The Gift of Encouragement

The Gift of Encouragement

Don’t you love encouragement? It puts wind in our sails, and fosters confidence and joy in our hearts. We all know how it feels to be built up with loving encouragement. It’s marvelous. It boosts our often weary souls. So if encouragement is such a profound blessing, why don’t we hear more of it? Why are so few quick to offer it? And how can we cultivate more of it in our lives?

We see at least three different types of people when it comes to encouragement. There are encouragers, discouragers, and noncouragers. Like myself, you have known Christians in each of these three categories. The encourager is great to have around. One usually feels inspired and challenged in their presence. The encourager is markedly intentional in building others up. They regularly seek to speak a word or write a note or make a call to express love, appreciation, and encouragement to those around them. Their focus is on others. To be an encourager it has to be. The encourager recognizes the significant role of encouragement in the Christian life. It is meant to motivate and empower believers to keep running and not give up. Thank God for encouragers of all ages.

I remember several years ago feeling especially discouraged on a particular Monday morning. But that would quickly change. On my desk was a note from a precious little girl in our congregation. After a few kind words to her pastor she wrote out an encouraging verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58). The note brought me to tears. I knew it was from the Lord. He spoke through the instrument of parents who wanted both to encourage their pastor and teach their covenant child to do the same. Thank God for encouragers!

Sadly, there are also discouragers. Discouragers are tough to have around. They are negative, critical, and unhappy. Nothing is worthy of praise. Rarely, if ever, is gratitude expressed. Discouragers are unintentional Eeyores; that is, they usually don’t realize how much they discourage others. They tear down rather than build up. They point people to their dissatisfaction rather than to Christ. This dissatisfaction may be with themselves or others. This kind of negativity is often shrouded in a veil of spirituality.

Noncouragers (and, yes, I made this word up) are not manifestly encouraging or discouraging. They are simply there. While they don’t cause obvious discouragement, they don’t spur anyone on either.

Beloved, encouragement is not an option in the Christian life. Every Christian is called to be an encourager. Our heavenly Father commands us to “encourage one another and build one another up” (I Thess. 5:11), to “go on cheering and strengthening each other” (Phillips). We are exhorted to “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). We are taught that our conversation must be “such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Christ Church, we have all been guilty of playing the roles of discourager and noncourager. None of us measures up to God’s righteous standard. None of us loves as we ought. It’s all a reminder of our profound need of a Savior who provides mercy, forgiveness, and righteousness to sinners. Let us repent, therefore, and abide in him through faith. Moreover, in union with Christ, let us be more intentional in building each other up in the Lord, encouraging one another with God’s truth. Let us spur one another on. Let us emulate the person I heard of this past week who takes time every morning to contact a fellow believer with the express purpose of encouraging and praying for them. Take time this afternoon to pray about how you will actively and purposefully “encourage one another and build one another up.”

Pastor Jon