"but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13, NKJV).
In 2012 I sat down at my computer and began typing what would eventually become the first blog post for the website I built without knowing how to build one. The blog was based on on the above verse from the book of Hebrews. As I reread the original blog, my memories took be back to the days when my struggle with a strong-willed, self-righteous nature created constant angst within me and certainly with others, too. Listening to someone speak an opposing thought to mine—telling me what I did not want to hear—has never been one of my strengths. However, this deep disregard for advice caused continual turmoil within me.
And now, here we are; ten years later and I am able to not only see, but taste the goodness of the fruit of God's labor of love in my life. I would never lead you to believe that the strong-willed nature of Kolleen never resurfaces, or that I may not disregard some good advice. I'm just here to tell you that, because of Jesus, there's been a change and now God is ready to bring a change. I am revisiting the old as I begin the process of stepping into the new.
The first step was rebuilding the website. I enlisted our Activ8Her web designer, Jordan VanBoden's help to create a website that speaks about Jesus first and also speaks about Kolleen. I am excited for you to get to know the older and wiser me as I revisit and rework some of my first blog posts. So, here we go...
Dictionary.com defines exhort in this way, "To urge or persuade (someone) earnestly; advise strongly." I concede that it can be extremely difficult for me, when I've made my mind up, to be urged or advised strongly to wait or forget the matter all-together. Yet, ten-years later, I find myself grateful for every exhortation received along the way. Especially the ones that were the most difficult to hear. Why? Because I can now see how difficult the lessons of "learning the hard way" can be to forget and forgive in yourself.
Solomon wrote, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15, ESV). I have become acutely aware that while I may feel a need to be right, I am not defined by right or wrong answers. I do, however, run the risk of allowing shame to define me when I insist I am right and all others are wrong. When I fail to inquire or refuse to listen to the counsel of the wise, and instead go my own way and do my own thing I run the risk of being known as a fool. A fool who is blind to what others clearly see.
As difficult as it might be to swallow, our pride must be cast aside as we listen and allow God to speak to us through others. The verse from Hebrews in the Amplified Classic Version reads this way, "But instead warn (admonish, urge, and encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamor of his sin may play on him]" (Hebrews 3:13).
Exhortation comes to us to warn us; to grow us and help us overcome what God knows we can – and should. We warn one another through admonishing, urging and encouraging. When we admonish we lovingly and gently help someone correct a fault. We can't fix what we refuse to acknowledge. We urge others through strong appeals to follow through on a certain course of action. Has someone ever tried to convince or nudge you into doing something that would benefit you but you are dragging your feet? Why do you hesitate or pushback? Perhaps they are offering you wisdom from the Word that will spare you pain in the future. And then we exhort as we encourage one another with wisdom from the Word that will fill us with courage and strength of purpose. As long as it is called Today we should experience exhortation n one of these forms every single day.
Of course, balance is key. Sometimes we may need a gentle nudge, and at other times we may need to be advised strongly. I have often told those in my life who bring words of exhortation my way to allow me a moment to take it in. I am happy to report that I see growth —and I've heard from others that they do, too—in my ability to receive exhortations without a strong reaction. That hasn't always been the case: advise strongly and receive strong reaction. My ability to change my reaction to the exhortations of others developed through my growth and understanding of the identity God has given to each one of us. I know who defines me. Do you?
The writer to the Hebrews warns us that a lack of exhortation actually causes a hardening; a settled rebellion by sin's deceitfulness. Merriam-Webster defines settled as "firmly established over time." A firmly established rebellion against God because we are comfortable in our sin is not what God intended for any one of us. Has sin deceived you into a settled rebellion against God? Sin lures us and then it traps us.
As long as God has given us today, let's discover the growth that happens when we exhort one another. When we allow others to help us remain in Christ we will become more like Him. It is IN Christ that we discover the Truth of who we are. This is when you discover how to #beYOU.