Hebrews 10:24 starts out by saying, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Focus your attention on the main verb, “consider how.” This is what we are being commanded to do. It's a word that literally means "to take the initiative." in other words, we are being commanded to be proactive. We are being commanded to think ahead. We are being commanded to be the ones to start something. It's the idea of careful attentiveness. So you really could translate the verse this way, “Let us give careful attention as to how we can intentionally stimulate each other to love and good deeds.”
Notice, this is not something that's accidental. He's not saying, “If the circumstance allows itself, stimulate one another” or “If an opportunity happens to pop up, stimulate one another.” We need to, in advance, be giving careful attention as to how we as an individuals can take the initiative to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Now focus on the word “stimulate.” It is also translated “provoke” or “irritate.” It's the idea of riding a horse. How do you make the horse go faster? It doesn’t happen by saying, “pretty please” to the horse. To get the horse to go faster you must stimulate it; provoke it; irritate it a little bit. Then the horse will go faster.
A good teacher knows how to stimulate, provoke, or irritate her students to greater academic excellence. A good coach knows how to stimulate, provoke, or irritate his players to greater athletic excellence. A good pastor knows how to stimulate, provoke, or irritate his congregation to greater spiritual excellence. Folks, listen, the truth is that if someone doesn't push us out of love, we'll never reach our potential.
Think of it this way. Every Sunday when you go to church, you carry with you two buckets. You may not be able to see them but they're there. Actually, you carry these buckets everywhere you go. One of them is filled with water. The other is filled with gasoline. Both buckets are good. In fact, both buckets are needed. There are times that we need you to pour water on the church. There are also times that we need you to pour gas on the church. The key is knowing which bucket to use at what time.
There are two fires that are always burning inside the church. One of them is started by the Holy Spirit of God. It's the fire of spiritual fervor as he gets your spiritual life moving and you're excited. On those types of fires in our church we need to pour on some gas, some stimulant, so it burns into a huge flame for Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many times we tend to pour water on those kinds of fires and discourage people in their faith.
There's a second fire that's always burning within the church. This fire is put there by the evil one. He is just as active to start these fires in the church as the Holy Spirit is to start the fire of spiritual zeal and fervor. These are fires of criticalness, dissension, and disunity. On these fires you need to pour water. You need to help put out these fires. Unfortunately, when many people come across one of these fires in the church, they end up getting sucked right in to it and pouring gas on the fire resulting in the criticalness flaming stronger.
Every time you speak you're pouring out the contents of one of your two buckets? Every time you send an e-mail you're pouring out the contents of one of your two buckets. According to this verse, what we need to do is to prayerfully ask ourselves, “What bucket does this situation call for?” Is this a situation that I need to pour water on the flame of criticalness and disunity to help extinguish it, or is this a situation where I need to pour gasoline on the flame of spiritual fervor and zeal to enable it to burn brighter?
In a sense, Hebrews 10:24 is saying this, “Give special attention to being intentional about pouring gasoline on the fire of spiritual zeal in the lives of other Christians so that we all together can reach our redemptive potential on earth.” Folks, listen, isn’t it time that you did a little “spiritual provoking” in your church?