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Ever-Increasing Encouragement

Hebrews 10:25a ...let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Encouragement—catching someone doing something right and telling them so.

When I was in Little League baseball, I had a coach by the name of Roy Snodgrass. I really thought Roy was a great coach at the time, but as I look back on the experience I remember little else than that he yelled at the team during practices and at games. Oh, there were those rare moments when he showed heart and genuine concern for the guys, but for the most part, Roy's standard tactic was intimidation by volume and loudness of speech. One rare moment was the time the bases were loaded, we were in the bottom of the ninth, and I was at bat. I can still remember the unusual words of the coach that day. They were complimentary and encouraging. Above the yell of the crowd, so everyone could hear it, he said: "Bobby, if anyone can do it, you can—just get a hit." Wow! My moment had come, but more than that, the coach had confidence in me.

What do you think I did? I can't remember! Can you believe it? All I remember were his words; that's the power of encouragement!

I had another Roy in my life who also had a great impact on me—my brother Roy. He is two-and-a-half years older than I, and he really was my idol while I was growing up. I wanted to do everything he did, the way he did it. I drove him a little crazy, I think. But he was mostly cool about his little tag-along brother. In those days, Roy was my real baseball coach. He taught me how to catch and how to knock the dirt off my cleets when I went up to bat so I looked cool. He would encourage me to do my best, and didn't belittle or hassle me if I messed up. He even helped me decide if I was going to be a right hander or left hander when playing sports. When it came time for me to buy my first baseball mitt, I had a problem—I was ambidextrous. I could hit and catch equally well or badly with both hands. I finally decided I would be right handed in sports, just like my big brother.

One time I was rounding a corner about a block away from home, and all at once five kids ran out of the bushes and started hitting me with sticks. I started screaming for help. My brother just happened to be home that day, because he was sick with the flu—at least he said he was sick. Roy hurried to the window when he heard me, and came running and yelling at the kids when he saw what they were doing.

These kids were not too bright. Didn't they know the Stone brothers were tough? I mean, we proceeded to clean up the whole lot of them. There was something kind of unusual about this whole scene, however. We didn't notice until we were through fighting that Roy hadn't bothered to put on his pants when he left the house. He fought the whole time in his underwear. I still remember how proud I was as we walked back home. He put his arm around me, and we laughed the whole way. What a sight we must have been! I know it's a crude illustration, but it reminds me of the power of a model and the affect of encouraging words and actions.

I was barely a teenager when these events took place, but the encouragement of my brother, my parents, and others in my church has continued to impact my life.

What I needed at that young age is still needed by me and each of us today, and certainly all the more for the people we meet every day. "Harrassed by demands and hard lines, bruised by worry, adversity and failure; broken by disillusionment and defeated by sin... a lot of people live somewhere between discouragement and sheer panic. Even Christians are not immune. All of us need encouragement—someone to believe in us. To help us pick up the pieces and go on." Charles Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip.

I have preached many messages on the need to speak the truth in love and to confront people when they are in sin, but today I want to emphasize the needed balance to tough talk. Yes, confront others when they are overtly in sin, but let's not be Roy Snodgrasses all the time. There are too many people in our world who are addicted to tough talk. The "cult of the hard word" in politics, sports, and the church is gaining more and more steam.

I'd like to say I believe that encouraging words are the highest order, and that the hard word is only to be used as a last resort.

Jerry Cook has told of his speech teacher at Seattle Pacific University, who only pointed out what Jerry did right in his speeches. It was only over a period of time that Jerry figured out what he was doing wrong. As one author said, "I do not care how influential or secure or mature a person may appear to be, genuine encouragement never fails to help. Most of us need massive doses of it as we slug it out in the trenches."


There is a need to understand the significance of encouragement in our day and in our church.

