Read the list of action verbs below.
- Stir up
At first glance, with the exception of “motivate,” one would think a riot was about to ensue. Yet in reality, these words are used in the context of encouragement, more specifically the encouragement to love and to do good works. Read with me Hebrews 10:24 from some common translations:
New International Version
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
New Living Translation
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
English Standard Version
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
New American Standard Bible
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
King James Bible
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Holman Christian Standard Bible
And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works,
Strong’s Lexicon defines the original meaning of the bold words above as follows: “Stimulation, provocation, irritation, angry dispute. From paroxuno; incitement, or dispute.”
Sounds a little violent, right?! Not many people think of encouragement as something harsh. Yet the use of such a word bears phenomenal wisdom! As believers, we have to stir each other up. Human nature is selfish. Our first instinct isn’t to love a neighbor or to do good works; it’s to serve ourselves. By human nature we gravitate towards the “What’s in it for me” principle. A simple sweet reminder isn’t necessarily going to snap us out of our selfishness; we need more.
Which leads to the above strong choice of words. My favorite word used to translate the original text is “to spur.” When I think of a spur, I picture those round pointy things used by cowboys to get their horses moving forward. The sharp jab doesn’t hurt the animal, but it certainly stings enough to get it moving forward.
And isn’t that what each of us needs? A little “ouch” spoken in love by a fellow believer to get us back on track, to get us moving forward in love.
Proverbs 27:6 states, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” How can wounds be faithful? Because true friends don’t coddle each other and allow each other to walk in self-centered oblivion. True friends throw the cold water on your face to say, “Hey! Snap out of it!” True friends pop your “My way or the highway” bubble to remind you your perspective is not the only one. True friends incite that desire within you to do God’s will.
Now in all honesty, does truth hurt sometimes? Yep. Can truth be spoken too harshly sometimes? Yep, again. So do we have to be wise in the what, how, and when of our words? Most definitely, for when God calls us to spur one another on, He doesn’t want us to be hateful about it; He calls us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Let me encourage you with this today: If you see a friend heading down a path contrary to God’s way, don’t be afraid to say something. If you see a fellow believer beginning to get off course or getting distracted by the things of this world, which are here today and gone tomorrow, speak up. Stir them back up to love and to good works. Remind them of what God has called each of us to do: to love Him and to love others. Most certainly ask God first for the wisdom to know the what, the how and the when, but don’t just watch in silence. Don’t just smile and sugar coat the truth for fear of offending someone. And certainly don’t begin whispering to others in self-righteous judgment.
God calls us as His children to incite one another, to provoke one another, to motivate one another to keep pressing on in the things of God. The truth isn’t always easy to speak or to hear; it may sting a little on both ends. Yet words spoken in love with the purpose of encouraging someone to love and good works will never be wasted. And they are necessary more often than we’d care to admit.
So spur on, my friend. Spur on!
And if today you read this and realize you haven’t been doing what God has been asking you to do–if you’ve been ignoring the truths of God’s Word–if you’ve felt the jab of the loving spur of a friend–then giddy up! Get into His Word and bow before His throne. Ask for forgiveness and then move forward in the way He has chosen for you. Don’t ignore the jabs. And don’t mourn them either. Don’t beat yourself up because you needed to be spurred on. Be grateful! For we all sin. We all make mistakes. We all go astray. None of us will make it through this life without having stumbled several times. The key is with Jesus, we can get back up (Proverbs 24:16).
God doesn’t ask us to do what He doesn’t think we need. So if He is telling us to stir one another up, to motivate one another, to provoke one another, then He knows we need it. So let’s do it. Let’s walk in His Truth today. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).