We live in that world, don’t we? Nancy Marshall, a contributing writer for the website “The Hill,” wrote, “The American people are restive, discouraged and sometimes suicidal.” She goes on to say, “What may still be largely unnoticed is the high degree to which the population is suffering.” We need a word of encouragement.
There is a board on Pinterest that is entitled, “500 Sometimes I Need Some Encouragement Ideas.” The board has thousands of followers. The website “The Positivity Blog” recently offered “145 Words of Encouragement” to its readers. The article contained uplifting and positive quotes from individuals like J.K. Rowling, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Robert Schuller.
On the front page of the website, keepinspiringme.com, the quotation reads, “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” Are you in need of encouragement?
Webster lists some eight entries building the definition of encouragement. The main offering suggests that encouragement is the act of inspiring courage, spirit or hope. The website, yourdictionary.com traces the root of the word to the Latin word coraticum, which meant “to make the heart daring.”
How can one make the heart daring in the troubled times and confused world in which we live? Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Over the next few weeks, let’s ponder words from the Book that for centuries has addressed what lies within us.
The Bible speaks often about encouragement. When the church was just beginning to expand its reach beyond its Jewish roots and into the Gentile world, Luke writes, “Then Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers” (Acts 15:32 NIV). They encouraged people with their words and their presence.
As Paul writes to the Romans about the spiritual gifts God has given people, encouragement is mentioned in the list as one of the spiritual gifts. The apostle nestles encouragement between the gift of teaching and the gift of generous giving. Encouragement is used along with a parallel phrase, “building each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Encouragement has so much value, and not everyone takes the time to use its power. The website ienergize.com says encouragement is a great motivator. “It makes people exert greater effort to accomplish their objectives. It helps to make people succeed.”
Does the Bible give any clues about how to be an encourager? Here are a handful of observations. First, on at least three occasions (Ephesians 6:22; Colossians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:2), Paul sent folks to encourage the churches about his circumstances — even when the circumstances were not favorable for the apostle.
Our tendency and human nature tend to lead us the opposite direction. We want to make sure people know of our troubles and turmoil. It is easier to dwell on the bad that has occurred. The key in the different approach is not denial of circumstances, but working diligently to not be self-focused. When I understand that the world is not all about me, it becomes easier to speak to the needs of others.
Second, Paul urges believers to encourage one another with words from Scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:18). When we do so, suddenly our words carry more value and meaning. When there are times when words seem to fail us, the words of the Bible can provide the right direction to our thoughts.
There are three parts of Scripture that an encourager grasps, understands and is able to communicate to others. An encourager understands God’s grace. Everyone is a sinner and in need of both forgiveness and a Savior. When you embrace God’s grace, it is difficult to be judgmental or Pharisaical. Grace leads us to a heart of compassion for the lost and patience and understanding for a more immature Christian.
An encourager also understands God’s victory. In a very real way, an encourager is a messenger of hope. The Bible tells us that God’s victory has overcome the world. One of Satan’s most powerful tools is the ability to deceive people into thinking there is either no hope in living a godly life, or that living a godly life does no good. A proper understanding of God’s victory tempers the power and potency of the enemy.
Finally, an encourager understands God’s love for people. It is difficult to be negative when attempting to see lives through God’s eyes. There appears to be three services that encouragement performs. An encourager recognizes potential, has the ability to temper the driven, and mentors the fallen.
Lastly, the Bible wants us to see that encouragement is more than just words. Jesus demonstrated that example. “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 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV). Encouragement that lasts is bolstered by actions.
Could you use a word of encouragement? Do you have the fortitude to offer one? Thomas Paine said, “I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”
Zig Ziglar wrote, “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”
Scott Gould wrote on his website, “The worst thing is when we have the encouraging words right there in our mouths, but our discomfort keeps them closed.”
Let’s spend some time over the next few weeks to figure ways to speak words of grace.