appreciate and respect all those who guide and instruct us in our Christian walk (1 Thessalonians 5:11-13). I certainly did feel encouraged, strengthened and built up by his visit, his prayer and his teaching, and as the Amplified translation puts it, I do ‘hold him in very high esteem’.
Prayer: Father God, we’re thankful that You send men and women to encourage and pray with us, particularly in times of difficulty and trouble. Help us to find ways to be encouraging to others and respond to our calling. May You quicken our spirits to equip us with all we need to show Your great love in the situations You lead us into. May our work for You, Lord, be motivated by love and not obligation. Amen.
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