Summary: Spiritual Gifts Series - 10 of 13.
THE GIFT OF ENCOURAGEMENT
INTRO: Two old Texas cowboys were riding across the range one day when they came upon a herd of buffalo. They paused for a moment to look at those great animals. Then one cowboy said to the other, "Have you ever seen an uglier varmint than that?" The other replied: "Naw, I haven’t. Look at that big ugly head and that mangy hair." Then the two cowboys rode off. At that point one buffalo turned and said to another, "I think I just heard a discouraging word!"
I. A GOOD DEFINITION.
The Greek word translated "encouragement" in some translations and "exhort" in others, pictures someone coming alongside another person to offer support. Encouragement means: "to exhort, comfort, counsel, or help." As a gift of ministry, it means to support someone, to offer a steady hand, to come alongside someone in need, or to put your arm around someone who is about to fall.
ILLUS: One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. It is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet.
II. A GOOD EXAMPLE.
Jesus certainly knew how to encourage others! Think about the time the disciples were caught in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during a fierce storm. Just when they were ready to give up, Jesus came alongside their boat and said, "Take courage, it is I!" Just before His death, Jesus spent a great deal of time encouraging His disciples.
ILLUS: A good example of encouragement in the secular world is the role of cheerleaders at football games. Christians often have their backs to the wall, and those with the gift of encouragement need to get on the job.
III. GOOD USE OF THE GIFT.
What are the marks of people with the gift of encouragement? They are people who are willing to get involved with other people’s problems and heartaches. They are good listeners. Encouragers are sensitive to other people’s needs. Those who encourage others will offer forgiveness to those who need to make a new start.
If you have the gift of encouragement, use it. Write someone a letter, visit the sick, pat someone on the back, sit with the bereaved, share your money, be a good listener, and be available to others.
CONC: A number of years ago, in a mental institution just outside Boston, Mass., a young girl known as "Little Annie" was locked in the dungeon. This institution was one of the more enlightened ones for the treatment of the mentally disturbed. However, the doctors felt that a dungeon was the only place for those who were "hopelessly" insane.
In Little Annie’s case, they saw no hope for her, so she was confined to a living death in that small cage which received little light and even less hope. About that time, an elderly nurse in the institution was nearing retirement. She felt there was hope for all of God’s creatures, so she started taking her lunch into the dungeon and eating outside Little Annie’s cage. She felt perhaps she could communicate some love and hope to the little girl.
In many ways, Little Annie was like an animal. On occasions, she would violently attack the person who came into her cage. At other times, she would completely ignore them. When the elderly nurse started visiting her, Little Annie gave no indication that she was even aware of her presence.
One day, the elderly nurse brought some brownies to the dungeon and left them outside the cage. Little Annie gave no hint she knew they were there, but when the nurse returned the next day, the brownies were gone. From that time on, the nurse would bring brownies when she made her Thursday visit.
Soon, the doctors in the institution noticed a change was taking place. After a period of time, they decided to move Little Annie upstairs. Finally, the day came when this "hopeless case" was told she could return home. But Little Annie did not wish to leave. The place had meant so much to her she felt she could make a contribution if she stayed and worked with the other patients.
The elderly nurse had seen and brought out so much in her life that Little Annie felt she could see and help develop something in others. Many years later, Queen Victoria of England, while pinning England’s highest award on a foreigner, asked Helen Keller, "How do you account for your remarkable accomplishments in life? How do you explain the fact that even though you were both blind and deaf, you were able to accomplish so much?" Without a moment’s hesitation, Helen Keller said that had it not been for Anne Sullivan (Little Annie), the name of Helen Keller would have remained unknown.