ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
Part 2 in the “One Another” Series. Click here to read Part 1, Forgive One Another.
by Kent Sanders
About ten years ago I was on a train heading back home to Illinois, where I lived at the time. At one of the stops a complete stranger got up and gave a handwritten note to me. He was a young man with a backpack and I only caught a glimpse of him as the train pulled away. He must have overheard a phone conversation I had about some discouraging things I was facing.
The note said, “Do not be discouraged. Keep running the race that God has set for you. Do the work that God has planned for your life and trust Him to take care of the rest. Don’t get down when things aren’t running smoothly. Just trust God to take care of them. Keep your chin up (Hebrews 3.13).”
I still have that note. It was a simple yet incredible reminder of the power of encouragement. It’s a power that you and I possess but don’t use nearly enough.
Everyone needs encouragement. To see this firsthand, all you have to do is look in the eyes of the people you meet each day. It’s not hard to see the despair, anxiety, stress and hopelessness that in their eyes. Most people are starving for words of hope and affirmation.
This need is so deep, and so universal, that God commands us to encourage others with our words and actions. Listen to Paul’s instruction from 1 Thessalonians:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. [1 Thessalonians 5.12-22, ESV]
These verses are packed with practical ideas about how you can encourage others. Let’s look at five of them:
1. You encourage others by respecting their authority. Paul commands us to respect our spiritual leaders. It would easy to perceive this as a burden, but it’s actually a joy because you have the opportunity to encourage those who are responsible for caring for your soul. It’s a win-win for everyone!
2. You encourage others by being compassionate. The idle, the fainthearted, the weak…they all need help and support. It’s easy to judge others who aren’t living up to your standards, but the truth is that none of us live up to God’s standards. It’s much more effective to help and serve then condemn and judge.
3. You encourage others by your ethical behavior. Did you notice Paul’s two commands concerning evil? We shouldn’t repay anyone evil for evil, and we should stay away from every form of evil. The virtue, character and integrity you demonstrate is a form of encouragement all by itself.
4. You encourage others by maintaining good relationships. Rejoicing, giving thanks and being at peace with others are all ways to build great relationships. Anyone can be a powerful encourager if he or she invests in healthy relationships with others.
5. You encourage others by being intentional about it. Admonishing, being patient and helping are intentional actions. You can’t really help others by accident, and you certainly can’t be patient with others by accident! Encouraging others involves being mindful of the opportunities around us to be a positive force in the people’s lives, and then taking action.
You don’t need to be a superhero or possess amazing talents to be an encourager. You just need to be intentional about it. You can make a tremendous difference in people’s lives when you notice their needs and do something about it.
Who in your life could use some encouragement?
Maybe it’s a widow in your neighborhood who could use an encouraging word.
Maybe it’s your boss who is struggling under the weight of his or her responsibilities.
Maybe it’s your pastor who is dealing with unfair criticism from church members.
Maybe it’s the retail clerk who rang you up at the store, and you couldn’t help but notice despair and hopelessness in her eyes.
Maybe it’s your son or daughter who is struggling in school.
Or maybe it’s your husband or wife who has gained a few pounds and desperately needs to know you love and accept them unconditionally.
We live in a time of abundance. There is an abundance of technology, food, entertainment, and knowledge. But ironically, there is a critical lack of love and affirmation. Everywhere you look, people are thirsting for encouragement.
The ancient philosopher Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sometimes people will put on a happy face for everyone, but you can be assured that everyone you meet is going through a trial of some kind and could use a little encouragement.
And you, my friend, have the amazing opportunity to bring hope and healing through your words and actions. Whom will you encourage today?
Kent Sanders writes on art and creativity at ArtistsSuitcase.com. He is also Professor of Worship at St. Louis Christian College in Florissant, MO. You can connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. When you subscribe to the Artist’s Suitcase you will receive a free Artist’s Manifesto, a study guide and an EP of 5 songs!
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