Encouragement! We all need to hear from time to time words that inspire us. Life is life and throws challenging curves at us (even the best of people) that can easily throw us if we’re not trusting the Lord.
One great advantage Christians have – beyond committing every potential upset to Jesus, is to have good friends with whom we confidently trust to share things and seek their counsel and prayer support and encouragement.
Only a little word, encouragement means to ‘give someone support, confidence, or hope, inspire with courage or spirit, hearten, attempt to persuade, spur on, stimulate, give help to.’ But its outworking has huge, meaningful results when the friendly meaningful advice received is courageously acted on.
Our personal calling in following and serving Jesus is often referred to three-fold … ministry, media and mentoring (Don’t people love using catchy wording!). To us the mentoring aspect (as well as the other two, incidentally) is simply encouraging others – whether they’re in church leadership, saved, unsaved, running businesses or just endeavouring to live life.
We call our overall ministry Life Focus, regularly pointing out that life is a good gift from a good God and that we should all focus on living life to the full. Willingly and freely we give of our time – but unfortunately people, churches and organisations tend to classify it as ‘counselling.’
Now we understand what people mean when they label it this way – but we feel that ‘counselling’ is an over-used and not fully understood word in church circles today. Sounds heavy, expensive, and coldly clinical! We prefer to stick to a more meaningful, Bible centred word – encouragement!
Indeed scripture refers to this word many times. Paul writes enlighteningly regarding ‘ministry gifts’ in Romans 12 – we chose verse eight to describe our ministry (even our writings and Sunday preaching/teaching): ‘If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.’
It links with that word Paul uses a lot which means – exhortation. And even the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 3:13, 10:25).
The Greek is parakaleo, a word associated with ‘comfort’ by ‘calling near.’ Link this with Jesus’ referral to the Holy Spirit as the parakletos – the Comforter – (John 14: 16, 26, 15:26, 16:7) and John’s own declaration in 1 John 2:1 and we have a great encouragement in itself!
Christians can call on the same Holy Spirit who assisted Jesus in his life and ministry (Acts 10:38) to be there close by for us too.
• The early church was exhorted – encouraged – by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31) and grew numerically
• Paul encouraged Christians when he met them and in his writings (Acts 11:23, 16:40)
• He himself was encouraged (Acts 28:15)
• When we run personal development days on the Person of the Spirit and How to Move in his Supernatural Gifts, we delight to highlight this truth to (here it is yet again!) encourage listeners… especially in developing a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit and in knowing that we can all operate supernaturally in the 1 Corinthians 12 gifts.
The heart of Jesus
Jesus encouraged many, especially those with deep needs as they sought him out for comfort … healings and miracles (eg. Mat. 8:5, 14:36).
His gentle, positive words of assurance in the beatitude Matthew 5:4 scripture (brackets ours) – ‘Blessed (‘fortunate, happy, well off’) are those who mourn (‘grieve, wail’), for they will be comforted (‘exhorted’) is so typical of his in-your-face ministry of love and concern.
The theme of the Father-heart of God arises every now and then. In Luke 15 – the prodigal son story – Jesus painted a fascinating picture of his heavenly Father’s love and concern. Verse 28 relates how the father went out of his way to find and exhort – encourage – the stubborn elder brother. Not only was the concerned father’s love so deep for his returning wayward son but reached out to his oldest son too.
Jesus is the image of his Father (John 14:9 – ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’). He only spoke and acted as he knew God would (John 8:28-29) and, in meeting people at their point of need, greatly comforted them.
We’re told ‘to carry one another’s burdens’ (Gal.6:2). Every time we reach out to be a blessing to someone, we‘re acting as Jesus would – we’re Jesus in the community! Let’s understand community as those in need both in church and those nearby in the workplace, in the supermarket, school, hospital, neighbourhood…wherever.
May we take every opportunity to demonstrate the heart of Jesus. Encouraging is a great human trait but essentially a Christian virtue and characteristic.
Quotes from those who encouraged others
History records many famous people who recognised that happiness in life often lies in engaging in the fact that everyone needs a helping hand.
• Charles Dickens
‘No one is useless in this world, who lightens the burdens of another.’
• Abraham Lincoln
‘To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.’
• Winston Churchill
‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.’
• Albert Einstein
‘Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’
• Mohammed Ali
‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.’
• Martin Luther King Jr
‘Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?’
• Barack Obama
‘The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.’
• Chinese Proverb
‘If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.’
God is forever affording us opportunities to encourage others… whether we call it advising, counselling, believing with someone in prayer, standing with them in their dreams from God, giving godly hope in the midst of pain, suffering and uncertainties.
He wants to utilise our own experiences and scripture based advice – the Spirit of wisdom (Isa. 11:2) can help us speak clearly into people’s lives to bring them comfort and inspiration. The gospel itself is the greatest good news – beyond this we can share on what Jesus has done for us in our own journey in life.
Anne Frank said, ‘Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.’
But…a warning. Good news and good advice only becomes effective when openly received and willingly acted on. Andrew Carnegie warned: ‘There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb.’
Those of us who have a heart to help and encourage others can be easily disappointed when we learn that our good sound encouragement/advice has been ignored.
Don’t take it on board…people didn’t always respond to Jesus’ advice but walked away to do their own thing (eg. Mat.8:21; 19:20-22, 51; Luk. 9:59, 61; 14:18). We do our bit but it’s up to those we seek to encourage to follow through!
Our task is to play our part and not miss an opportunity – share whatever the Spirit puts on our heart to challenge, inspire and encourage (1 Thes.4:18, 5:11).
Ashley Smith boldly did this while held captive by a murderer (see Impact below) – and she was only beginning to find Jesus anew!
This month’s links: Impact – Dan Wooding’s Encounter With Murderer Survivor Results in a ‘Purpose Driven Life’ / Inspirational – Maureen McQuillan’s Without Treatment – Only Two Months to Live / Generational – Becky Fisher’s A Tribute to my Childhood Spiritual Mentor / Missional – Dr Jim McClure’s The End is Nigh