Charles Swindoll has some wonderful words on the power of encouragement:
Encouragement is awesome. Think about it: It has the capacity to lift a man’s or woman’s shoulders. To spark the flicker of a smile on the face of a discouraged child. To breathe fresh fire into the fading embers of a smoldering dream. To actually change the course of another human being’s day … or week … or life. That, my friend, is no small thing. But it doesn’t stop there. Consistent, timely encouragement has the staggering magnetic power to draw an immortal soul to the God of hope. The One whose name is Wonderful Counselor. Is it easy? Not on your life. It takes courage, tough-minded courage, to trust God, to believe in ourselves, and to reach a hand to others. But what a beautiful way to live. I know of no one more needed, more valuable, more Christ-like, than the person who is committed to encouragement.
When I first started The Encourager’s Devotional Series, I wondered if it would get old discussing the same topic every month. I am glad that has not been the case. Rather, my Bible reading has been enhanced by looking at Scripture with “encourager’s eyes.” I’ve been amazed at how often the Bible discusses the topic. I find hints on how to be a better encourager, texts that help me broaden my definition of encouragement, and good examples of what it means to minister in this way, even when I am not reading for that purpose.
While studying 1 Thessalonians, I discovered the word encourage is used four times (3:2, 4:18, 5:11,14). Following are some of the notes I took as I read:
* 2:5 – Encouragement is not just flattery. We should get beyond the more superficial forms of encouragement (“You sure look nice today!”) to real edification. Notice how specific Paul is with the commendations he gives this church in chapter one – they labored in love, they showed endurance, they were good role models, and more. When we praise people for specific things they do, it “spurs them on to more love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).
* 2:6 – We seek to encourage for the benefit it brings to others, not for the praise of men. Some of you may be doing much in an effort to encourage others, even though you haven’t received even one card in the mail for yourselves. Many times you’ll never receive a “thank you” for something you’ve done. This passage speaks to these situations and helps us to keep our hearts and motivations right as we pursue this ministry. To keep a check on your motives, you might try anonymous encouragement now and then.
* 2:8,17; 3:2,6 – But there is also a time for personal, up close, encouragement. This book speaks often of Paul’s “intense longing” to see his brethren face to face. He also sent Timothy to them to “stengthen and encourage” them. Loving edification means sharing of ourselves, our lives – purposely and intentionally spending time with others.
* 4:10 – The Thessalonian believers are commended for loving each other, but exhorted to do it “more and more.” We cannot overestimate the power of encouraging relationships. We simply cannot do too much in this endeavor.
* 3:2,10; 5:12-14 – Besides expressing thanks for the good that people are doing, real edification should also involve “supplying what is lacking in their faith.” The goal is to help them grow stronger in their walk with the Lord and with others. For example, among other specific instructions, Paul tells these believers to honor those who work hard, to warn those who are lazy or disruptive, to be more patient and to live in peace with each other. This stronger, more direct form of encouragement may not be easy to give, or to receive, but the benefits are like the showers of rain in April which produce flowers in May. Sometimes we get tired of the rain in spring, but it is necessary for growth.
How comfortable are you with pouring on the stronger forms of encouragement?
How willing are you to receive it from others?