“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.”
In my last post, I shared a story about a crisis incident I faced with one of our daughters. That incident provoked me to do the unthinkable! (At least it was unthinkable for me!) I ran away!
I ran to a friend’s house to seek comfort and advice. What took place in that short visit was nothing short of a miracle. Before I arrived at her door, I was ready to abandon my responsibilities of motherhood. I felt like a total failure! I left her home, resolved to go back to my family; to keep on loving my daughter; to do what was right—even though I knew it would be tough! (And it was—but that is another story!)
Without my friend’s verbal encouragement, I would have given up!
Something she said made me want to keep trying! It made me strong on the inside, and checked the critic inside my head that was telling me bad mother I was. Through her encouragement, I resolved to keep on keeping on!
“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”
These words come from the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:24, NASB). In different versions, these words are translated differently: we see the words “spur one another on” or “stir up”.
To ‘stimulate’ holds the idea of rousing someone to action or effort, as by encouragement or pressure. To ‘spur on’ evokes the mental picture of ‘to incite’—to ‘urge on or prompt to action’.
These word pictures conjure up just what happened in my mind and heart, through talking with my friend, that time long ago. I know you too, have experienced a time when you felt like quitting, but the words of a friend gave you courage to do the right thing.
“. . . and let us consider how. . .’
In this article, I want to focus on that phrase ‘. . .and let us consider how’.
How can we “stimulate, spur on, incite” someone else to love and good deeds? What can we possibly do, or say that will help another in this regard?
In the case of my story—my friend, Joyce reminded me of my God-given responsibility to my daughter, my other children, and my husband. She urged me to not let this one time incident derail me long—but to face the issues squarely, bravely and with the Lord’s help! She roused within me the desire to get back into the action and do the right thing! (Is that ‘incitement?’)
Most of us do not have a Pollyanna nature!
I have discovered that this remarkable gift is not innate in the character of the Christian. In fact, perhaps only a measly 5%, or less of us, have a natural inclination to see something good, or positive in a not-so-good situation. But it is something we can all learn. And as with most things we learn, practice is necessary! I believe that if we are genuine in our desire to learn to be a better encourager, God will give us opportunity to ‘practice’.
How can we become better at this amazing responsibility of encouraging others?
By learning from others and from the Word of God! For some of us, this will involve some grunting, groaning and a lot of prayer! And making some choices daily.
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul is a prime role-model of a good encourager.
Besides being an effective evangelist, Paul was a remarkable teacher and leader, and encourager. All through his writings, one can see his heart of encouragement and exhortation. He knew that this one thing, next to complete devotion to Jesus Christ, would make a difference in the lives of people—and he wanted the young Church to learn how to do this one thing well.
To the new Christians of Colossae, he urged them to ‘. . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’. . . Bear with each other. . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you rightly as you teach and admonish one another with wisdom. . . *
To the Church at Philippi, he said, “Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.”
In Galatia, he admonished, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
And to the believers in Ephesus, he encouraged them to “. . . put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
This attitude of caring for one another should be as evident in a Christian’s character as the very clothes he wears!
Putting on these virtues speaks of choice. Just as we choose daily what clothes we put on, so should do the same we with encouragement! Each morning shouldn’t we ask the Lord, “Make me aware, Lord, who it is that needs a word of encouragement, that only I can give?”
“The Gift of Encouragement: How to be a Warm Shoulder in a Cold World,“ is a small book written by Gloria Chisholm (© 1990). It contains some great insights on becoming a better ‘encourager.’ I hope the following action points, from her book, will furnish you with inspiration and motivation to step out boldly and encourage someone this week.
Some Practical How-To’s of Encouragement
- Be Specific (Phil 4:14)—The Apostle Paul was specific when he told the new believers ‘how good of them to share in his troubles’. (Col.1:3, 4)—Paul thanked God for them because their faith was being reported all over the world.
- How many times has someone make a comment to you that was so vague you went away wondering what ‘specifically’ they were talking about? As Christians, we often say, ‘You really blessed me!’ Well—HOW EXACTLY did I bless you? Was it something I said? Did? Didn’t say? What was it?
- Be Honest, yet kind. “Many times only a fine line exists between encouragement and flattery or manipulation…But being honest means that we will encourage others only when we can do so with veracity. We don’t want to become known as flatters.” (Chisholm, pg.46)
- Be assertive—being positive or confident in a persistent way. “I’ve learned to look for some positive factor in every situation and in every person with whom I connect.” If we look for it, we’ll find it.
- Be spontaneous—Be in the moment! Don’t delay. “Listen to your heart instead of your head.” God may be nudging you to say or do something, but your rational thinking is talking you out of it! Go with your heart–it’s most likely right!
- Don’t worry about the reception: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Prov. 3:27) “ How your encouragement is received cannot be allowed to undermine your obedience to God in relaying the message. If you dwell too much on how your actions will be received, you’ll never get around to doing them because you will visualize some ridiculous scenario in which you will end up looking like a fool.” (Chisholm, pg.50)
- Be Consistent— Build the habit of ‘encouraging’ one another! Make it your goal not to leave church, your Bible study class, or work place until you have encouraged at least one person; speaking at least one encouraging statement any time you are in a one-on-one with your family or friends. Send one or two notes of encouragement a month–people still love getting personal mail!
- Be a Transmitter—bearing words of encouragement from one person to another. (pg.51) I call these ‘second-hand’ (or even third-hand) compliments. It’s telling someone something complimentary that you heard from a mutual party. This will go a long way to encourage someone.
- Be there! The very act of ‘showing up’ is sometimes the most amazing act of encouraging ever! There are a few among us who are particularly gifted in this way—being supportive simply by being present. With these people, words are few, their actions are helpful, and you sense their caring and warmth by their prayers, tears and quiet presence.
Encouragement is hard to measure!
There is no exact formula that works for everyone, every time. Some of the things Gloria Chisholm mentioned in her book may work for some—but others won’t! How we go about encouraging others is a very individual thing. No method will work 100% of the time. But one thing is certain, the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of every Christian and He will guide us in these things. Our part is to become aware of the needs of others, and obedient to the Spirit’s promptings, as He directs us.
Thank you for taking the time today to get to the end of this post. I hope that you picked up one or two new insights. If you did, please send me a note, letting me know what worked for you!
If you would like to see what more of what God’s Word says about the topic of encouragement, I have written a Bible Study entitled, A Letter of Encouragement: A Study of 2 Timothy. You can have this Bible study free of charge, by simply clicking on the ‘follow’ box in this blog page. By doing so, you will be asked to leave your email address. I will send you the link to download a PDF of the first installment of this bible study: Chapter 1: Hold On! Encouragement is Important Business! Each week for the next 6 or so, there will be a new lesson for you to download for FREE. Please feel free to use this study with your study group or pass on to someone who may need God’s encouragement! My only stipulation is that you give credit to the author–(it is copyrighted material). This book will soon be available, as a completed work, and can be purchased for a reasonable price. I will keep you updated on this information. Thank you.
God bless you as you enter a deeper study on this topic and I hope you seize every opportunity to encourage another!
Come back next week for: “Introducing the Apostle Paul: A Biblical Encourager”
Enjoy your week!
*Scripture verses used in this post are:
Colossians 3:12, 13a;16a); Philippians 2:4; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:2
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