How to Stir Up One Another
Turn on any cable news show and you’ll most likely see a panel of them.
Pot-stirrers. People sharing their opinions as if they were undisputed facts. Shouting accusations. Taking a dig at another person on the panel. You probably know some pot-stirrers personally, too. Or maybe it’s you!
Sometimes a pot-stirrer shakes things that ought not be shook. But other times, stirring the pot is necessary. Even helpful. The writer of Hebrews actually instructs those who believe and follow Christ to stir each other up:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb. 10:24–25).
How to Stir It Up
In most English translations, verse 24 begins with “and,” so a quick glance back to verse 23 connects us with where the stirring up should begin:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
God is faithful and He fulfills His promises, so we can place our confidence and hope in Him. Because He is who He is, we can choose to hold fast to Him and know He can enable us to do what He asks us to do. So what does He ask us to do here? To consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
Consider—It means to contemplate, concern yourself with, and understand.
How to stir up one another—This means to provoke or promote with intention and purpose. It indicates motion in a certain direction, for a certain purpose.
To love—This is agape love here: the selfless, God-like love that has what a person needs (not necessarily what he desires) at its core. The Complete Word Study—New Testament defines this love as “God’s willful direction toward man.” So just like stirring each other up had a certain direction and purpose, this kind of love does, too.
And good works—These are the same kind of good works that James describes in James 2:14–18. This is continual, selfless work and service for others that displays the sincerity of our faith.
So how do how do we stir each other up? With sincere, selfless love and God’s purposes as the goal, we should urge each other to work and serve with that same kind of love and purpose.
How NOT To Stir It Up
But guess what? We can’t love, encourage, and urge each other if we’re not around each other. If we don’t know each other, if we’re not in consistent community with other believers, or if we neglect meeting together, then we cannot do the stirring that’s needed. The action proposed in these verses happens in relationship.
While there are different ways we can be in relationship with other believers, the most essential place we do this—and the one these verses in Hebrews are talking about—is the local church. The local church is our opportunity to gather to learn, worship, and serve with others. It’s where we pursue relationship with others, live out what we learn in God’s Word, and where we can be set on mission to display and spread the gospel. And in Hebrews 10:25, we’re told not to give up meeting, as some have done. That additional piece of information indicates there must be some negative results for those who have given up meeting together regularly.
“Regularly” can be a challenge. Going to weekly church services may have practical or logistical challenges. You may balk at requirements and schedules or falter with commitment. If so, may I give some of the encouragement and urging these verses talk about?
Commit to a local church, and make your church family a priority in your life. Consistent (not perfect) attendance, purposeful involvement in your local church, and active relationships with the people in your church family are essential for our personal walk with Christ. This is how we put Him on display in our families, communities, and world. This is where we both learn and can practice those good works. These are needed to bring God glory and make Him known. The point is Him. God’s glory is the goal, and it’s His Spirit that fuels us through our faith and His mercy.
“How” we stir each other up can be equally challenging. In these verses, we’re warned about the extreme of doing nothing—giving up meeting together and by extension, not encouraging and exhorting each other. The opposite extreme—dogmatically requiring good works and meeting together—should also be avoided. So finding the balance of steady, intentional, and earnest encouragement and exhortation is what is needed. Striving toward God’s purposes with Christ’s attitude. It’s what we do and say and how we do and say it.
A Personal Example
Here’s a tough example that has convicted my heart in recent days. Let’s say you’re talking with a couple of friends. A topic comes up that you feel strongly about, and it’s something you think one of those friends needs to address in her own life. So you monologue a load of words and feelings that lack tact and sincerity. What you are talking about may be biblically sound, but how you are talking about it is seeking to show your holiness instead of God’s.
I know I’ve done this. I’m a “passionate reactor” and like to give long, poignant examples. So when a topic I feel strongly about comes up in conversation or I have (what I think is) a great example to prove my point, I’ve spewed my thoughts and feelings in an impassioned cacophony of words. Sometimes with a winsome, sincere tone . . . and sometimes not.
Though my thoughts and feelings may be biblically sound in both cases, at times the way I’ve delivered that truth was wrong. Ineffective. And what I’m realizing now is that some of those instances may have worked to prompt someone to go in the opposite direction just to avoid being like me. Someone may have walked away from a piece of truth because of the insincere way they saw it lived out.
While every person is accountable to God for his or her obedience to His Word, God has provided ways for us to do that together in our families and the local church. He has designed us for relationship that can build us up and put Him on display.
So how will you do that? Who might need you to notice them? How will you spur someone to know or act on God’s truth? Arm yourself with the Word, and start stirring.
By Heidi Jo Fulk