Article: Be An Encourager | Jacob Varghese

We live in a society that can chew people up and spit them out. In our high tech age we have forgotten how to be in high-touch. At work people who are eager to climb the corporate ladder are often selfish and cold. We exalt as virtues things, which are not worthy. Attitudes like pride, selfishness and greed are portrayed as desirable characteristics. All of this can be terribly discouraging. In a world dominated by put-downs, many people are looking for a little encouragement. Many people crave some small sign of approval. A pleasant greeting, a word of recognition, a caring smile, a warm handshake, and an honest expression of appreciation can do wonders. What we need is some encouragement. We need people who are encouragers. There certainly are times when we need encouragement. I am sure that you will admit that there are times when you need encouragement. Indeed, there are probably few times when we do not need encouragement.

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At this time I remember of the story told of a king who had a silver bell placed in a high tower of his palace early in his reign. He announced that he would ring the bell whenever he was happy so that his subjects would know of his joy. The people listened for the sound of that silver bell, but it remained silent. Days turned into weeks, and weeks in to months, and months into years. But no sound of the bell rang out to indicate that the king was happy. The king grew old and gray, and eventually he lay on his deathbed in the palace. As some of his weeping subjects gathered around him, he discovered that his people all through the years had really loved him. At last the king was happy. Just before he died, he reached up and pulled the rope that rang the silver bell. Think of it- a lifetime of unhappiness because he did not know that he was warmly loved and accepted by his loyal subjects. Like that king, many lonely souls live out their days with out the joy of knowing they are loved and appreciated by others.

Do you know people who need an encouraging word? If so, tell them how much they mean to you. It may be just what’s needed to bring joy into their lives. In Deuteronomy 3 we read that Moses encouraged Joshua, as he was about to assume leadership of Israelites. No doubt Joshua was filled with fear and a feeling of inadequacy to fill Moses’ shoes. The Lord therefore told Moses to encourage Joshua. All of us need a word of encouragement from time to time to stimulate us on when we are facing a major new challenge. But we also need words of appreciation and commendation as we carry out our daily responsibilities, whether at home or at work.

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When a corporate accountant committed suicide, an effort was made to find out why. The company’s books were examined, but no shortage was found. Nothing could be uncovered that gave any clue as to why he took his life- that is, until a note was discovered. It simply said: “In 30 years of my service, I have never had one word of encouragement from the company. I am fed up!” Every day let’s determine to encourage (not flatter) at least one person. Let’s do our part to help those around us are dying for encouragement.

I remember of a Christian Youth camp I attended, where we spent around 3 hours for introductions. It turned out to be the most meaningful part of the camp for me. Instead of giving our own names, jobs and family information, each person introduced some one else. Some presented longtime friends, and others told about some one they had met only the night before. Every introduction was an affirmation, with special attention given to the uniqueness and value of each individual. As I study the life of the apostle Paul, I am struck with the fact he was an encourager. The apostle Paul spoke highly of his colleagues in the faith and ministry. His letters are dotted with the names of men and women to whom and for whom he was deeply grateful. He affirmed Timothy as a person of proven character, who “as a son with his father” had served him in the gospel (Phi 2:22). He also praised Epaphroditus, who almost died because of his unselfish devotion to Christ and his service to others. Paul could certainly speak in a straightforward and blunt manner. He did not shy away from speaking the truth to someone, even when that truth was harsh and hard to take. But at his heart Paul was very much an encourager of others. At the core of his being, he desired to build people up, not tear them down.

As we come to the closing words of the book of Ephesians, we see Paul doing what we all need to do for one another. We see him wishing the very best that God has to offer on others. Paul expresses his heart-felt desire that peace, love, faith and grace of God be fully realized by these Christians in Ephesus. Paul gives us an example of how we should encourage others. What is it that you desire for others? Do you rejoice when others succeed? Do you truly desire to see God’s best be realized in the lives of other people?

I heard of a Bible-School graduate that he had been a Pastor for about 3 months. Some of the people seemed to resent him, certain people were beginning to criticize him, and he was getting discouraged. Then the Chairman of the church board invited him to lunch. At lunch, the chairman looked at him straight in the eye and said, “I hear that you are getting some criticism. I want you to know that the board thinks you are doing a good job. True, nothing much is happening yet, but we are convinced that it will. You’re doing exactly what we asked you to do. Just keep at it.” This pastor walked out of that meeting with his head held high and his heart singing. He worked with renewed confidence, and soon the church gathering began to grow numerically and spiritually. Paul told the Roman believers that he wanted to see them so they could encourage each other. You and I know how helpful that can be. We all appreciate an arm around the shoulder or a kind word. If you’ve received some unexpected encouragement, thank God for it. And when the Holy Spirit leads you to encourage some one, go ahead and do it. Be an encourager.

The best way we can be an encouraging person to others is looking for the good of others and is by desiring God’s best for them. We should not only desire that but we should pray for one another that God would bless us and build us up. I read about a boy who had been naughty. During family devotions the father prayed for his son and mentioned a number of bad things the boy had done. Soon afterward the mother heard the 6-year-old sobbing. When she asked what was wrong, the boy cried out, “Daddy always tells God the bad things about me. He never tells Him the good things I do!” What happened to that child underscores a shortcoming that is common to many of us. Instead of recognizing the good in people, we tend to notice their faults.

We could learn from the example of the apostle Paul. In his letter to his spiritual sons and daughters in Thessalonica, he wrote, “We give thanks to God always for you all”. He remembered their “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope”. He told them that because they “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” they were an example to others. He said that from them “the word of the Lord has sounded fourth… in every place”. Paul’s words must have encouraged them and spurred them on to even greater service for the Lord. Let’s be more ready to commend than to condemn. When we see good in others, let’s tell them. It will encourage them, and that’s exactly what they need. We should carefully consider one another with a view to building up one another in Christ.

An unknown author has penned these thought-provoking words:

I would rather have one little rose
From the garden of a friend
Than to have the choicest flowers
When my stay on earth must end.

I would rather have a pleasant word
In kindness said to me
Than flattery when my heart is still,
And life has ceased to be.

I would rather have a loving smile
From friends I know are true
Than tears shed ‘round my casket
When to this world I bid adieu.

Bring me all your flowers today,
Whether pink, or white, or red;
I’d rather have one blossom now
Than a truckload when I’m dead.

Recalling the good qualities of deceased friends or relatives at their funeral are appropriate, but how much better to give sincere praise to them while they are still living. It may be the encouragement they desperately need. As the apostle Paul closed his letter to the Romans, he publicly commended those who had helped and encouraged him in the work of the gospel. He not only greeted them by name, but also expressed his gratitude for what they had done. What an example for all of us to follow! Do you owe someone a word of thanks or appreciation? Don’t put it off. Say it today. Tomorrow may be too late! Life is tough enough with out adding to the discouragement. Let us purpose now to become an encourager.

JACOB VARGHESE

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