Encouragement – A Truly Powerful Thing
Written October 10, 2011
Some of you already know this but I have been having an ongoing battle with the cable company to get internet service at the parsonage. You might be questioning whether “battle” is a proper word to use to describe the situation but I assure you it is spot on when it comes to what all has occurred over the past two months. Not to go too deep into the situation but to give you the severity of the problem I had to call the North Carolina Department of Justice (this particular company’s regulatory agency) to finally see some type of results. Over the past two months I’m met many installers, technicians, and spoken with countless individuals over the phone which brings me to why I mentioned my struggle in the first place.
I had made an appointment for another installer, for the fourth time, to come out and see if they could hook everything up at the house. Yes I did say for the fourth time, the others had said that the prep work had been done beforehand, which it hadn’t. This one unfortunately was also unable to complete the work too as yet again the prep work had not been completed. The gentleman that had come out though was very nice and cordial and I actually found out he was a minister as well. While walking around the house for a non existent hole that held a conduit cable we were able to talk about our respective ministries and the triumphs and struggles that we have each experienced as well as encourage each other in the work that we were currently doing.
During his time at the house I was able to tell him of my recent trip to The Cove in Asheville and encourage him to look at their website and to see if there would be anything that he would be interested in attending. He in turn told me about an experience he had in making a visit to a home which turned out that God had moved in the hearts of those there and it became a life changing event for the entire family.
Though this particular appointment ended up being another failure to hook up internet service there was a silver lining attached to it. Through the conversation I had I was encouraged and I was able to encourage a fellow brother in Christ. Though the appointment left me with a continued growing frustration, I did walk away with a rejuvenated spirit because of the kind words that were able to exchanged.
That incident got me to thinking hard about the little opportunities we have in our life to offer encouragement to others that are in need. We see countless people in our lives and how many times are those individuals ones that God has place in our path to say a word that would brighten their day?
Consider this, we ALL go through times of depression, despair, and discouragement, some more than others but we ALL go through it. Most of us cannot count the times that dark despairing clouds have been the forecast of our lives but I bet we all can remember the bright rays of encouragement that cut through those clouds in times of need. Your encouragement might have come in the form of a card that was sent in the mail, a phone call at just the right time, kind words spoken as you left church, or someone bringing over a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. Whatever it was I know it lifted your spirits and changed your entire outlook on the days ahead.
Encouragement is a power thing. In fact I would say that it is one of the most powerful tools in Christians tool box when it comes to helping others and ministering to those in need. Encouragement is an element needed by every person on the planet, it counteracts the despair we all face and has the ability to change the course of a person’s life. Encouragement can lift the haze of depression, open the eyes of the hopeless that there can be a greater tomorrow, and provide much needed strength for the weary.
Here’s the sad things. There is currently much more despair and distress in the world than there is encouragement. There are many more of those struggling to minister in the name of Christ and being down trodden than those that are coming along side of them and giving them that encouragement that they need. The number of people battling depression and weakness of spirit dwarfs the number of those that are cheering them on as they battle these things each day of their lives. The need is great but as is the case so often when needs are present that workers are few.
The Bible is full of those that were great encouragers, Barnabas is probably the best known, but it is also full of Scripture that calls all Christians to be ones who encourage. One passage in particular that is short but packed full of relevant information is 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Here we have the Apostle Paul closing his letter to the church at Thessalonica and as he does he begins to fire off in rapid succession these quick practical commands for the church to follow. One of the first is verse 14 where it states….And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. Now for the purpose of this article I’d like to look at that phrase encourage the fainthearted and glean some practical lessons about being an encourager.
First, the word encourage is the Greek word paramutheomai which literally means to speak alongside. This might sound familiar to the definition of another Greek word as the word Comforter in the New Testament means one who comes alongside of. These words are similar in that it tells of where we are to be to fulfill the action we are trying to do. To encourage some we must be alongside of them. The other indication is that to encourage we must speak to them.
