We all could use a dose of encouragement. There always are, and always will be, troubles, hurt, and pain. To encourage is to build up, lift up, and to give hope. Encouragement can take the form of words, actions, or even just presence. Words are great, but alone are not enough. Imagine someone is sinking in a mud hole. They don’t want just words of encouragement, but a hand to help them out. Someone grieving or lonely do not want words at all sometimes, but just the knowledge of your presence and your prayers.
Why should we encourage others? Two main reasons are given in the scriptures to those who call themselves Christians. One is that it is a command by Jesus Christ for us to encourage each other. Second, it is a necessary part of meeting each others’ needs, part of being dependent on each other.
The Bible has some synonyms for encouragement, words that mean encouragement, but in different ways. One such word is comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In these verses, we see that encouragement (or comfort) is an example that God provides, a gift that He gives us, so that we can pass it on to others. We do something best when we have been shown how to do it.
Another word for encouragement is the gift of peace. In John 14:27, Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” So in times of turmoil, we can have, and pass on, this wonderful and encouraging peace (tranquility).
Encouragement is a demonstration of the love of God. 1 Peter 4:8-10 says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” The consequences of sin are the most painful experiences that a person can have, but this verse encourages us that love softens the blow. When we love instead of condemning, we help the person get back on track in an easier way than by harsh experience.
Encouragement is also demonstrated by bearing each others’ burdens. Taking care shows that you care. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The best way to encourage someone who is weighed down by many cares, worries, or stressors, is to come alongside them and help carry the burdens. We can also help them know which burdens are not theirs to carry, and thus be able to cast them off, or give them to God.
The command to encourage one another is given to Christians, regarding other Christians. The only way you can encourage a non-Christian is to give them hope by leading them to Christ. Hebrews 10:23-25 explains the reason for meeting together as believers, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” When we are allowed to meet (and we are ... in small groups outside for the moment ... soon more), it is not about what you can get, but about what you can give. Sunday morning services are for two purposes: (1) to give worship to God together, and (2) to encourage each other in the struggle for our faith, and the advancement of the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 commands, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” We should realize by now that encouragement is a constant need, since the oppression and attacks by the devil are also constant until Christ returns.
Romans 14:19 instructs, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” God wants us to be dependent on Him and each other, so that we can be unified in our purpose and vision. We can only accomplish His will for us when we work together. The building of this unity happens best, and most positively, when we encourage one another (mutual upbuilding).
Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” In these days, anxiety is rampant, and fear is far too prevalent. Let us spread good words that can make hearts glad. Encouragement can come in many forms. Previously I mentioned words, actions, and presence.
Words: The words that give encouragement are usually words of hope that there is an end to the pain. It is a light at the end of the tunnel. Words can also remind of God’s promises of His presence, His power, and that He will carry us through the valleys in our lives.
Actions: The things we do that give encouragement include lending a hand, which is bearing each other’s burdens, and providing relief. In the past there have been fads (that could certainly come back) where people would do Acts of Random Kindness (ARK), or Pay-it-Forward. The most encouraging are the ones done anonymously, without expectation of return or thanks. These are also the ones that gain rewards in Heaven for those who are true Christians.
Presence: Two things encourage those who are down or grieving. One is the presence of someone who cares, who is willing to just sit and listen, who is there for a hug. The other, is reminders of the presence of God, who also is willing to listen and show He cares.
Let us encourage each other today. As you encourage others, you in turn will be encouraged.