I’ll never forget the first day of my Sociology 101 class. I was eighteen years old, and I had never even opened a Bible until six months earlier when I became a Christian. I was excited about all that I was learning and my faith was new and growing. I was a zealous Christian.
And then I went to my sociology class. Anything that any of us had learned or believed about anything – politics, education, religion, culture – my teacher had a book to refute it. Every week he challenged every single thing I believed, and over the course of that semester he attempted to decimate the Christian faith.
Now, I was a new Christian and didn’t know the Bible very well. It wasn’t long before he raised some doubts in my heart and confusion in my soul. Then I began to feel inadequate and stupid when I couldn’t respond to all of his questions.
I felt knocked down. It took all the wind out of my sails. All of the joy I was experiencing was gone, and I spent that semester feeling frustrated and just beat down.
For most of us, it’s only a matter of time before something or someone attacks your faith, causing confusion in your soul, doubts and feelings of inadequacy. In fact, you may be there right now.
My life has been profoundly affected when other people have encouraged me at a key moment when I needed it the most. Sometimes God used them to reveal a truth in the situation that I was overlooking. Other times their loving prompts were timed or worded in the perfect way to inspire me to take a critical next step, even when I didn’t feel like it. God used these people to strengthen my faith, restore my perspective, and bring out the best in me. The effect of their loving encouragement was far greater than I could even understand at the time.
There are many things that can help us through the ups and downs of life, but one of the most powerful tools that God has equipped us with is speech. The power of an affirming, God-led word, given lovingly and authentically is beyond anything you can imagine.
The Bible is packed with examples of the difference that just a word can make. Three distinct examples of the value that God places on encouragement can be found in the book of Proverbs.
- “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,” Proverbs 10:11
- “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,” Proverbs 15:4:
- “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
From God’s perspective, one simple word really does make a difference.
Encouragement, affirmation and edification are among many essential building blocks of faith that exclusively come from relationships. In fact, when you encourage others, you open up a whole new way that God can use you to help people become more like him.
So where do YOU rank on the encouraging scale? Do your words inspire people to go the extra mile or make them want to throw in the towel?
For some people, encouraging others is like second nature. For the rest of us, it’s something we have to work at. I’ve known many natural “encouragers” in my life. Observing how God uses them to influence others provides some key truths about how to intentionally cultivate a spirit of encouragement.
Four Keys to Becoming an Awesome Encourager:
1. Remember that people are hurting far more than you know, and far more than they show. That person next to you who looks like they have it all together, like everything is going their way – they are probably hurting. How do I know? Because they are just like you and me.
2. You have much more to offer than you realize. So often we think, Oh, I’d love to reach out and help that person, but what could they possibly learn from me? What do I have to offer? According to God – you’ve got a LOT to offer. Reaching out to people takes availability, not ability. You need heart and love, more than skill and knowledge.
3. Encouragement is helping others take the next step that they couldn’t take on their own; it allows them to become more like Christ. Encouragement is much more than a “warm fuzzy.” God uses our encouraging words at just the right time:
- As the spark that inspires someone to persevere through a difficult season
- As a reminder to be obedient even when it’s not what they want to do
- As a prompt to push beyond their comfort zone and obey what God is calling them to do
4. The key to encouragement is attitude. There are certain attitudes that you need to have to be a Godly encourager. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-21, the Apostle Paul gives us a series commands – exhortations, really – that all revolve around attitude. Why? Because he knows that the attitude of a church and the attitude of individual Christians is the key to creating an environment that is edifying and encouraging.
This week we’ll begin a new series called The Awesome Power of Encouragement. In it, we’ll look at more biblical examples of encouragement that hold the keys to bringing out the best in those around us. As you learn how to effectively encourage, inspire and motivate others, I pray that God will proportionally heighten your sensitivity to the many people around you who need it most.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip