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Stir Up One Another

Did you ever have a teacher in school who made you enjoy a subject in a way you hadn't before?  My 9th grade English teacher did that for me with reading, and the director was a huge part of why I loved band.  Most of all, my 11th grade history teacher instilled a love for knowledge of the past in me that was non-existent before and has grown ever since.  They all cared deeply about their subjects and wanted their students to grow.  But caring and esire were only part of what made them successful.  They also shared one other extremely important attribute that is required of the Christian as well.

Hebrews 10:24 is a familiar verse.  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." You might have other words besides "stir up" (ESV & NKJV) in the translation you use. Provoke (KJV & ASV), stimulate (NASB), or spur (NIV) all covey similar ideas.

This is the last of three exhortations that started in verse 22.  They build on the major theme of the book: the confidence we have in Christ, based on His superiority.  The first exhoration was "draw near" to God through Jesus (10:23), followed secondly by "hold fast" to our hope based on His promises (10:23).  Then comes the third: to "stir up" godly living (10:24). These three exhortations focus on our relationship to God (draw near), ourselves (hold fast), and our brethren (stir up).  It might be a little surprising that the Hebrew writer is emphasizing our responsibilities towards other Christians in the same breath that he reminds us of those other two; but it is no accident, and its importance should not be underestimated.

We can also see a very similar connectivity earlier in the book. "For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" (3:14).  Here again we see references to both our relationship to God through Christ and holding fast to the end.  The prior verse tells what that can help us do: "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Obviously, this idea of motivating others is important, but what does that mean for us?

That brings us back to motivational teachers. Efficient and effective stimulation is almost always preceded by "consideration." Memorable educators stand out from the rest, not because they are the easiest or even necessarily the most talented. A huge reason is because they put the time and thought into how to inspire students to achieve their best. Verse 24 tells us the goal of provoking deserves prior thought and planning.  We should "consider how to." Effort is expended. Investment is made in others before we're even with them.  It's easy to think of self and to cater to your own needs and preferences.  But we're asked here to actively put others first, even when not around them.  Considering implies observation, careful attention, and gathering of relevant information so we know others more like how we know ourselves.  We know each other's weaknesses and strengths.  We recognize that each person is different and requires a tailored approach.  We seek to be our most effective with the implementation of a strategy towards making others better.

Notice the verse doesn't put limitations on when this is expected or for whom it is an obligation.  These exhortations are not directed only at the preacher or some subset of the congregation.  And it's not just about being there in the dark times to pick someone up with a considerate call or card, though that can be part of a thought-out approach.  While the weak or erring brother surely needs the strong in moments of temptation or failure, this admonition is not only for the seasoned Christian, nor a requirement reserved for times of some specific difficulty.  The introverted or shy are not excused, and the struggling are not the explicit target.  If spurring others doesn't come naturally to some of us, it is all the more important to spend time considering how we can effectively participate in this essential responsibility.  Stimulating love and good works is an ongoing push towards improvement - to all Christians, by all Christians, for all Christians.

The verse which follows speaks of "not forsaking the assembly" because those gathering times are one obvious opportunity to fulfill this important role we have.  Assembling with the saints isn't something that can be done as these verses require by slipping in and slipping out.  Worship services are most definitely focused upward first, and oftentimes inward second; but if there isn't a component of intentional stirring up of your fellow believers, we should reassess if we came together as intended.  Streaming services are wonderful when other options are not possible, but they are a poor substitute for coming together with the saints because they can really only allow us to accomplish the first two of the three exhortations in Hebrews 10.

So who can you stir up today? And who can you help to be better so they can in turn make you better? These are questions worth considering.