Encouragement, often in scripture called exhortation, is an amazing gift we have as believers and can be used to bless and minister to one another under the power of the Holy Spirit.
The interesting and stimulating conversations that have come from our recent studies of David & Jonathan, the discussion around passages from Hebrews & Acts, all suggests that encouragement and its impact is something we all relate to. Of course, encouragement is not limited to the people of God. People of all faiths and none can encourage one another. However, there is a dynamic in Christian, biblical encouragement that echoes through to eternity producing lasting fruit and honour to Jesus Christ.
Encouragement or exhortation are often linked in the bible to prophecy. (Acts 15:31-32). Godly encouragement can be distinguished from flattery as it is always a declaration of truth, it should therefore be sincere and altruistic. Biblical encouragement should have Jesus as a focus and foundation. When I say “Thank you so much. You have done well today; you really have a gift for this.” If I recognise that I am motivated by the Spirit to speak in this way then, I may not necessarily mention Jesus by name, but I am declaring truth and addressing the person and their spirit. You could add “I am so grateful to God” or “it has been an answer to prayer” but only if that is equally sincere.
So, let’s look more closely at what encouragement is. We have considered it as a declaration of truth. What else do we know?
Encouragement can be a few words spoken by you or to you reminding or reinforcing the hearer of truth about themselves, sometimes not yet seen, that uplifts and builds up. We remind people:-
• Who they are, character, qualities, strengths, gifts, abilities etc. You are saying this is the person I see. Thereby, informing what they might yet accomplish.
• Who God says they are. A bible verse or biblical truth helps to encourage here.
• Declaring truth. “You are very useful to me!” (Philemon 10-13) where perhaps the person has only ever been told you are useless.
Encouragement can be used to remind someone that you are there for them. Very important at this time of isolation and lock-down. We can also encourage by being alongside someone and walking their journey with them. The Holy Spirit is described as a ‘paraclete’ which means someone who comes alongside. Jesus also said, ‘I will be with you always’ (Matthew 28:20) To know He is with us is a source of encouragement.
The church family and believing friends, being there, can and should be a real encouragement to us, in word and deed through their prayers and their testimony.
Encouragement can be given by appreciation of something someone has done. Also, by saying ‘Thank you’ we are saying I needed you, you have given something to me that I possibly was unable to do myself. At the home group I attended this week we were also reminded that simply saying good morning can give to another person a sense of self-worth, they have been noticed.
Encouragement is a gift of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:8) We can all encourage others; some have a character more given to encouragement. It could be said they have a ‘gift’ in doing that. Holy Spirit inspired encouragement will always go deeper than the encouragements of common politeness. Christ centred, Holy Spirit inspired encouragement can be life changing for the person who receives it.
Encouragement embraces the prophetic, when you tell people, this is how I see you; this is who you can become. Even when we say, ‘You can do it!’ we are telling someone something that maybe at that point they can’t see. By this you are making a statement of faith in God, in His power and in them. This is encouragement.
Encouragement comes through our agreement to pray, the promises we make, and our commitment of friendship. All these can give so much to another person if expressed with love and sincerity.
Encouragement can be given to anyone, believers or unbelievers. We were commanded to go and preach the gospel. The gospel is the ultimate expression of encouragement. That a Holy God should love us so much that he sends His Son to die on our behalf. We no longer need to live with our failures, sin, shame, fears and weakness. Jesus Christ has borne them all. We can be that ‘other’ person he created and sees and we long, deep down, to be. Let us open our hearts to receive and give encouragement whenever, wherever and to whomever the Spirit directs us.
David the songwriter in the Psalms says, “But you O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid…..”
Tim Leavers 6th November 2020