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The Mercy of Exhortation



Jackie Hill Perry reminds us of the mercy and necessity that is exhortation among our generation.

Encouragement protects us, keeps us, and is the means by which God pursues us.

Read Hebrews 3:7-14.

The writer of Hebrews says encouragement, or exhortation, keeps us from deception. When you think about the times you've been deceived, at the bottom of it is probably some form of discouragement. For example, seasons of loneliness led to lies: no one loves you or sees you. Your discouragement started to make you deceive yourself as a means to comfort yourself. The work of exhortation is to draw you back toward reality by acknowledging the season you're in but speaking God's Word into it.

Your response becomes, "Yes, I'm alone, but I'm not lonely. Jesus said He would never leave me nor forsake me. (See Hebrews 13:5) Where can I go from His Spirit or flee from His presence?" (Psalm 139:7) His promised word gives us the confidence to trust God again.

Discouragement is to deprive of courage or confidence. Confidence is having an assurance of standing on something solid. If discouragement can mess with your confidence, then surely your lack of confidence is going to have an effect on your faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please God. See Hebrews 11:6. So, this is a big deal.

Therefore, encouragement is a state of being you have to abide in. Discouragement is not the enemy; unbelief is. Wise people see discouragement as a tool to see where and how you are not trusting God like you thought you did. If you are not careful, you can allow discouragement to passively create an unbelieving heart that the Bible calls evil. When people fall away, they call evil good and good evil. At the root is discouragement. They have a grief that they don't have the divine confidence to endure.

Hebrews 3:8 quotes Psalm 95:8. The psalm itself provides the context. Since the writer of Hebrews is focused on the superiority of Christ and encouraging the saints, he doesn't want the Christians to become like Israel, who allowed their discouragements to deceive them to the point that they did not enter God's rest.

Psalm 95 references Exodus 17:1-7. The people have come out of slavery and are in the desert. They are very thirsty. It doesn't feel good to be thirsty, and Israel starts to develop an attitude. They can either allow the temporary discomforts in their bodies to influence their confidence in God or reveal their confidence in God. There's a difference there. If they chose to look at past exhortations such as the Lord turning the bitter water sweet (Exodus 15:22-26), or the parting of the Red Sea so they could cross (Exodus 14:21-29), or how the first plague was God turning the water to blood (Exodus 7:17-18), they would have the confidence to believe. If He can curse water, split water, and sweeten water, then He can certainly create water where there is none, just like in Genesis 1:1. All of us are thirsty for something. Do you have confidence that God can satisfy? If your water comes from any source other than God, then your thirst will always remain. Jesus promises that He is the Living Water and you'll never thirst again. See John 7:37-38.

God provided water out of a rock. He is so creative with His provision that He can satisfy your needs in a million different ways. Don't let your discouragement limit your imagination of God. Nothing is too hard for God.

The people chose to complain and think about what they didn't have versus focusing on who they were with. They accused God of abandoning them, which greatly offended God. He had promised His Presence. Anytime someone was commissioned, He said He would be with them. His Presence influences the mission. Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Jeremiah all relied on the Presence of God. Jesus gives the great commission and promises to be with us to the end of the age. Currently, we have plenty of people who are willing to go to the nations but not teach the truth once they are there. No one wants to be hated for their faith, and that's the reason we're not growing in it. If your fear of people discourages you from being faithful to the text and to God, then somewhere in there, you don't believe that God is with you. If we believed God was with us, we'd be the most confident people in the world. Confidence like that leads to power in effective and durable ministries. We need as much power in the Holy Spirit to help us "do" as we need His power to help us last. It takes as much power, to tell the truth as it does to endure the suffering because of it.

Warning: some are so discouraged by the opposition of the truth that you share that you're starting not to believe it yourself. There's another group that's discouraged by what seems to be the lack of effectiveness of the truth. The ones teaching, discipling, and lifting up Scripture are not seeing results of conversions and sanctification as quickly as they want, so they're beginning to wonder if there is power in the Gospel. When you lose that, you start developing methods, not praying. All the results you are looking for come from the work of the Holy Spirit. The enemy is trying to destroy an entire generation of Christians with witchcraft and considering alternative sources of power for joy, peace, and a right mind. We live in a world full of demons. Don't play with the devil. The Lord gave the Church authority to trample over serpents, not submit to them.

There is power in God's Presence. God is with you. God gives courage and conviction, patience, and answers.

Israel had a subtle point of unbelief. In Exodus 17:3, they start accusing Moses and God of wanting to kill them because they are hungry and thirsty. They had let the intensity of the trial so infect their mind that they believed God delivered them just to kill them. We do this too. The serpent convinced Eve that God was holding something back when really His restriction was His protection. The devil tried with Jesus what He was successful at with Eve, which was to tempt Jesus to distrust His Father. The disciples accused Jesus of not caring for them when they hit rough waters...which was the whole reason Jesus came was because He cares for us. See John 3:16. He cares about the things you care about. See 1 Peter 5:7. Your flesh and the devil will tempt you to doubt that God died for you and actually cares for you. The devil is a liar.

God loves you with an everlasting love. He is a compassionate God. He is mercy. See Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 145:8-9, Exodus 34:6-7.

Israel didn't believe God could quench their thirst. Be encouraged, God can meet your every need. Israel didn't believe God was with them. Be encouraged; your Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. Israel didn't believe God had compassion. Be encouraged; your God cares for you.

1 Corinthians 10:11 says what is written down is for our instruction. We need to learn from them so we don't repeat it.

When we read Psalm 95 in light of Exodus 17, it sheds light on why exhortation is considered a mercy in Hebrews. It gives power to the weak, strengthens the weary, and stirs your faith so you aren't deceived and fall away.

Hebrews 3:13 says to exhort each other as long as it is called today. Lean into the mercy of exhortation at all times. Be around Christians. Be in the Bible. Be fasting and praying. Why? Because we are so easily discouraged. Surround yourself with people full of the Spirit and wise. Humble yourself to be vulnerable so they know how to encourage you.

If you are constantly projecting strength and self-sufficiency, then don't be surprised when discouragement is daily for you. Scripture is the most important means that you'll find encouragement. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Romans 15:5 says that our God is the God of exhortation. Self-esteem won't encourage you enough in the faith. God will.

Hebrews 3:14 uses the phrase "original confidence." Confidence is the reason you follow Jesus in the first place. The NIV says, "Hold firmly to till the end the confidence we had at first." When you decided to follow Jesus, do you remember why you trusted Him?

When we saw Him, we recognized that He was Lord, Messiah, King, Almighty, and the only person worthy of your full self. He is who we needed. And we still need Him. So, look at Him! Every morning, every afternoon, every night. Do not let technology destroy your intimacy and vision with God. Be careful who you listen to. Discipline your mind, discipline your actions, discipline what you allow in. That's not legalism, that's Christianity. You won't last with an undisciplined walk. As you look at Jesus, you'll have the confidence to keep going. Hebrews 10:35 says do not throw away your confidence...He is with you.


Encouragement protects us. Encouragement keeps us. Exhortation is the means by which God pursues us.

Jackie Hill Perry

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Scripture References

  • Hebrews 3:7-14
  • Exodus 17:1-7
  • Matthew 28
Jackie Hill Perry Jackie Hill Perry is an author, bible teacher, poet, and hip-hop artist. Since becoming a Christian, she has been compelled to use her speaking and teaching gifts to share the light of the gospel of God as authentically as she can. She is the author of Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been and Holier Than Thou. At home, she is a wife to Preston and Mommy to Eden, Autumn, Sage, and August.