Tag Archives: encouragement

Tools for Encouragement

Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.  Romans 15:2 (KJV)

As In The Word Ministries moves into its second decade of service, we will be launching a new program entitled Contending for Children (CFC).   While we declare that “children are our future”, unfortunately there are still gaps in services leaving our children victims of violence, neglect, and abuse.   It is our opinion that in order to live victoriously as individuals, both women and their children need to be included in our ministry efforts.

That being the case, my radar is continually in search of trends and new thinking concerning children.

In researching the topic of encouragement, I was introduced to an article by Dr. Timothy Evans entitled, “The Tools of Encouragement”.  While its focus is children, I found “spiritual fodder” for our series on encouragement for 21st century living.

Encouragement versus Discouragement

In his article, Dr. Evans cites attitudes and behaviors that compare encouragement to discouragement.  For space sake, I have listed below at few which, I feel, may fit with our discussion of encouragement.  I challenge you to review the total list  as an “informal assessment” of your personal “encouragement style” with others God has placed in your life.   

ENCOURAGEMENT DISCOURAGEMENT
Hopeful view of people’s nature Hopeless view of people’s nature
Individual’s behavior is purposeful Individual’s behavior is caused by outside forces and victimization in the past
Influence without strings Control, force, and fear
Equality as human beings Superiority-sitting in judgment
Chatting-talking with Advising-telling to
Being ourselves, fine as we are Pleasing and proving
Recognizes effort and improvement Recognizes only tasks well done
Courage to be imperfect Fear of mistakes

 After a review of the behaviors, I found that many of the actions I had believed to be “helpful” could have instead been discouraging to those whom I had hoped to assist.

I now better understand that encouragement needs to flow from a heart that “stands with” the person in need of support.  Its end result should reflect renewed hope and confidence.   Jesus understood this dynamic and demonstrates for us the best model for encouragement.         

The Master Encourager:  Inspiration to hope and service

By His very nature, Jesus was the greatest of all encouragers.   Whether with His disciples or with the crowds, Jesus’ words spoke life and possibilities to those in need of support and confidence.

Jesus encouraged others to an expectant hope.  Jesus comforted His disciples with living hope—hope found in the promise of His resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3).  Jesus told them not to have their hearts troubled because “if they believed and trusted in the true and living God, they could also believe and trust in Him” (John 14:1).  Hope was fostered by the fact that God had a purposeful future planned for them including a place in heaven.

Jesus encouraged others in preparation for service.  Jesus spent His closing days with His disciples ensuring them that He would not leave them as orphans but instead promised the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, would come alongside them to help fulfill their purpose and their service to mankind (John 14:16-18).  The Holy Spirit now indwells each of us in the 21st century to do the very same thing.

Encouragement—RECAST  

Although we as Christians may not experience overt persecution or hatred, we do feel the pressures and disappointment that comes from living in this fallen world.  Discouragement is not an uncommon human experience.  Therefore encouragement is needed.  

For the recipient, encouragement helps individuals manage through times of trials and spiritual discipline.  It undergirds them when they may feel like giving up (Heb. 12:5). Encouragement gives hope and helps believers to continue their walk of faith (Rom. 15:4).

For the donor, encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (1 Cor. 13:4-7). It takes attention away from self and refocuses on the needs of others (1 Thess. 5:11).  Encouragement of believers ultimately supports the Great Commission—the advancement of God’s kingdom.

I’d like to close this series with as acrostic that will help to remind us of the importance and purpose of encourage.  The word is HOPE:  Helping Others’ Purpose Evolve.   As believers we are to follow the example of Christ in encouraging other to pursue their purpose outlined before the foundations of the world (Eph. 2:10); to accomplish the days fashioned for them before they existed (Ps. 139:16).

The Encouragement Challenge

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,

just as you are doing.  1 Thess.  5:11 (NRS)

Are you an encourager?  Do your words and actions move others  toward their God-given purpose?  Or do they cause others to “wilt in the sun”?

Relational tension, strife, dysfunction

Loneliness, disconnectedness

Depression, hopelessness, suicide

These conditions of mankind call for more than a “pat on the back”.  They require an intentional plan to come along side individuals God places in our lives.  Believers in Christ are being called to step-up to the encouragement challenge.   

The Spiritual Gift of Encouragement

The spiritual gift of encouragement is listed in Romans 12:8.  While specific spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Rom. 12:6-8) are given  by the Holy Spirit “to prepare God’s people for works of service”, all Christians are called to encourage others (1 Thess. 5:11).

In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded to encourage Joshua who would be the leader to take the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deut. 1:38). King Josiah helped return his people to the Lord through his encouragement to the priests (2 Chron. 35:2).

