“Why don’t you take over the women’s Bible study? Come along with me to a village to share your testimony. I’m planning a retreat for the church planter’s wives and you can share the messages.” As a young and tentative cross-cultural worker, my teammate’s many suggestions for serving sometimes irritated me. But she believed in me and continued to create opportunities for me—all the while cheering for me. She spurred me on as we are taught to do by the anonymous author of Hebrews.
He (or she) devotes the majority of the letter (to believers facing seriously hard times) proving that Jesus is better—better than angels, Moses, Melchizedek and the former system of priests and sacrifices. Jesus mediates a better covenant with God. He offers better rest, promises, nourishment, and hope. The author sums it up this way:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.Hebrews 10:19–20 NLT
“And since we have a great High Priest” (Hebrews 10:21), the writer offers four “let us statements”—two related to our relationship with God—let us draw near to God (Hebrews 10:22) and let us hold fast to the hope we possess (Hebrews 10:23)—and two related to the church. The first of the latter category is:
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.Hebrews 10:24 NIV
We who are members of God’s household are called to consider—“to keep thinking about with care or caution, observing, discerning.” The New Passion Translation says to “discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them.”
Considering others can mean we take an interest in them (Philippians 2:3–4) and seek their good (1 Corinthians 10:24). Trying to understand what they are going through (Romans 12:15), we speak with kindness (Proverbs 31:26).
In other words, get to know one another. Find out their strengths and weaknesses. Discover their spiritual gifts. Are they spontaneous or do they have to think about things first? Do they like to lead or help from the background? Are they comfortable or shy in front of people? If we don’t pay attention to things like this, our suggestions and help may be refused. It might seem like we are trying to control rather than encourage.
Next we are told to consider how we may spur one another on. This verb could also be translated as “urge, encourage, incite, prompt, stimulate, prod, or provoke.” When goading a horse to action, a spur can be uncomfortable. It sometimes irritates.
The apostle Paul often spurred on his congregations by encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Our enthusiasm can also be an effective “spur” (2 Corinthians 9:2). We all know someone who is so excited about something that others catch their vision and get on board. Our example can spur others to action.
The writer specifically tell us that the goal of our spurring is to love. This word is the familiar agape defined as “patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs” (I Corinthians 13:4–7).
We are to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39), our fellow believers (1 Peter 2:17), our spouses and children (Titus 2:4), our enemies (Matthew 5:44), our leaders in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13), and finally, of course, we must love God (Matthew 22:37–39).
Love is a command (1 John 4:21; John 13:34). This kind of love can only come from God and is given to us by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 3:12; Galatians 5:22). Loving others is necessary because God first loved us (1 John 4:11). It also proves we are his disciples (John 13:35, 1 John 3:14).
This kind of love is shown most obviously by our actions (1 John 3:18; 1 Corinthians 16:14)—encouraging others (1 Thessalonians 5:14), forgiving each other (Colossians 3:13), being empathetic (1 Corinthians 12:26), and bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We also show love when we serve others (Galatians 5:13) and extend grace—forbear and believe the best (1 Peter 4:8, Ephesians 4:2).
And finally, we are told to consider how to spur one another on, not only toward love, but also to good deeds (1 Timothy 2:9–10). Other words for “good deeds” are “fruit of the spirit, good works, performance, actions, and manners that are excellent.” As proof of our love, we are to produce good deeds. Conversely, good deeds without love are useless (1 Corinthians 13:3).
We get the strength to do good deeds from God (2 Corinthians 3:5) and are equipped by his Word (2 Timothy 3:16). We prepare for good deeds when we keep ourselves pure (2 Timothy 2:21) and abide in Christ (John 15:4–5). We can do good deeds because we were created to do them (Ephesians 2:10) but it is really God who does all good deeds through us (Isaiah 26:12).
We are commanded to do good deeds (Titus 3:8)—to believers but also to everybody (Galatians 6:10)—primarily for the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11) as a form of worship (1 Timothy 2:10). Secondly, we do them so that others might believe (Matthew 5:16). Doing good deeds demonstrates our love to God (Hebrews 6:10) and pleases him (Hebrews 13:16). And finally, we are blessed when we do good deeds (James 1:25).
Good deeds can take many forms. We can be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18), give food, clothing, and drink (Isaiah 58:7, Matthew 25:34–40, James 2:14–20). We practice hospitality (Romans 12:13), look after orphans and widows (James 1:27), raise our children, and help those in trouble (1 Timothy 5:10).
Looking back, I realize that I am who I am today because of my teammate. Let’s be like her. Let’s intentionally understand each other so well that we know what kind of things will spur us on. Let’s be so enthusiastic about our service to the Lord that others want to join us. Let’s step aside to allow others to hone their gifts. Let’s provide better provocation.
Who has God placed in your life that needs to be spurred on? How well do you know them?
How enthusiastic are you about serving the Lord? Is your excitement catching?
What kind of example are you of one who loves and does good deeds?
Father God, I confess that I don’t often want to expend the energy necessary to really consider my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Give me eyes and ears to see them as you see them, to really understand how to encourage them. Help me get so excited about my service to you that others will catch the joy and get on board. Teach me more about this agape love that gives its life for others, that even loves its enemies so that my example might inspire others. Show me who I can spur on today.