Summary: What oxygen is to the body, encouragement is to the soul.
This is the eighth message in the series “Finding Hope in a Hopeless World.” This message is entitled “The Courage to Encourage.”
In 1872 Daniel Kelley was living in Kansas and wrote the words to the song, “Home on the Range.” It is the official song of Kansas. I like the part that says, “Home, home on the range. Where the deer and the antelope play (and in the late 1800s there were millions of antelope in Kansas, today there are less than 1,000).” But my favorite part is the next line: “Where seldom in heard a discouraging word.” Wouldn’t we all like to live where we seldom hear a discouraging word? But the truth is that many of the words we hear are demeaning and discouraging.
Some people are so negative they only see problems. A duck hunter bought a new dog. He took the dog out for the first time, and when he shot the duck, the dog ran across the top of the water and retrieved the duck. The hunter thought that was amazing. So the next day he took his hunting buddy, who was always negative and complaining. He shot a duck and his dog ran on the top of the water and retrieved the duck. He turned to his friend and asked, “Did you notice anything strange about my dog?” The negative guy said, “I sure did. He can’t swim worth a lick!”
It seems like everywhere we turn we hear discouraging words. It takes a lot of knowledge and skill to build a house, but it doesn’t take much skill to tear one down. In the same way, it’s easier to tear people down than to build them up.
Are you an encourager? When you are around people can they say of you, “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word?” It takes courage to encourage. Paul was an encourager. Let’s read his words to his friends in Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-10. “So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”
The word “encourage” means to impart courage to someone. What oxygen is to the body, encouragement is to the soul. Here’s a trivia question: What character in the New Testament was known more by his nickname than his real name? Give up? It was Barnabas. His real name was Joseph. “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” When Paul first met the Lord, the disciples in Jerusalem were skeptical of his conversion. After all, Paul had been persecuting Christians and arresting them. But it was Barnabas who took Paul to them and encouraged them to accept him as a brother.
What would be your nickname if people called you by your attitude and actions? Would you be called “Encourager” or “Helper” or “Teacher” or “Servant” or “Kindness?” Or would you be called “Lazy?” “Grumpy?” “Stingy?” “Gossiper?” “Tardy?” or “Critical?”
People gravitate toward encouragers. William Arthur Ward wrote: “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
Mary Kay Ash wasn’t in the cosmetics business; she was in the people business. She was a committed Christian who generously gave to First Baptist Dallas and Prestonwood. She wrote: “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make Me Feel Important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”