In the New Testament, Paul sought to encourage believers through his visits, his many letters, and his prayers (Acts 20:2). Other encouragers included Silas (Acts 15:32), Tychicus (Col. 4:8) and Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2).

Some believers are “especially gifted” to be encouragers.  One of the strongest examples found in the New Testament is Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). He would become known as a son of encouragement and later help bring Paul into the church as a leader.

Encouragement and Sanctification

Encouragement is positive feedback that focuses primarily on effort or improvement rather than outcomes.[1]

This is important for “mature” Christians to know as they work with new Christians who need more encouragement and less “correction” to help them grow in their faith.

In addition, sanctification (being conformed to the image of Christ) is accelerated through use of encouragement.   Encouragement helps believers strive for “improvement” each day being fully aware  that we will never reach perfection until heaven.

Also Read, “Help the Stragglers”

Why is Encouragement important?

Encouragement is the vehicle God uses to help believers live out  their purpose and true identity in Christ.  In addition, encouragement helps believers to:

    • Navigate in the 21st century.  The belief that we areOne nation under God” is  no longer true as key institutions are dismantled (church and family) and Christian beliefs are diminished (respect for others and the value of life).  Individuals feel devalued, hopeless, and powerless.   Encouragement builds inner resiliency and hope (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
    • Equip the saints. The Bible instructs believers to “examine themselves” (2 Cor. 13:5) and “grow in faith” (Eph. 4:15).  Encouragers are needed to help other believers become spiritually mature and ready for service.  This does not give us authority to meddle in  others’ lives.  It should, however, cause us to “be on the watch” for God’s divine opportunities to provide encouragement.  Encouragement provides needed support for spiritual growth and maturity (Rom. 15:1).
    • Build the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God came with the arrival of Jesus Christ.  He has charged every believer to expand His kingdom by sharing the Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).  Our lives and service to mankind are to be “living testimonies” to  God’s goodness and His greatness.  Encouragement draws nonbelievers to God and citizenship in His kingdom (Eph. 2:19).

Are You Up for the Encouragement Challenge?

Encouragement is not only the action of giving someone support or confidence but it is also about giving inspiration for hope and service.

Encouragement is a social imperative that can radically reverse the pattern of  despair we face in our communities, in this country and the world.

Encouragement is a principle from God that originates from His love and grace (Is. 41:10).  It is how the Kingdom of God increases and how its citizens are to operate in this fallen world.   Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)

[1]   The Tools of Encouragement,  Dr. Timothy D. Evans

Encourage Yourself

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.   Joshua 1:6 (NKJ)

Donald Lawrence, gospel music songwriter and producer recorded a song that should resonate with believers living in the 21st century.  It is entitled “Encourage Yourself”.  Each verse and chorus repeats the need to continue moving forward when everything (and everyone) is pushing you back or holding you down.   

Sometimes you have to encourage yourself

Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test

And no matter how you feel

Speak the word and you will be healed

Speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord.

I know we typically think of encouragement as coming from outside ourselves, but it’s important to remember that we, as believers have a personal responsibility to “speak over and encourage ourselves in the Lord.”  How do we do that?  By speaking the truth—that which we “know” by faith.   In our text, Joshua had reason to lose courage.  Moses was dead and he now must lead over 2.5 million Israelites into the Promised Land.  And who would be there to encourage him?  The Lord and Joshua himself (Josh. 1:5).

Satan—our model for discouragement

 During times of weakness, Satan will use his favorite “tools” to wreck our confidence.  He will use discouragement, deception, and disappointment to thwart our efforts to move toward God and His purpose for our life (Jer. 29:11).  Discouragement is by far his favorite.  The base word for discourage means to deprive of or cause to lose courage (des- “away” (see dis-) + coragier, from corage “spirit”).  It is Satan’s plan to lead us away from a “spirit of courage”.

 It’s what “we know” that makes the difference

So what do we need to know that will help us encourage ourselves?  I will define each point with selected scripture you can memorize to combat Satan’s attacks.

We need to know Who God is.

  • You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
  • The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
  • Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

We need to know who we are—our identity in Christ.

  • The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)
  • Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
  • But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) 

We need to know our citizenship.

  • For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
  • For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
  • “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Encouragement for believers is more than a pat on the back or a hearty “at-a-boy”.  Encouragement is the discipline of building endurance and resolve for the journey God has set before us.   Although encouragement often comes from our families and our “tribes” (communities), it is in those quiet moments of doubt or desperation, we need to “speak words” (God’s Word) that “heal” and can cause “giants to fall”.

