‘For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.’
Reflections based on Romans 8:1–30.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Traditionally, it is a time to soberly reflect on our frailty and sinfulness. I come from an evangelical background, so haven’t often been involved with particular set days in the Church calendar. However, I am learning more and more how certain traditions can enrich my faith. I love the fact that, on Ash Wednesday, there is a sense in which we can be honest about our need for repentance collectively. We don’t need to pretend.
I think this fits well with our current weekly devotional on encouragement. Today’s blog is about becoming an encourager, but I sense that many of us can struggle with that idea. If you do, be encouraged that you are not alone! There can be various reasons for this, and today try to be honest with yourself about why that is the case for you.
Some of us can have a natural tendency to be worriers, or to be quite negative. Others can be pretty insecure and so we find it difficult to lift our heads above our problems. It is so easy to accept these natural tendencies, saying to ourselves that it is simply the way we were born. However, although we can acknowledge where we are at today, we can also remember that Lent is a time for reflection – and of looking forward to what Jesus did for us on the cross. Let’s be honest if we struggle with being encouraging – but remind ourselves that God is the ultimate encourager.
Today’s scripture is full of great truth for any of us struggling with the concept of encouragement too. Firstly, there is no longer any condemnation for us (v1), so we don’t need to take on negative thinking about how badly we’ve given or received encouragement in the past. It also says we are set free in Christ; in fact the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are now children of God. We no longer have to live by our sinful nature.
I know that trying to put off your old nature and put on the new in your own strength can be frustrating and somewhat impossible, but the good news is we have the Holy Spirit’s help. With His help, we CAN change. Those of us who tend to be negative and critical CAN be encouraging and positive. Those who allow our thoughts to spiral downwards and end up being somewhat self-absorbed in the midst of difficulties CAN lift our heads and receive comfort and help from the Father. Our passage for today also includes the amazing promise that God is working for our good in all things (v28). What an encouragement to cling to!
Prayer: Lord I am sorry for the times when I seem to be more at home with my old nature. On this Ash Wednesday, I ask You to help me to set it aside and learn how to be an encourager. Give me opportunities to encourage others – and then be encouraged myself when I have done so. Amen.