Summary: We all need to be encouraged. Do we however have an obligation to be encouragers?
MOVIE CLIP – “SAVE THE LAST DANCE”
Lead character is on the stage auditioning when she stumbles. She feels she cannot make it, when her close friend enters stage left and challenges her, leading up to him saying, “I believe in you.” She tries again and succeeds.
What a beautiful lesson of encouragement. Her supporting friend was also a dancer, therefore understanding what she was facing.
You have your own stories of being encouraged at just the right time. It may have been the phone call that said, “I couldn’t get you off my mind and thought I should call”; the card that showed up in the mail when you thought no one knew or cared; the invitation to coffee; the word that told you there was nothing to worry about because things would be okay.
There’s another angle to this subject. It features the question, what are your experiences of being the encourager instead of the encouraged? We all need to be encouraged. Do we however have an obligation to be encouragers? Does the Bible have anything to say to us on these fronts? I think so, both directly and implied. I also have a sense that it is much more than telling someone they did a good job in a particular way, which certainly has its value. The lesson of deepest significance in our Bible reading is that responsibility of encouraging one another to hold on in faith and relationship with God. It is there that we must be encouraged never to quit. We can find this lesson in the Book of Hebrews the 10th chapter. We are told in verses 24-25, “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” Pastor and author, Chuck Swindoll says of these verses, “it isn’t just a suggestion, an off-the-cuff, casual idea like, “Oh, by the way,…it might be good, while your holding fast to the faith, to toss in a little encouragement.” The whole family of God is responsible to encourage others.
One of the first implied encouragement lessons in our Bible reading is this:
1. Encouragement begins with appreciation
Can you see the love and passion that Paul feels for the people that he speaks of wanting to see? This does not mean however that there were no challenges and disputes with them. In chapter two one reads of Paul’s strong words about the behaviour of many and his rebuke would lead one to think that from chapter one to chapter two he changed his mind about how he felt! No, it was because of his deep love for them that he would not go easy on them. Before his conversion, his awakening to God’s plan for life, Paul was a persecutor of the Church. He was blind to the hope of life through Jesus Christ. When Paul was delivered from that destructive path he worked hard to keep those he led in the path of truth and godly living. Paul walked where they were headed. He fully understood the innocent stupidity of ignorance and believing something to be true that was not; he knew too well the dangers and condemnation of blindness to truth that can lead one on exploits and convictions that feel so absolutely right yet be absolutely misguided and disastrous. His encouragement was borne out of his appreciation for who they were – they were God’s people!
If we are to be encouragers, we have to learn to see the good in people; to look for the best first; to believe the finest of someone until that person gives us evidence to think something different. If we cannot appreciate the redemptive qualities in people, we cannot be effective in the work of encouragement.
It is that experience in the life of a young man who frequently attending the local church of The Salvation Army in his community. His family history was quite sketchy and unknown. The realities of his current life saw him living in a private bedroom in a public men’s facility. His possessions were meager enough to be stored in a single-door closet – most of it on the floor with two or three garments hanging on the rack. He hung his ragged, stained, smelly garments as if they were the finest pin-stripped suits in the world! The church also arranged pick-up for him every Sunday and for any weekly functions he was eligible to attend. This teenage lad was not known to keep him self well hygienically. It was not uncommon for the drivers to suggest he go back to his room, shower and be ready when they came back around 30 minutes later. There were any number of people who continued this frequent routine of encourage his finest, picking him up, taking him home and making sure he was always part of the family. Why? Because they appreciated his struggles and unfair turn of events. They could not imagine what life must have been for him all those years but they knew they could make the here and now much brighter with purpose and friends.