There is more to encouragement than a smile and a quick pat on the back. We need to know what it involves, and we need to plan specific ways to do it! A good place to start is with the word itself. "Encouragement," as used in Heb. 10:25, is from the same Greek root used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:26 and 16:7. In both those verses He, the Holy Spirit, is called the Helper. The actual term, "parakaleo," is from a combination of two smaller words, "kaleo," to call, and "para," alongside. So just as the Holy Spirit is called alongside to help us, so He is with us when we encourage someone else. When we do that, in fact, we come as close to the work of the Holy Spirit as anything we can do in Gods family.

I really believe that when Christians begin to realize the value of mutual encouragement, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. It is thrilling to realize that God has called us alongside to help others who are in need. How much better to be engaged in actions that lift others up rather than those that tear them down! Realizing this, one man writes: "One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement... It is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet."

The beautiful thing about encouragement is that anyone can do it and everyone needs it! You don't need a lot of money to carry it out. You don't even need to be a certain age; in fact, some of the most encouraging actions or words can come from our own children.

I am absolutely convinced that there are many thousands of people drying up on the vine simply because of the lack of encouragement—lonely, forgotten missionaries; military service men and women away from home; collegians and seminarians; the sick and the dying; the divorced and the grieving. Then there are those who serve faithfully behind the scenes with scarcely a glance or comment from anyone, even pastors and other church leaders. Truth is, we all need encouragement!

 

There is a way to implement encouragement by mimicking the Epistles.

Let's go back to the statement found in Heb. 10:25... "let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." In other words, we are to give thought to specific ways we can lift up, affirm, and help others toward love and good deeds. God's commands are not theoretical, especially those that relate to people in need.

Where do we find examples of biblical encouragement in Scripture? Here's a summary. If we study the conclusions of Pauls epistles—a place few of us study in detail—we find ample examples and illustrations of what we might do, and the content for our encouragement. Here's what our encouragement might consist of:

  1. Make observations about specific character qualities and ministries you have seen them exhibit and/or do. In Romans 16 we see Paul's excellent model of this. Notice what he points out about those he mentions in the conclusion of this letter:
    • Obedience—Rom. 16:19a
    • Faith—Rom. 1:8
    • Risked their lives—Rom. 16:3-4
    • Worked hard—Rom. 16:6,12
    • Outstanding work—Rom. 16:7
    • Fellow worker and friend—Rom. 16:3,9
    • Tested and approved—Rom. 16:10
    • Been a mother to me—Rom. 16:13
    • Hospitality—Rom. 16:23
    • Workers for the Lord—1 Cor. 16:10-11

    What do you think the mention of these names in a public letter did for these people?

    Here are a few more ideas of things to look for and thus encourage others about. You might observe and mention qualities you see in others, such as:

    • Punctuality
    • Thoroughness
    • Tactfulness
    • Diligence
    • Faithfulness
    • Honesty
    • Good attitude
    • Compassion
    • Loyalty
    • Good sense of humor
    • Tolerance
    • Vision and Faith

    What do you think an encouragement might do for your friends if you mentioned that you appreciated these qualities in them?

  2. Make positive statements on how you feel about them and what you want to do for them. For example, you could encourage them by relating:
    • Your confidence in them—2 Cor. 2:3; 7:4
    • Your hope for them—1 Thess. 2:19-20; Rom. 1:11-13
    • Your prayers for them—Phil. 1:4-5; Rom. 1:9-10
    • Your specific thanks for them—1 Thess. 3:9; Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4
    • Your love for them—Phil. 4:1a; 2 Cor. 6:11; Rom. 16:8
  3. Make mention of how they have encouraged and helped you and been a blessing to you—2 Cor. 7:4; 7:7b; 1 Thess. 3:9; Rom. 16:2.
  4. Make observations about their gifts and ministry to others and yourself—1 Cor. 1:7; Col. 4:7-17. Notice the gifts and ministries Paul mentions at the end of his letter to the Colossians:
    • Tychicus: A reporter, faithful servant, encourager—vv. 7-8
    • Onesimus: A faithful brother, missionary, a reporter—v. 9
    • Aristarchus: A fellow prisoner, greeter, fellow Jew, worker for the kingdom, comfort to Paul—vv. 10-11
    • Mark: A relative of Barnabas, fellow Jew, kingdom worker, comfort to Paul—v. 10-11
    • Jesus (Justus): A fellow Jew, kingdom worker, comfort—v. 11
    • Epaphras: A returning missionary, servant, greeter, prayer writer, a hard worker for others—vv. 12-13
    • Luke: A dear friend, a doctor—v. 14
    • Demus: A greeter—v. 14

