Verbal Encouragement Can Bring Life!
Sometimes I find myself so preoccupied with my own set of circumstances that I don’t notice others around me. When my preoccupation abates, I look around. There are hurting people all around–-hurting more deeply than we know (and more than they themselves know–like one who has a terminal illness but is not yet aware it is taking over their body.)
When I’m preoccupied, if I sense a ‘nudge’ from the Holy Spirit to go and encourage someone—I’m often way too ready to talk myself out of it. Why is this?
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Linda,” says a wee, small voice inside my head. “Maybe you’re one of those “out of sight—out of mind” kind of people. What’s so bad about that?“
“No,” I reply–(to the voice). “It’s just that I’m so in-the-moment. I don’t have time to get involved!”
“Ya,” the voice returns. “I know what you mean. Like, you are so busy with what’s happening right now, that you never see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ moments when they come. Too bad. There’s a lot of hurting people out there just waiting for your encouragement! A little forethought might help–and a little follow-up couldn’t hurt.”
“Hey! Give me a break! I can’t help everybody, can I?”
I argue a mental defense of my apathy, but it doesn’t help. The truth stands! There ARE a lot of hurting people out there, and they are walking around, almost invisible to those who are often the healthiest–who can and should be able to ‘stir up, to provoke, to inspire them on their journey through life.
Are we just too busy to be an Encourager? Doesn’t that take a lot of time?
According to Dr. Larry Crabb, in Encouragement, The Key to Caring,
“Every Christian, regardless of gift or training is called upon to encourage his brothers and sisters. . . .And when we meet together as God’s people, we are to encourage one another, to say and do things that stimulate others to a deeper appreciation of Christ and to stronger commitment to our relationship with Him and with each other.” (pg.15)
The authors of this book pose some challenging questions on this topic:
- What does it mean to actually encourage one another?
- What must be true of my life before I can encourage someone else?
- How can we use our words to encourage one another?
Today we are going to consider just one of those questions: the importance of our words in encouraging one another.
Words that nourish; heal–give life!
According to Dr. Crabb and Dr. Allender, “Christians are commanded to encourage one another. Because words have the power to affect people deeply, it is appropriate to consider how to encourage fellow Christians through what we say.”
The Bible says much about our words.
A stroll through the Book of Proverbs, our greatest source book of wisdom, will enlighten your heart on the topic of the tongue and the power of words. Words that have the power to heal or hurt, to deceive or to build up; to bless or to curse–to give life or death. Here are just a few.
- “The tongue has the power of life and death. . .”(Prov.18:21)
- “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Prov. 12:25
- “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life. . .” (Prov.15:4a)
- “Pleasant words are. . .sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:24
- “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Prov.25:11)
Words are important! They have very real power–even to the point of determining the whole course of human existence! (Just think about the great figures of the past, whose words changed the course of history. ) In the book of James 3:5-6–we see a vivid description (and warning) of the small, but powerful muscle–the tongue–and the great harm it can do. But we can also say, under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit, it can do great good! We have all felt the power of a well-aimed word–both positively and negatively.
Verbal encouragement–a key to demonstrating Christ’s love in the world.
Verbal encouragement is more than shallow words–comments that appear to be friendly and helpful, but fail to follow through with actions to match. Shallow words do not encourage. They leave us feeling empty and disappointed.
On the other hand, verbal encouragement can be a useful key in the hands of one who desires to demonstrate Christ’s love in the world. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Prov.25:11).
Verbal encouragement is like joining someone else on their journey, speaking words that encourage them to keep moving on despite physical and emotional fatigue, and setbacks. Or, like the rousing cheers of a devoted parent, as their child rounds the last stretch in a cross-country race--“You can do it! Go! Go! Go! You’re almost there!
Encouraging others is a choice
Encouraging others is a choice—a choice we usually make after reflection on a given set of circumstances of which we’ve been made aware, and a sense that our word might make a difference. Out of that reflection—words of praise and encouragement sooth, nurture, redirect and urge someone to do the right thing.
I saw this principle in action in a movie recently. The character speaking was a trained combat soldier, highly skilled at using a knife in combat. After his stint in the military he took to the streets, selling his expertise to the highest bidder–becoming an assassin, of sorts, to players in the underworld of crime. At one point in the story, this man (now transformed and on a better path), was trying to encourage a young woman to use her street-acquired skills for good. He told her about his mentor and friend–the one man who impacted his life more than any other.
His mentor was a world-famous Chef, who now ran a culinary school for street kids and ex-military men who had no marketable job skills–in the hopes of giving them something positive to live for. This character commented, “He taught me how to use a knife for good instead of for harm–to give life instead of death!” A great testimony on the power of words!
Just do it! Your words can bring life!
Haven’t you had a sense, sometimes, that you should say something to someone in particular? When that ‘sense’ happens–just do it! Your words can bring life and change to the heart of another! “The tongue has the power of life and death. . .”(Prov.18:21)
Change often comes with one person seeing potential in another–building that one up with words, and guiding them to a path for good. Thankfully this happened in the movie. This character’s words did impact that young woman, and she made some good life-choices that altered her future.
“Words can encourage, discourage, or do nothing. Shallow words will accomplish little, death words discourage, and life words encourage. We must learn to speak sincerely with positive impact, using our words to help other Christians pursue the pathway of obedience more zealously.” (Encouragement, the Key to Caring, pg.25)
How about you? Who has spoken life-words to you?
Pause for a moment. Recall, if you can, a time when a friend, teacher, counselor or athletic coach said something that brought out the best in you–or turned the direction of your life through their well-aimed words.
Does thinking about that person still encourage you today?
Pick up your Journal and write about that person. If you can, identify what it was that encouraged you so much back then. How has it helped you to be a better person today?
Whenever I’ve been encouraged, it develops with in me a thankful heart!
Thanksgiving is a natural and healthy response to being encouraged. Don’t let it become ‘the expected thing’ or taken for granted. Encouragement is a gift–one given to us from the Father–delivered through His children. Take a few minutes to thank God for that person who encouraged you. Write your prayer of thanksgiving in your journal.
If that person is still alive—why not send them a note letting them know that you thought of them today! Tell them what their relationship meant to you.
If that person has passed away–how about sharing something about him or her with a special friend. In doing so, you’ll be encouraged all over again–and it will encourage your friend too! I guarantee it!
Thank you for taking time to read this post today. I pray that God will help you to stop, and take time to cultivate a thankful heart.
I’d love to hear from you about your special ‘encouragement’ memory–and how God has encouraged you through today’s post.
Please take a moment and write in the comment box on this page. That would be an encouragement to me!
God bless your Wednesday!