In today’s language, terms like “intentionality” and “actionable” have grown in popularity (replacing phrases that mean the same thing, but which take longer to say). As much as socially-accepted mangling of the English language may grate on my preferences, I’ll refrain from ranting…for now. Still, there are some good reminders in these words. The fact is, doing nothing – or even just going along from day to day without a plan, goal, or thought about what we should be striving for – doesn’t typically get us anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong: sometimes we are called to labor at the same sort of work for a long time, or to live out our faith in the same way day after day. However, if there isn’t a reason why we do what we do – whether to earn an income and take care of ourselves and our family, or to reach a longer-term goal like retirement, or to leave a legacy – it can become just “turning the crank”.
In the Bible, the author of the book of Hebrews1 provides some specific things that we should be actively working on. We might call this a combination of living with intentionality, and having an actionable plan – both to do good, and to inspire others to do good as well2.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT
The first one, holding tightly to hope, seems easy enough. It’s more of a challenge in the down times, but it is even more important to remember our hope during those tough times. With the right destination to look forward to (a life spent with the all-powerful, all-loving God; starting even here on earth), we gain confidence and purpose – an ultimate goal.
The next directive, though, is not just about ourselves. Readers of this book (Hebrews) are challenged to actively come up with ways to encourage other people to do good things, particularly those of the same faith. This means that we are obliged to do a little homework, and then put our plan into action.
So, we may ask ourselves: When was the last time we pondered how to help other people want to do the right thing? Have we sat down recently and had a holy brainstorming session about others in our lives who need to be motivated to do good?
Since I’m subject to these instructions just as much as the next believer, here are some ideas to get our thoughts started:
- Sometimes, we just have to set a good example.
- Maybe the reason that some of the people in our lives don’t show love to others is that they don’t know how.
- When we are planning to do something good (not in an artificial sense, scripting out our “good deeds”; but rather a regular event, like volunteering each month to serve others), why not invite someone else to join us?
- For instance, a friend of mine was in the habit of serving meals (to those who couldn’t afford them) on a regular basis with others from his church, but knew that one particular day would find the volunteers a little short-staffed. So, he invited my family to join his.
- Do you see an opportunity where you won’t be useful (because of the required skills or time commitment), but know of someone else who would be a great fit (and is looking for a place to help out)? Make a suggestion, and connect the supply with the demand.
- This has to either 1) be very polite, and not patronizing, guilt-tripping, or passive-aggressive, or 2) in a situation where you have authority to provide direction (like telling your kids to go shovel the neighbor’s driveway).
- Is there a person around you who wants to live out good deeds, but isn’t able because of financial, time, or skill constraints?
- Offer to help overcome this gap. Perhaps you have been blessed with funds to sponsor a fellow servant on a service trip. Maybe you can watch another couple’s children while they go out and bless others. Or, you might just have the ability to teach someone a practical skill that can be used for the good of the kingdom.
Finally, the third instruction in this passage makes the other two much easier. By spending time with others who have the same eternal purpose in life, we not only receive encouragement from them (hopefully, both by reminding us of our hope, and by them inciting us to do good deeds and show love), but we also have the opportunity to return the favor.
So, if you’re just cruising along as a member of the Body of Christ, read through this passage a couple more times, and try to make some time to think about how you can live it out. I’m sure that you can find many more ways to motivate others for good (and you’re welcome to share them with others, via the comments, below), especially if you remain focused on your hope, and spend time with others who encourage you in the right things.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- This is another English language trick. We’re not sure who wrote the book of Hebrews, but by referring to “the author of Hebrews”, one can sound smart and hope that no one notices. ↩
- No, those words still don’t flow, at least to my ear, even though I’ve tried to use them in a sentence. Hopefully, the writer of Hebrews did a better job than me in explaining this point. ↩