Now to be certain we living in a day and age of vast means of communication. We can email, text, Skype, IM, write on people’s Facebook walls, make phone calls, or even do as Paul did write a letter. All these are completely valid ways of sending encouragement and being a “speak alongside of” person. I’ve received letters and emails as well as Facebook posts that have truly encouraged me through difficult times. However, there is something truly special about those rare occurrences where someone has come and met with me face to face and spoken words of encouragement directly to me. There is a purity and potency in actually having someone there. The first century church probably thought the same things as they battled the persecution and difficulties of being a Christian in a day where Christianity was new, misunderstood and sometimes hated.
The other word that deserves looking into is fainthearted. Interestingly the Greek word is oligopsuchos which literally means small souled. Paul was speaking of those that were timid, fearful, and worried. Specifically in Paul’s day these were Christian individuals that had come to the saving knowledge of Christ but were terrified of living for Him openly in the world. They were fearful of persecution, scared of the trials they would have to face, worried about the unknown tomorrow that would present challenges, and the uncertainty of the consequences of living a Christian life. Basically they were much like many Christians today who are scared to put their trust in God with a situation they are currently in, scared and not completely confident that God can and will do great things in their life if they would simply trust and obey Him. Most assuredly if we look around we can easily find many that fit the bill of being fainthearted. They are more numerous than we could ever imagine.
The big question is what do we do with this knowledge? What can we do to be an encourager today. Clearly the need is great whether it is in our church, our home, our schools, or our workplaces. Wherever we go we will find those that are fainthearted, downtrodden, and in the depths of despair. Their number is great and their need even greater, so what do we do? Let me close this article with three practical things I think any Christian can do to help another person who is in need of encouragement.
- Be On The Lookout – so often we get caught up in our own little worlds when we are at school, at work, or even at church that we miss the obvious needs that are so clearly seen on the faces of others. It is so easy to stick with our own little group of friends that we sit with on a Sunday morning or during a lunch break. This can isolate us and keep us away from those that truly need us. Look for those that need encouragement or better yet befriend those that do not have a circle of friends that when they have a need you will be one of the first people who pick up on it.
- Be Bold – If you see someone who is genuinely downtrodden go to them. Don’t let fear overtake you and make you do nothing. Many people are in such a sad state because people have done nothing to help them. Be bold and go to them. It could be that with just a simple hello and some kind words and a prayer for their needs you could be God’s instrument of change. The only way this will occur though is if you are bold enough to make that first step and speak alongside someone.
- Be Genuine – Don’t go and try to be an encourager if you are doing it out of a sense of obligation or you want special recognition for your kind deed. The world is full of superficial, look at me, Christians who are more concerned about their own reputation than helping others. This type of attitude is hurtful and disgraceful to the cause of Christ. Let us be genuine in our hearts and ask the Lord to give us a deep hunger and desire to be compassionate to those that are in need. That is what the Church of Jesus Christ needs, that is what the world needs. It needs Christians filled with hearts aflame with the love of Jesus Christ that genuinely care about others and want to help them in their time of need.
Now I know what some might be thinking, what do I say after I see someone and say hello and ask them what’s wrong? What do I do when they tell me their problems and frustrations in life. Well one of the best things I can tell you to do is listen, ask questions, offer help, and seek God’s counsel during that time. Every circumstance is different so there is no way to give advice that would fit every situation. What I have found is that some of the greatest encouragement is found in actually being there with someone and giving them the knowledge that they are not alone in their struggle. When you are there coming along side someone and helping them, pray that God would give you the words to speak and also the wisdom that you need. Remember your purpose in being their is to lift them up and build their strength. Be their cheerleader and pep talk speaker to build their walk with God and their life of faith. When you go and engage someone and pray for wisdom you will be amazed at the verses of Scripture that will come to mind and the situations in your own life that mirror what that person is going though. Remember God has equipped us with the Holy Spirit and called us all to be encouragers therefore with Him on our side we can. Let us go forth looking for those that are fainthearted and come along side them to encourage them in their time of need!