The Power of Encouragement
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.