When my wife and I were in our seminary years we attended a start up church in our last year to get the feel for church planting. It was good in many ways as we got to see what a couple and fledging church goes through. We sought to be an encouragement to the pastor and his wife and help where we could and also give both verbal and visible encouragements. So one Sunday we came to church with some flowers for the pastor’s wife in appreciation for working so much in the nursery at church as often the minister’s wife (though facing many of his pressures) can be overlooked. The pastor had mentioned the week before he had been given a nice jacket from some folks for his efforts. But his reaction to the flowers stunned us. He said she didn’t need them for doing nursery, that she should serve without expectation of receiving things and God would reward her ! I respectfully told him that maybe God was trying to right now !! He failed to see his own hypocrisy and also the importance of the ministry of encouragement.
You may be thinking, “How awful of him!” And you would be right, but what about you? We want to be appreciated and we need encouraging from time to time but is there a regular practice in your life of extending it to those around you? Paul had that down pat !! Look at a few instances in his writings: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil.1:6). What an uplifting thing to say even when he was in shackles ! In short, I know you guys are gonna keep up the good I’ve already seen in you ! Or how about when he encouraged Timothy to buck up and move forward boldly rather than cower: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee. . . for God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim.1:6-7). This was Paul’s final epistle, he knew the executioner’s ax was coming soon ! And it tells us also that encouragement is not just noticing something great in another and thanking or praising them about it but can also take the form of seeing something that needs to change and humbly challenging them to do so !
I think of what Christ said to crestfallen Peter after he’d denied his Lord thrice and was less than the bombastic soul he’d been prior and was likely a bit down in the dumps still. As he and the other disciples enjoyed that wonderful breakfast in Jn.21, the Lord’s words greatly encouraged Peter, the other disciples and even US that when we fail God extends grace and wants us to confess and move forward to be still used of Him ! He simply said “Feed My sheep !”
This week at our church I issued a challenge to everyone to each day this week find someone to encourage in some way. It has been a genuine joy to THINK about how to do this with people around my life and to bring a smile to them. Don’t let life focus you on you so much, there is a world out there that needs your ministry of encouragement. Put forth the effort, its good for them but its also good for you !!!