I’ve said before that when you receive the same message from different sources, God is trying to get you to look at something. I’ve been thinking about how discouraged people seem to be now. And then I read the daily devotional from 3-Minute Devotions for Women and then heard a sermon from Dr. Charles Stanley entitled “Be An Encourager”. The easiest thing for a sinful being to do is to ignore someone else’s suffering in discouragement, and perhaps even to make fun of it. But as Christ followers, that is not why we are here.
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1Thess. 5:8-14)
Caring for others, listening to them, and offering wise counsel is biblical. “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” (Prov. 27:9) God created us to live in community, and we are instructed to bear one another’s burdens (Galations 6:2). But there is often a fine line between bearing others’ burdens and bearing responsibility for their burdens. It drains us, and more importantly, it can keep them from seeking answers directly from God. It’s essential to remember that as Christians it is our job to point others to Christ, not become a substitute for Him. Sometimes the wisest words of advice we can offer are “Tell it to Jesus”.
We all experience times and situations when we need an encourager—someone who lifts us up if we’re down, motivates us to keep going when we want to give up, and stands with us through every challenging circumstance. What’s more, each of us needs to be an encourager to someone else. There are people all around us who are discouraged and could use a word of comfort or an act of kindness. Whether friends, family members, acquaintances, or strangers, we could make a tremendous difference in someone’s life and give them a glimpse of Christ as we follow His example of compassion and kindness. The Greek word for an encourager is “parakletos,” which means “one who is called alongside.” And that’s exactly what we are to do for one another—come alongside to help.
Jesus is our primary example of an encourager. Christ’s teachings were filled with words of encouragement on various subjects.
- Prayer. He taught His disciples to expect answers to prayer. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7).
- Forgiveness. Jesus showed them the importance and benefits of forgiving others (Matt. 6:14).
- Anxiety. Using the example of God’s provision for flowers and birds as proof of His care for them, He told the people not to be anxious (Matt. 6:25-34).
- Sin. When the Pharisees and Sadducees brought Him a woman caught in adultery, He didn’t condemn her but said, “Go [and] sin no more” (John 8:11).
- The Spirit. Christ’s most encouraging message was given to His disciples the night before His death. He told them of the persecution they’d soon face but also assured them that He would send His Spirit to be with them forever (John 16:1-7).
Jesus encouraged people with His actions, providing whatever was needed.
- Provision. After teaching a large crowd, He felt compassion for them because they were in an isolated place and had nothing to eat. Taking five loaves and two fish, He multiplied them to feed a crowd of over five thousand people (Matt. 14:19-21).
- Protection. When His disciples were caught in a storm on the sea and in danger of sinking, Jesus came to them walking on the water saying, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid” (Mark 6:47-51).
- Healing. On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus was not too busy to heal Bartimaeus, a poor, blind beggar who cried out to Him for mercy (Mark 10:46-52).
- Life. When Mary and Martha were grieving over the death of their brother, Jesus demonstrated His power by raising him to life (John 11:38-44).
- Care. Even in the midst of His suffering on the cross, Jesus was concerned for His mother and told John to take care of her (John 19:26-27).
How to become an encourager with our speech:
- Give a sincere compliment.
- Speak the truth with love. Agree when appropriate.
- Pass on helpful information.
- Encourage with Scripture and pray for them.
- Correct them when it’s appropriate.
- Let them know you love them.
- Comfort and assure them when they need it.
- Say thank you.
With our actions:
- Offer a smile or give a gift.
- Don’t interrupt but listen quietly.
- Hug them. Forgive them. Serve them.
- Point out their accomplishments and reward them.
- Be honest and patient.
- Accept them as they are.
- Point them in the right direction.
- Motivate them to be and do their best.