    One way to add a lot of power to your encouragement is to:

     

  5. Make the Scripture your best tool for encouragement by relating a Scripture to the person's situation—Rom. 6:25-27; 1 Cor. 1:8.
  6. Make the most of the opportunity and every means to encourage.
    • Correspondence, thank you notes, small gifts with a note attached—preferably not so much at birthdays or at Christmas, but at unexpected times.
    • Phone calls. Be brief and to the point. Express appreciation for something specific you genuinely appreciate.
    • Notice a job well done and say so right on the spot. I know a few leaders who are successful largely because they have splendid assistance from secretaries and support personnel within the organization... but seldom are those people told what a fine job they are doing.
    • Pick up the tab in a restaurant...provide free tickets to some event you know the person (or family) would enjoy...send flowers....give a gift of money when it seems appropriate.
    • Be supportive to someone you know is hurting. Reach out without fear of what others may think or say.

There are a few guidelines that need to be observed.

Guideline #1:

Be careful not to create other burdens for those you want to encourage by expecting them to pay you back.

Guideline #2:

Try to be sensitive to the timing of your actions. A well-timed expression of encouragement is never forgotten. Never!

Guideline #3:

It's never too late to encourage, even if it seems too late.

 

Charles Swindoll writes: "I often think of those who once did their job faithfully for an extended period of time and then were replaced—only to be forgotten. People like former teachers, former officers in a church, former board members, previous pastors, and those who discipled us become lost in the sea of distant memories. Spend some time recalling the important people who had a part in building your life... and look for ways to encourage them. You and I may be surprised to know how much it means to them just to know they are not forgotten. If you need a tangible reminder of the encouragement this brings, call to mind our POWs in Vietnam and our hostages in Iran. Just the knowledge that they were not out of sight, out of mind, kept most of them going."

Guideline #4:

the ability to encourage is developed first in one's home and among the closest friends of one's peer group.

Here this vital virtue is cultivated. For example, children pick it up from their parents as they become the recipients of their mothers' and dads' words of delight and approval. Numerous tests document the sad fact, however, that homes tend to be far more negative than positive, much less affirming than critical. My mom was the exception, for showing appreciation was one of our highest social graces. Frankly, I don't understand it when it's not present.

Where do we begin? Start taking whatever steps need to be taken to develop in your home a spirit of positive, reinforcing, consistent encouragement. Your family will be forever grateful, and you will be a happier person. Carry that spirit into the church; we need it more and more!

Guideline #5:

Guys have a hard time encouraging other guys because it hasn't been modeled to us very often, and it is often seen as a feminine characteristic. I encourage men to change how they think about the Church. Think of it as a team, as a group of people with varying positions to play, and that we need each other to win. If you think in those terms, a spiritual "high five" will be very natural.

Conclusion:

How important is it to mimic the Holy Spirit in another person's life? It may be the most important ministry we offer to another. I want to challenge you all to do it. It is desperately needed.


Application Questions:

  • Who was the person most encouraging to you while you were growing up? Give an example(s).
  • Who presently encourages you the most? Describe their character, their words. Why do they affect you so positively?
  • Why is encouragement a necessary part of church life?
  • What characteristics in others do you appreciate the most? Who exhibits those characteristics? Have you told them you appreciate these qualities? Why or why not?
  • Why do some people keep silent and not offer encouragement?
  • Why do some people keep silent and not offer encouragement, when they really are grateful?
  • Who is it that you have neglected to encourage? Why not do it now? Conclude by writing a note of encouragement to someone.