“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 NLT
A few weeks back, I found in my notes this phrase, “The human spirit fills with Hope at the sound of an encouraging word.” I could not remember where I found it so began to search Scripture, because it is definitely true and sounded like a Proverb. It wasn’t there. It was in “Our Daily Bread” on November 21, 2016. I had written it down to remind me to be an encourager to other people. All of us love to be encouraged, especially when we are not feeling particularly encouraged for one reason or another. And we all enjoy bringing encouraging words to one another, particularly to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” -- 1 Thess. 5:11. The middle part of this phrase points out an advantage to giving and receiving encouragement: it edifies, builds up the person and the body of believers. One of the reasons it edifies us is that too often we listen more to the accuser who is trying to tear us down. For that reason, encouragement is essential. Our verse also ends with an encouragement to the body, “just as you are doing.” Sounds like, “keep up the good work!”
Christ is an encourager. “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” --- John 6:63. Encouragement from the Word builds our spirit and gives us life. A great reason to begin each day in Scripture. As we model His behavior, we become like Him. If you are not now an encouraging person, begin practicing encouragement and be transformed. If you are a discouraging person, may I just encourage you to stop it! A prominent speaker refers to such people as “joy-suckers.”
Paul, like Christ, encourages us, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” -- Eph 4:32. And he modeled encouragement to the newest bodies of believers. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions, that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering…” -- 2 Thess. 1:2-12. This is strong encouragement offering hope and growth in times of adversity.
I would encourage you to begin finding God’s encouragement for yourself. When we realize how much He sacrificed for us (His life and more), and intercedes for us always, we must understand that we are being counted worthy of such a tremendous love, even if we don’t feel it. Do not depend on your feelings for assurance; rely on the nature of Christ. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Rom. 15:13
And then pass encouragement along to others in your words and actions. “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” – 1 Thess. 5:14.
Within each of our churches, workplaces, and neighborhoods, there are people going through difficult times. We can usually find encouraging things to say, but sometimes it is difficult. When friends are going through exceptional difficulties (death of a loved one especially suicide, terminal diagnoses, prodigal children or grandchildren, financial loss, etc.) and we have not experienced those things, an all-to-often response is to ignore the subject or even the person. I have a friend who says, “I have not experienced what you are going through. I don’t know what I would do if I were you. But you have my love and prayers.” It meant the world to me. In Colossians, we are told that encouraging hearts “knits us together in love” in order that we may “reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.” Col. 1:2,3.
We have all noted that we live in a day and age in which it is almost impossible to hear words that encourage. Our culture has become toxic and ungodly. It was that way before the campaigns and elections; and now it just seems overwhelmingly worse because of the hatefulness and violence that is on vivid display every day. That is the way of the sinful world we live in. Sadly, some of that coarseness has made it into the Church. It is not being “authentic” or “genuine” to treat others disrespectfully or say hurtful things. I would like to think that the Church is influencing the world, not the other way around. What are we to do? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Eph. 4:32. This includes people in the church and outside the church. God loves us all the same. It is by reflecting His love that we will reach the lost.
Is there someone you can encourage today? A friend that you can text? A missionary that you can email or message? A family member that you can call? Some suffering that you can visit with? I am sure there is. Spend some time in the Word and Prayer, and He will guide you as we build up His Church together.
“Gracious words are like honey sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” -- Proverbs 16:24