The Power of Encouragement
"But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called 'today,' lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:1
"Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24,25
While every generation of believers tends to think that the sin in the world around them is worse than it has ever been in times past, there is no denying that it has always been a battle to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." However, it is also true that Rav Shaul told Timothy that in the last days "perilous times" will come and that "evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." There is something woven into the very fabric of this present world system under the power of the evil one that by means of deception seeks to suck the faith out of those who love the Lord.
The writer to the Hebrews calls it the "deceitfulness of sin." But he also gives us the remedy of encouragement. Not to do so just occasionally, but daily. Not slacking off as the end draws closer, but intensifying our efforts. There is not a single one among us that does not need encouragement. There are indeed some who would hide that fact because of either pride or fear, but none of the "heroes" in the Scriptures could have done what they did without it. Are we more spiritual than they were? Yoseph HaLevy of Cyprus was even given the name "Barnabas" (Son of Encouragement) by the apostles because he personified this characteristic. When the congregation in Jerusalem was experiencing explosive growth, it was Barnabas who demonstrated selfless giving as an example for others. (Acts 4:36) When Shaul, as a new believer came to Jerusalem, the disciples were afraid to receive him, thinking his professed faith was a ploy to get into the community and harm them. It was Barnabas who stood up on his behalf and brought him in (Acts 9:26-28).
When Antioch opened up to the good news of Messiah, the Jerusalem congregation sent Barnabas to "encourage them that with all purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord." When he saw that they would need good teaching, he travelled to Tarsus (about 100 miles by sea) in order to find Shaul and bring him along because he knew what a gifted teacher he was (Acts 11:22-26). When they were sent out from Antioch as a team by the word of the Holy Spirit and Shaul became more prominent, Barnabas remained true to his nature as an encourager and showed no indication that he wanted to be the main spokesman. Even when tragically, Shaul and Barnabas had a major disagreement and it split their team, it was over Barnabas' unwillingness to give up on John Mark when Shaul felt he should be rejected because of a previous failure (Acts 15:36-40). As unfortunate as that break-up was, it might just have been Barnabas' continued faith in John Mark that encouraged him to not succumb to rejection and fall away. As a result, he went on to write the second gospel account and years later Shaul asked Timothy to bring Mark with him because he would help him in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:9-11).
How can we be encouragers?
Here are 7 points I believe will help us.
Believe in the work of God in others and tell them. It is much easier for us to see God moving in a person's life than it is for them to recognize it in themselves.
Give others the opportunities to use their gifts, even if rough and unfinished. The first real public preaching opportunity I had was when a Methodist minister friend invited me to speak to the three congregations he led, all in the same morning. I was not very old in the Lord, but he saw the potential and gave me a chance.
Be alert to the burdens that others are carrying. Don't be afraid to "intrude." Most people would welcome a listening ear.
Be honest about your own struggles. It needs to be known that "no temptation has come upon you except that which is common to all men." (1 Corinthians 10:13) The chances are greater that others will appreciate your honesty and benefit from it, are much greater than the chances that they will reject you for perceived weakness.
Pray for others and let them know you are praying for them. It is not a proclamation of your spirituality, but of your belief in the effectiveness of prayer and that you really care. Rejoice together over answered prayer.
Demonstrate your love and care for others. Notes, little gifts, a hug, phone calls all show that you are thinking about them.
Ask the Lord to show you how to be truly more concerned about the needs of others than your own.
You have no idea what kind of impact you can have on the life of another's life and walk with the Lord. The most seemingly insignificant thing can be radically life-changing. Encouragement is not always received, but that is never an excuse to stop. Often, what may seem to have been rejected initially can find its way into the heart and in time suddenly take hold. You don't have to be prominent to be an encourager. Too many have been told by the devil and even by those who should have encouraged them that they are worthless and helpless. We are called by God to expose that lie and let others know that they are precious and important to the Kingdom of God and to us. Be encouraged and be an encourager.