1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
God is calling us to a deeper level of knowing him and spiritual maturity in 2016! What could be more thrilling this year than knowing Him in a way you have never before experienced? This could mean multiple things to any believer. What will it mean for you?
The desire to grow in the ministry of encouragement has consumed my mind for a week, especially after watching the movie “The War Room” over Christmas. Miss Clara discerns what is going on with Elizabeth Jordan and counsels her in how to fight for her marriage God’s way. Miss Clara informs her that she had prayed for a person to share the lessons she had learned many years ago and that God answered her prayer to become a mentor. God expects us to be either counseled (encouraged) or to counsel and encourage in some capacity. And perhaps it has to do with whatever season of life we’re in as well. I believe that the prayer group I have attended for three years through my church has encouraged me.
Want to know a secret? I lean toward a melancholy disposition. Discouragement and self-pity can do me in the way I know others who struggle with pride and feeling offended. I have needed encouragement for most of my life. There. I admitted it. Now you understand the irony, and why growing into encouraging others will challenge me. Encouragement comes naturally for some people, such as my mother, and my immediate family has all been blessed by her. I’m not sure how she stays so positive. Maybe it’s because she intentionally doesn’t watch much news.
What does encouragement mean? According to Presbyterian minister Dr. Steven C. Riser of New Beginnings (EPC) based in northern Kentucky, the word is a compound of the prefix “en,” meaning to put into, and “courage,” meaning confident, brave and strong. To “encourage” means to put courage into someone. Courage to do what, exactly? “The courage to trust and obey God,” Riser says. Encouragers are pleasant to be around because they build others up and strengthen them. An encourager helps us when we are in trouble, when we are in a situation in which we cannot cope. A person needing help may not need comfort so much as challenge.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul urges the people to encourage one another and build each other up. The writer of Hebrews commands, “Exhort one another daily,” (Heb 3:13). “That means more than comfort,” Riser says. We are to challenge one another [in spiritual maturity] and stir up one another to love and good deeds. (Heb 10:24).
Nehemiah had the gift of encouragement, or exhortation as it is also called. “He saw a need, laid out a plan, then he assembled the people of Jerusalem. He shared his God-given vision and he exhorted and encouraged them by urging them to rise and rebuild the city walls,” Riser says.
What are the practical steps that I could take in order to move toward becoming an encourager? Sending encouraging notes and cards to those who I know are struggling to tell them that I am praying? Writing unexpected thank you notes to the people I appreciate? My mother has done this as long as I can remember for me and for countless others. Cards and affirmation don’t necessarily speak to everyone, but it’s a start. There are multiple ways to give encouragement and it will take prayer to discern who needs what.
The first obstacle for me to overcome is choosing to study God’s word in the evenings rather than watch a movie (but War Room was so worth it!). I confess that I have allowed movies to suck up the time I could be using for scripture reading and teaching on encouragement.
How much would all of our relationships change if we took five minutes to write a note to someone whom we know is discouraged, or a note to thank someone who has encouraged us?