That's Not My Name

Exhort is such a powerful word. It’s not one used frequently in casual, contemporary language. I think that maybe it is a little too commanding for our liking; and not in the shocking kind of way that we use to get attention, but in the accountable kind of way that we like to avoid. Encourage seems to be a bit more tame of a word. It comes off the lips with a happy smile and a blue ribbon for effort. Exhort sounds a little pushy. It may make one a bit anxious, like when you know your dad is going to let go of the back of your bicycle. Nevertheless, I’ve been finding myself using the word exhort lately. I think it’s because I’m teaching a study on Hebrews. Last week, we started off with chapter 3, verse 13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” I’ve been chewing on this verse all week. The author of Hebrews exhorts us to exhort one another—daily. I have been plodding through Arthur Pink’s commentary on Hebrews as one of my sources. He explains how we need constant attention and motivation brought to our Christian calling. Sin hardens our heart, and we need to spur one another on to keep our gaze on Christ. I’ve been thinking about how this relates not only to the ministries in the church, but also to our ordinary, every day vocations as spouses, parents, mailmen, and bankers. Gene Edward Veith, Jr. and Mary J. Moerbe, explain the value of ordinary callings in their book, Family Vocation:
The word “vocation” is the Latinate form of the English word “calling.” In today’s secular usage, the word “vocation” has become just another word for “job,” but its Christian meaning is that God calls us to the different roles that he asks us to play and in which he is active. A key scriptural text on the subject is this: ”Only let each person live the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1Cor. 7:17). The idea is that the Lord “assigns” us to different kinds of lives, and that he then “calls” us to them (21).
These callings in which we serve come with crosses to bear. Believers are motivated to be good stewards of the gifts and opportunities we have been given. And yet we are discouraged by fatigue, sin, and unbelief. We are tempted to find a substitute in this world for our future rest. We need encouragement, but not in the form of a participation trophy. We need to be lovingly pushed, like the dad who charges his 21-year-old rent. I have found that people who are good at what they do also struggle in their vocation. My husband is a wonderful teacher, but it is a discouraging job with results that take longer than watching paint dry. He needs exhortation. I have a friend with such a passion for the orphaned. She is a mother of four, as well as a foster mom. Along with the struggles of parenting all these children, she and her husband bear the stresses of dealing with the foster system and neglectful parents. It is easy to have the attitude that just because someone is gifted in an area or has a passion for it, that it must come easier for them. That brings me to what our exhortation is. It is a reminder of who we are, and an incitement to live according to this reality. I remember shortly after I was married, I was waiting on a prescription to be filled. The pharmacist called out for Aimee Byrd. I was unphased. She repeated, “Aimee Byrd…Aimee Byrd…” And then it hit me—that’s me! I was waiting to hear “Aimee Rinehart.” My vocation had changed from single to married, but I still wasn’t used to being called by my new name. So how do we exhort one another? Pink gives us clear biblical imperatives. We need to care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25), love one another (John 13:34), pray for one another (James 5:16), comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18), admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), edify one another (1 Thess. 5:11), and have peace with one another (Mark 9:50). We are given these imperatives because of the indicative that our identity is in the perfector of our faith, Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the whole book of Hebrews is a word of exhortation (Heb. 13:22). What this means is that Hebrews is a sermon. Maybe that’s why we do not use this word often with one another, no one wants to come off as preachy. But, in a sense, that is exactly what we are to do—preach the gospel to one another. As we labor in our vocations, we find our true rest in Christ’s accomplishment on our behalf. In this we are comforted to know that God lovingly looks at us and is utterly satisfied. We are therefore liberated to show that love in service to our neighbor as he has called and equipped us.