For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me (Romans 1.11-12).
Paul longed to see the Roman believers because he wanted to serve them. Imparting a spiritual gift means to serve in the area of your giftedness. It is one thing to have a spiritual gift; it is quite another to use it. Paul would use his gift to establish the Roman believers or to make them stronger and more firm in their faith.
Further, Paul seeks to be encouraged along with the Roman believers. He desired mutual encouragement through mutual faith. To encourage means to literally pour courage within a person. Paul looked for courage from others and looked to impart courage to others. It was a mutual affair. Such courage is energized by each believer’s faith or dependence upon the promises and presence of God.
One of the marks of a healthy church is found in whether or not people leave encouraged and filled with hope. The pastor must seek to establish people by strengthening hope and faith through the Spirit-empowered ministry of the Word of God. In turn he is strengthened and encouraged by faithful believers who respond favorably to the truth. When they do respond favorably, the pastor does not feel discouraged as Elijah did when he thought he was all alone.
We must guard against jaded, critical spirits within the body of Christ. It is important to understand that people often come to church and leave sapped of courage and despair. This happens because the object of the pastor’s faith may be his performance. But also the members listening may be depending on solution-oriented directives or warm, home-spun stories which make them feel good. Some churches may have been duped into thinking that they need to be more seeker-sensitive and so dumb down the Gospel message. Still other churches are useless ivory towers of erudite academia.
Faith must rest in God’s promises and presence in order to establish believers and encourage them. We find the presence of God and His promises when we gather each Lord’s Day. This is why it is so sad when people take for granted the privilege of church attendance. It is also one major reason for why believers fail to stand strong and remain encouraged.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10.23-25).
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