A Call to Encouragement

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  Hebrew 3:13 (NIV)

When I think of encouragement, George Nance comes to mind.  George “adopted me” as a new manager with Southwestern Bell (SWB).  George “came along side me” and coached me on how to navigate this new and foreign job of managing one of SWB’s million dollar account.  It was hard and I often thought of returning to teaching but I held on because George was there to encourage me.

Throughout my life, there has always been someone who stood with me to encourage me to be all that I could be.  Little did I know then that it was God at work (through my friends and family) keeping me moving forward to the purpose He had established for my life (Ep. 2:10).

Such is the role of one called to the side of one in order to teach, comfort, strengthen or “push them” to act in a certain way (as George did for me).  There are other words in the Bible that have similar meaning such as exhort, warn, and admonish.  The context of the Scripture will dictate what best describes the meaning for that situation.

Encouragement is defined as the action of giving someone support or confidence.  I would like to expand that definition by saying that encouragement is also “inspiration to hope and service.”

Encouragement Basics

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words translate encourage to mean “strengthen” (Deut. 31:6; Joshua 1:7, 9).  The basic New Testament word for encourage is paraklesis which interpreted means a calling to one’s aid.  In John 14:16, Jesus promised to send the Disciples another just like Himself (The Holy Spirit) who would walk with them; in this case “comfort” is the intended meaning of encourage.  “Exhort” is also used to mean encourage.  Its purpose is to build endurance and “spiritual doggedness” during times of trial and testing.  Such was the case in our text today.

The Need for Encouragement

The recipients of this letter were believers who had come to faith through the testimony of eyewitnesses of Christ. They were not novices and they had successfully endured hardships because of their stand for the gospel (Heb. 10:32-34).  Unfortunately, they had become “dull of hearing” and were in danger of drifting away.  This made them particularly susceptible to the renewed persecutions that were coming upon them and the author of Hebrews found it necessary to check the downward spiral with “the word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22).

“Today” referred to social and political pressures that potentially threatened their faith walk and Christian witness. “Sin’s deceitfulness” speaks to satanic attacks to simply “give in” to the external pressures versus standing firm in the faith.  In this case, it meant returning to Judaism.   

Fast forward to the 21st Century 

Our “Today” mirrors that of the writer of Hebrews.  Our faith is being challenged and with each day we are persecuted for our Christian beliefs and practices.  And what is the Church’s response?  What is our individual response?

In many case we have become dull of hearing and drifting away.  “Sin’s deceitfulness” has lured believers (and non-believers) into a false sense of “rightness” resulting in willful disobedience and depraved immorality.  Ruin is the outcome for those who continue on this path.

Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

The prophets give false prophecies, and the priests rule with an iron hand. And worse yet, my people like it that way! But what will you do when the end comes? Jeremiah 5:31

People think they are wise following the ways of the world, but in reality, they have become fools (Rom. 1:21-22).

Read:  Prayer Delivered in Kansas State Legislature

Encouragement in its basic form is a call to move people to hope and service for the Lord.  It is meant to incent believers to pursue God’s divine purpose for their life (Jer. 29:11).  Whether we strengthen, comfort, or exhort, every believer has a part to play in the spiritual success of those individuals God places in our path.  It’s time for a “word of encouragement.”

Encouragement in the Gloom

 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;

But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 20:7  (KJV)

 After reading the morning paper, this thought came to mind–“the gloom deepens.”   Later that day my incoming mail  reminded me of the rising costs of utilities and health care.  More gloom!

I watched the evening news as it featured escalating tension in this country on all fronts–social, political, and economical as people become overwhelmed with “just living”. Heightening tension between the “have’s and the have nots”, fear as a result of mass shootings and gun violence.  Abroad there is civil disorder and conflicts around the world.  The gloom continues!

While these events are serious and very real, how are we, as believers in Christ, to respond to their underlying message of gloom? We are to be encouraged!

 We have been told in God’s Word that we will go through troubling times, much like those we are currently experiencing.

  • You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.  (Matthew 24:6-8, 12)
  • People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  (2 Timothy 3: 2-4)

But God has promised in the midst of these life storms to faithfully care for us. We can trust in Him!

  • “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:14-16)
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Knowing God can be trusted and is faithful, we can respond to the gloom message with a different voice than the world.

  • “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– He who watches over you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121: 1-3)
  • “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

Today’s news will soon be behind us. Tomorrow there will be something “different” to grab our attention–as a nation, as a family, or as an individual. The thing that remains constant is that God is still in control. It is in Him we will place our trust. The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).

Do not let the world’s reaction to the current financial and social upheaval dictate how you will respond. The world reaction is based on its dependency on itself–its wisdom, its power, and its resources. That dependency is resulting in fear and panic. We will trust in the Lord.