ARE YOU A THERMOMETER OR A THERMOSTAT? Andy Hollifield 2-7-17
Around 2002, I had made a delivery in Louisville, Kentucky for my dad’s courier business. On the way out of town that morning I had the radio on a gospel station to listen to some preaching. To my surprise, I was able to find some good, hard, bible, preaching like I am used to. I can’t remember the man’s name but I have never forgotten his message. It was simply the title question. I thought when I heard his title ” I got my doubts about this dude”. I’m just being honest that is what I thought. I almost changed the station but I thought “I gotta hear this”. I didn’t figure there was any way that a message with a title like that could be spiritual. Well, I can admit when I am wrong. I cannot remember his text but we will start with a couple of defiinitions. Simply put, a thermometer is a device used for measuring temperature. That’s simple enough. A thermostat is a device that functions to establish and maintain a desired temperature automatically or signals a change in temperature for manual adjustment. To simplify it a little more; a thermometer reads temperature and a thermostat controls or determines temperature.
Let’s look at a thermostat first. A thermostat is only as effective as the data that is entered into it. When you are using a thermostat to run a furnace or heat pump, if you set the thermostat real low, say 50 degrees, that means the heat won’t kick on till the temperature drops below 50 by a couple of degrees then it will heat back up to 50. It will automatically maintain the temperature you set it for. In the summer if you are running air conditioning, you can set the thermostat to 65 for example, and when the temperature gets above 65, the thermostat will automatically turn the air on to cool the area back down to 65. That’s easy enough to understand isn’t it? Whether you want hot air or cool air, the thermostat only operates as good as the information that is programmed into it. A thermostat in a car works much the same way. It regulates water temperature instead of air temperature to keep the engine cool enough to operate properly and prevent damage such as overheating.
You may be wondering just how all of this apples to our Christian walk. I will explain it with a question; Are you reading the temperature in your surroundings or are you determining the temperature in your surroundings? The interesting thing is that although neither of these words appear in scripture, they have everything to do with our spiritual walk. I will give you some examples pertaining first to a thermostat. One word that comes to mind is “exhort”. One of the synonyms for exhort is “encourage”. Encourage, spur, press, or goad are the definitions of exhort. Exhort means to urge, advise, caution earnestly, or to admonish urgently. Exhort is in the bible only 16 times and all in the New Testament. Jude 1:3 says “…it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Paul was trying to urge, advise, or encourage the saints to earnestly, not half heartedly but earnestly, contend for the faith. The word contend implies that we will have opposition. Paul said in Hebrews 3:13 to “exhort one another daily”. In Acts 11:23 the church at Jerusalem had sent forth Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. The reason for this journey was because word had got to the church that after the church had been scattered due to the death of Stephen, many people among the Gentiles were getting saved. The verse says that Barnabas (23)”Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” He was simply trying to encourage them to stay with the stuff. Exhorted is in the bible three times, all in the New Testament. Exhortation is used in scripture 10 times, all in the New Testament as well.
To encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. To stimulate by assistance, approval, or to advance, promote, or foster. A funny thing I discovered is that the word “encourage” is only in the bible four times and all of them in the Old Testament. The word “encouraged” is used five times and they are all Old Testament. In Judges 20:22 “the men of Israel encouraged themselves”. In 1 Samuel 30:6, after the enemy had come and captured all the inhabitants of Ziklag except the ones that were gone fighting, with his family kidnapped by the enemy and his soldiers wanting to stone him, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” In 2 Chronicles 31:4 and 35:2, the priest are “encouraged in the law” and also “to the service of the house of the Lord”. In Isaiah 41:7 The children of Israel workers all encouraged each other. The words “encouraging” or “encouragement” don’t even appear in the bible. But do you realize what these workers in Isaiah 41 were doing? They were being thermostats. They were trying to determine the level of encouragement their fellow workers had. Sometimes there is nothing personally in it for us other than seeing the work accomplished when we encourage someone. We can determine the level of confidence and courage and strength of spirit those around us have if we just put forth a little effort to give them courage. That is “setting the thermostat” and controlling the heat when we do that. Each time we go into the Lord’s house, we should be seeking to lift up and encourage those around us. We as Christians should be a comforting presence when we show up. Our presence should embolden others to do more for the Lord. If that is the case, then we are a thermostat.
As I mentioned earlier, a thermometer only reads the temperature around it. It does nothing by itself to regulate the temperature. In your church, which would you rather be? Quite often we expect the pastor to be the thermostat and we all just want to be a thermometer. If he has the heat on high we will say we had a real service. But if it is just an average service and not any rejoicing or praise, we will say; what’s wrong with him? He was a little off today. Actually we should probably just go ahead and repent. He may have been a little off and if he was; how much did you do to encourage and exhort and lift him up? How much did you try to heat it up and make it easier for him to preach.
What about your neighbor or those people you work around all the time? What about the cashier at the grocery store and at the gas station? Do you just read the temperature and see what kind of mood they are in before you speak? Or, do you march in and give them a hardy greeting with a smile and ask how they are doing? Does their day get a little better because you came by or are you just another disinterested face they will look into today? You will never create opportunities to witness for the Lord by being a thermometer. How much hope are you willing to give someone today? Romans 5:5 says “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Are you “canning” the love of God and trying to “preserve” it for future use or are you shedding it abroad? It is best when it is fresh so spread it around. Don’t be content with being a thermometer but instead, be someone’s thermostat today. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!