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.
|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.
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).