The Power of Encouragement

Written by Jeanne Zornes

I learned about the power of encouragement during one of the lowest times of my life. I was 30 and single, attending Bible college on my meager savings, fighting sickness, facing constant car repairs, and watching my parents battle cancer and heart problems.

Then one morning, a professor dared to be vulnerable and ask for our prayers for some overwhelming things in his life. We were stunned to action. Several of us formed an anonymous “Barnabas Committee,” named for the New Testament’s “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Throughout that semester, we sent him notes (attached to little gifts like candy bars) to remind him that the “Barnabas Committee” was still praying. We did the same for other profs facing personal challenges.

As I helped encourage these teachers, I discovered the truth of Proverbs 11:25: “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Even though my problems didn’t go away (they deepened when both my parents died a short time later), my reaching out to others helped keep my focus on God’s love and power.

Over years, as I’ve told this story, I’ve heard from people who started “Barnabas Committees” of their own. They reported the same result: that God encourages them and fills them with joy as they reach out to others.

Encouragement is more than prayers and notes. God can use us through many verbal, emotional, practical, and spiritual ministries. And anyone–unknown or famous– can be an encourager. Even the great Bible teacher F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) once remarked that if he had his life to live over, he’d spend much more time in the ministry of encouragement.

We can practice encouragement in eight simple ways.

Verbal ministries

1. Speaking. Proverbs 16:24 says pleasant words bring healing to the bones. Lift someone by telling how you appreciate a certain positive quality in them. When I was discouraged halfway through holding seven estate sales, a neighbor boosted me by simply saying, “You have things so clean and nicely arranged.”  When appropriate, share a scripture that helped you in a hard time.

2. Writing. Ever considered how the New Testament epistles are “encouragement notes” to the churches? Ours needn’t be lengthy–even a post card will do. But a note saying “I care” or “I’m praying” will mean much to someone who is lonely, grieving, or discouraged about wayward family members, unemployment, or health issues. Be creative with your family, like “I love you” penned on the lunch sack banana. (For more ideas, visit Focus on the Family).

Emotional ministries

3. Presence. Psalm 34:18 says the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, but often the Lord sends us in person on His behalf.  Remember the observation of social scientists: that only one-fourth of communication is verbal. Even when we don’t know what to say, just being there encourages.

4. Touching. During His earthly ministry, Jesus constantly touched people, including “untouchables” like lepers and a bleeding woman. Scientists have now documented the positive effects of touch–but God knew that long ago! Anything from a light touch on the forearm to a tight hug can communicate that you care.

Practical ministries

5. Helping. Sometimes people feel like a laden ocean liner needing a tugboat to nudge it into a safe dock. Helpers use ordinary skills to encourage others. They may sew or mend, do odd jobs or shopping, rock a baby for a harried new mom, take an invalid to the doctor, or show up with an old pickup when somebody needs to move.

6. Giving. Proverbs 21:26 says the righteous person gives without sparing. “Givers” recognize situations where money, food, clothing, or the loan of equipment will better lift people out of their encouragement. Some simply give beauty, like a bouquet of flowers from their yard in a “needn’t-return” garage-sale vase.

Spiritual ministries

7. Hospitality. This ministry is best defined by its Greek word, philoxenia, which literally means “brotherly love of strangers.” So defined, it changes from “entertaining” to simply loving people by providing a meal or bed in the name of Christ. This ministry can target people whose life situations make them “emotional strangers,” such as those hurting from marriage breakups, financial problems, or physical challenges.

8. Praying. “You help us by your prayers,” Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 1:11). No matter our circumstances, we can–and must–pray. Kenneth, a stroke victim, can move nothing but his eyes, but several ministry leaders send him their prayer requests. Jot prayer needs in a small notebook, and follow up with a note or phone call.

Let God show you which “ministry” of encouragement best fits you. Then simply do it. You’ll be lifted up as you lift up others for Him.

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7 Responses to “The Power of Encouragement”

  • Hi Jeanne, I believe I remember you at that Bible School in Portland, Oregon in the late 70s. :)
    You put this vital truth about encouraging very clearly and effectively. God Bless! james

  • Alfred Alfred says:

    Thanx, Jeanne, For a very timely article, and to you, Gwendolyn, for your responce.
    God is showing me that this ministry uses a way of identifying with people in a way that opens the door to their heart. It is the hurting that will have a rapport with others who hurt, and the lonely who can understand others who feel the same way. Then as these people are helped, the helper is refreshed by identifying with them. It is a way of realizing that “If God can help that person, He surely can and will help me”! I am about to pass this article on to a friend who leads an Elijah (prayer) group.

  • gwendolyn golden says:

    Amazing article as it gave me more insight on a ministry God has placed on me in my youth. I will never forget this piece, thanks, God bless!

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    It’s always so great to hear when our articles are an encouragement to our readers. Thank you Damaris for taking the time to comment. May God bless you in your new ministry.

  • I was encouraged reading your article. I thank God first and foremost for the way he just reveals himself in many ways. Yes how he sends other’s in your road to teach you,and To GOD be all the Glory! I just started my ministry and it pertains to uplifting and encouraging others as well, no matter what you face, keep his love in you, Christ like, fruits of the spirits, Amen. May Father continue to bless you abundantly, with spiritual and financial blessings, being a blessing to others as you are. Thank you for sharing this article, Amen.

  • Fantastic post Jeanne. Amazing how you are strengthening others even when you are going through stuff. That’s the life of Jesus in you.

    Thank you for your encouragement today x

    Claire

  • alvin beeman says:

    Greetings,
    Enjoyed your article here about “The Power of Encouragement”. Recently ordained, and looking for a ministry that fills a void in God’s Kingdom, and this article is prompting me to start a ministry of Encouragement!

    May God Bless, and Jesus Save You,

    alvin beeman

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