Today’s Reading: Hebrews 3
Thomas Edison had very little formal education. In fact, he was only in school a few months before his mother pulled him out and began teaching him herself. She encouraged him in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and allowed him to pursue other interests that appealed to him. Always a curious boy, he was particularly fascinated with mechanical things and chemical experiments, which his mother encouraged.
How did it come about that his mother pulled him out of school? And why? According to a rare interview Edison gave to a now-defunct literary journal, T. P. Weekly, published on November 29, 1907, his mother’s staunch support and belief in him made him the successful inventor he became:
“One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector that I was “addled” and it would not be worthwhile keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by this last straw that I burst out crying and went home and told my mother about it. Then I found out what a good thing a good mother is. She came out as my strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that I had more brains than he himself, and a lot more talk like that. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy ever had, and I determined right then that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.”
Thomas Edison’s mom spoke encouragement, life-giving words, into her son’s life and gave us one of the greatest inventors in history. Because of her staunch belief in her son and her words about and to him, the world has the light bulb, phonograph, camera, telegraph, generators, microphones, alkaline batteries, cement, and a host of other things.
Words are powerful. As Mother Teresa said, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” In today’s chapter, the writer of Hebrews describes the heart challenge we all face and the antidote for it to be fixed:
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
We are told that any one of us can find our heart moving into unbelief. The writer says that we are to be aware of that enemy. And before we can even be afraid, we are told there is an answer to it—encouragement. Encouragement is what keeps our hearts soft. That is the power of encouraging words. Those kinds of words don’t just give us a Thomas Edison, they give us strong, faithful Christians.
Can I vent for a moment? I want to give you my pet peeve of “religious” encouragement. It’s when people give you the preface before the encouragement. They say something like, “I don’t want you to get a big head or get prideful, but you preached well, you sang well, your words were powerful.” Their preface waters down their encouragement. I want to tell them, “You’re not the pride police. Just say something nice without the caveat.” People are so discouraged today, and a word of encouragement gets them in the game, so give someone a word of encouragement without your “concern” for their pride. Be more concerned of an unbelieving heart than a prideful heart. That means just say the good words.
More people fail for lack of encouragement, I think, than for any other reason. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. We don’t have enough encouragers out there. We need more encouragement in the home and in the church. Who knows what a word of encouragement could do for your spouse, your child, or the person you sit next to at your job. Just a “great job” could get someone through the day.
We need to make deposits into people’s emotional bank accounts. It will help them finish their day, the week, their life well. Day-to-day encouragement. Send someone a text of encouragement. Make a quick Mom-and-Dad phone call and encourage them. The people you think don’t need it because they always look happy are many times the ones who need it most.
A pastor friend told me about something that happened in his church. An elderly lady told him when he buries her that she wants a Bible and a spoon in her casket. He asked her why. She said, “At all the church fellowships I have been to over the last seventy-five years, when they come around after the dinner and give us spoons they are saying the best is yet to come—dessert. And when I die, I want people to know that the best is yet to come.” Well, he’d heard the story before—it’s been going around for years. But that’s not the end of the story. My friend said there was a part B.
A little while later, he needed to step down from ministry for a season due to some personal issues. It was a hard year for that pastor to be attending the church he’d led for decades but who was now on the sidelines. After the year was up, he prepared for his first Sunday back. He was nervous and scared and wondered if the church would even want him back.
That first Sunday back, he stepped up to the pulpit and watched in amazement as the entire congregation stood. They didn’t applaud. They held up spoons. They were encouraging him that the best is yet to come.