Aspiring Meditations: 24. Aspiring to Encourage
Rom 15:4,5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,”
1 Cor 14:3 everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Thess 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up
Heb 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
This is another of those words that I’ve not just noticed in a list, but a word that has been with me a long time as a vital and essential requirement in today’s church and therefore a word worthy of our investigation in this ‘aspiring’ series.
What does it mean? Again my dictionary includes the following: Encouragement = to give courage, hope, or confidence to; embolden; hearten, to give support to; be favorable to; foster; help. Don’t we all need that? Don’t my brothers and sisters in Christ need that?
Our starting point as so often is God Himself. In Rom 15 above, Paul says God gives us encouragement. To the Thessalonians he said, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thess 2:16,17) That’s interesting. Eternal encouragement? Perhaps that means we are encouraged when we see God has a plan formulated from before the Creation that stretches into eternity, a plan to bless us, a plan to make us His children and to take us to be with Him in eternity. But that verse also shows us the outworking of encouragement – to strengthen us in word and deed.
I always find significant Paul’s words in 1 Cor 14:3 “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” If you prophesy you bring a word from God and Paul says such a word will strengthen, encourage and comfort, so that is always God’s intent for His children. There are two prayers I find the Lord answers so speedily, the prayer for wisdom and the prayer for encouragement. I have lost count of the number of times I felt worn in the battle and asked the Lord for some sort of encouragement. A little while back I felt the need of it and cried out for it and in the next couple of days had contacts from people in Australia, the USA and the south of England, people I’ve never heard of before, but the Lord clearly prompted them to contact me with expressions of encouragement. How wonderful He is!
Flowing on from that, we see that some people are especially gifted in the ability to encourage others: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us….if it is encouraging, let him encourage.” (Rom 12:6,7) But having said that the bulk of the New Testament teaching is for us all to encourage one other, but it starts with Him.
So if He encourages us, it is no surprise that in His word He encourages us to encourage one another (note the double – he encourages so that we may encourage). We have the word above from Hebrews 10 to encourage one another, especially because of the days in which we live, days that Jesus said would have many upsetting things happening. It is often a worrying world and the fact that we have an enemy means that life is not always easy and that means that we often need encouraging. The writer to the Hebrews also said, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb 3:13) i.e. our loving encouragement may keep others from giving in to temptation and sinning. Our encouragement of one another may act as protection as well as strengthening.
For the leader, encouragement is to be one of the things we naturally do for the flock: “Encourage and rebuke with all authority.” (Titus 2:15) It is always a twofold ministry – one of correcting and challenging but also one of building up, comforting and encouraging. Again Paul instructed Timothy in his leadership role, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim 4:2) Again note the balance of correcting and encouraging. Correcting puts right wrong thoughts from the past, encouraging envisions and lifts us up to press on into the future.
How often do you leave church on a Sunday morning feeling, “That was a really great morning”? Most Sundays I hope (be real, it won’t be every single Sunday). But what is it the contributes to such a feeling? The worship? The preaching? The fellowship? How about the fact of being encouraged by another member or maybe, the fact that you were able to encourage someone else? I go into church these days praying, “Lord, let me be a blessing to this people. Give me one, two or three people who I can specifically encourage.” If the Lord answers that prayer (and we go looking to answer it), he will give us things to say to one another that does give courage, hope, or confidence to; embolden; hearten, to give support to others and therefore when we all leave, our encouraging others will be one of the ways the Lord strengthens the body, and people leave walking tall and feeling good, strengthened for the battles of the week ahead.
What potential we have. So how do we encourage others? First of all, look and listen. Around us, whenever we gather as the people of God there will be those worn down by the battles of last week, whether in the family, at work or in college, or maybe battles in the mind as the enemy seeks to sow doubts, discord, disappointments and discouragement generally. Ask the Lord to let you see something good about that person’s life and share it with them. If you are a more bold charismatic or Pentecostal, ask the Lord to give you a specific word of detail for them that will encourage.
I know a lady who has a lovely gifting whereby she gets a picture of someone, perhaps say a lady in a green coat, and the Lord says, “when she comes around the corner in front of you, stop her and tell her I love her and I understand what she is going through and if she will let me. I will help her.” And, lo and behold, the lady with the green coat comes around the corner. The God of encouragement! You and I may not have that particular gifting but we can bless one another with simple encouragement. Oh yes, this is definitely one to be added to the list of things to which I want to aspire more.