The Need for Encouragement
Would you take more encouragement if you could get it? Have you ever felt like you had no more need of encouragement? What would be possible in your life if you lived with a continual diet of encouragement from others? These questions help reveal something we all intuitively know: We need encouragement. The Bible presents encouragement as needed fuel for the Christian life. Without encouragement we will be lacking in love and faithfulness, fall into sin, become hardened, be deceived, live in unbelief, and miss the closeness of God (Heb 3:12-13; 10:25). It is vital.
If you have this need, so do those around you. Your marriage, family, and church all need encouragement. In the middle of struggle, sin, and suffering, we can bring the hope-filled voice of encouragement. In the mire of apathy, fear, and discouragement we can light the fire with the matches of encouragement. It is a great tool to serve others. A great gift we can give.
But, we need to learn how. How do we learn to use this great tool? How do we move beyond Christian platitudes that feel shallow? How do we give more than simple, secular affirmations (like the all too common “you got this!”)? The best way to learn how to encourage is to watch others do it. The Bible models this for us in a variety of ways. Let’s look at the examples and learn how we can we use this powerful tool.
Biblical Methods of Encouragment
1. Tell Others How God is Working Through Them
Paul tells the Thessalonians that, “…you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out.” (1 Thessalonians 1:7–8). Often we are blind to the good things God is doing through us. It may be because we always feel there is more to do, we see the imperfect nature of what we’ve done or simply because people don’t take the time to notice and appreciate. But God is working through us. When we see this we are led to thankfulness for the joy of participating with God and want to endure. Show people how God is using them.
2. Show Others How God is Working in Their Life
“…the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end..” (1 Corinthians 1:4–9). God is always working for the good of those who love him. Yes, life is hard but too often this is our only focus; the negatives, pain, and brokenness are hyper-real. But there is more to the story. Show people the evidence that God is active, present, and involved in their life. Show people that God is doing good.
3. Tell People How You See God Growing and Changing Them
“Therefore, we don’t need to say anything, for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:8–10). In the day to day, people can feel stuck and like there is little to no progress. Sometimes we doubt that God wants to, has, or can change us. We often need an outside voice to help us see where we have come from, and celebrate the changes God has made. God is sanctifying, show people where you see their growth.
4. Praise the Good You See People Doing
Paul says, “I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love for all the saints and the faith that you have in the Lord Jesus…I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” (Philemon 4–7). Much of our good is unseen. Many of our faults are magnified. By our self and others. It is too easy to correct error and assume good. Instead, we must thank and celebrate the good we see in others.
5. Remind People God Sees the Good They Are Doing
Likewise, we don’t just say that we see it. We must remind them that God sees their work and is pleased. “For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them.” (Hebrews 6:10). Imagine if we all had fresh in our minds that though unseen by many, God sees the time we volunteer at church, our care for crying babies in the middle of the night, our interceding for others, and sacrificial generosity. God sees it and delights. Let’s remind one another!
6. Declare to Others the Truth of Who They Are
We all struggle with our identity. We are tempted to vacillate between self-righteousness when we are doing well and despair when we are missing it. The secular world often seeks to affirm our identity by telling us how great and worthy we are. But this is hopelessly empty. Our identity is more than our greatness. Our identity is rooted in who God has been and will be to us. We need to declare to one another who we really are: “To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ”. (Jude 1–2).
7. Thank People for Being a Blessing to You
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer…” (Philippians 1:3–6). “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy!” (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20.) We may think people know how much they mean to us but they do not. Sometimes people will say something like, “this goes without saying” or “I know you know this…” and then offer some encouragement. But I’ve never seen someone say, “yeah, yeah, yeah of course.” No, they are profoundly moved. We should be effusive in thanking others for the blessing they are to us.
8. Highlight the Character of God You See in Others
God is renewing each of us more and more into the image of Christ. This means people are displaying reflections of God continually. Through others we see a picture of God’s kindness, hospitality, faithfulness, service, boldness, etc. Tell them what you see. “About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers and sisters in the entire region of Macedonia.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9–10).
9. Publicly Recognize the Contribution of Others
Let us not only privately praise others. Like sharing a meal with friends, sharing an encouragement is always better with others. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. So you should welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may require your help. For indeed she has been a benefactor of many—and of me also.” (Romans 16:1–2). Whether in writing, a small group, an introduction, or Sunday service give the encouragement of public recognition and honor.
We know we all need encouragement. The Bible calls us to encourage one another every day. Let’s not settle for shallow, unthoughtful, meaningless encouragements. Let’s grow in using this great tool. Take these 9 methods and make a commitment to practice each this month. Attach Scripture. Use specific examples and patterns. Write it down. Repeat. People will be built up, our churches will be changed, and God will be glorified.