Giving Encouragement to Others
1. Why is the giving of encouragement to others a Christian obligation, and what fine examples do we have in this?
EVERYONE has opportunities to give encouragement to others, and how much it is appreciated when he uses those opportunities to good advantage! More than anyone else Jehovah is a Giver of encouragement; he forgives our shortcomings, builds up our hope, and strengthens us for the trials and work that lie before us. His Son Jesus Christ likewise proved to be an encourager of those who had good hearts, showing compassion for the sick and afflicted, setting the example for his disciples by working right along with them in preaching the good news, yes, even laying down his life on their behalf. (John 15:13) The apostles too appreciated that the carrying out of their commission called, not only for efficiency to get the preaching work done, but also for loving encouragement to their fellow workers, and this they provided by upbuilding letters, personal visits and inspiring discourses to the congregations. (1 Pet. 5:12; Heb. 13:22; Acts 11:23; 20:2) What fine examples for us to follow! And follow them we must, for the Scriptures urge us to become imitators of God, to walk in the footsteps of his Son, and to imitate the apostles as they imitated Christ. So, it follows that we are under obligation to encourage one another.—Eph. 5:1; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Cor. 11:1.
2. What discouraging practices do we see in the world around us, and why are they so prevalent?
2 Yet in the world around us men are prone to tear one another apart, to condemn the policies and practices of others simply to get prominence for themselves. They push the other fellow down so that he will not be competition for them. Too often there are no words of commendation for workers even when they do well; but let them make a mistake, and they are promptly called on the carpet. Housewives, too, become downhearted when their husbands take them for granted. Such a spirit, whether at home or in the business world, robs people of any pleasure they might have had in their work, leaving them discouraged, dejected and lonely. As a result, it is reported, more than ten thousand persons throughout the world commit suicide every day. What a shameful and selfish way to treat one’s fellowman, whether done deliberately or simply through indifference! What is wrong? What is lacking? Encouragement, yes; but why? Because the giving of encouragement is founded on love, and this is a loveless world. It was long ago foretold of these last days in which we live that men would be “lovers of themselves,” but that in their relations with others they would be “unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection.”—2 Tim. 3:1-3.
THINK IN TERMS OF GIVING
3, 4. How should we react when others fail to extend encouragement?
3 It is obvious that not everyone with whom we come in contact will be encouraging. Some are going to be so concerned about themselves that they fail to see the opportunities to show kindness; others have no compunction about causing distress to others. If they are inconsiderate of us, should we make ourselves over into their unloving image? How foolish that would be! Not selfish men, but Christ is the model to follow. When he was being mistreated, he did not go mistreating in return. Even when his own disciples, those he had taught and encouraged, his fellow worshipers, deserted him, did he denounce them and give up? No. He knew that the important thing was to do the will of his heavenly Father, and it was to him that he committed himself.
4 Jesus recommended that we too think in terms of giving rather than receiving: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) That is true of many things, and it certainly is true of encouragement. If we are overly concerned because others fail to give us encouragement when we think they should, we are going to get discouraged. Why not rather look for opportunities to give encouragement, and let the encouragement you receive from others be simply an added dividend? Consider that even those who fail to give encouragement when they could, often do so because they themselves are despondent; they need encouragement. Instead of becoming discouraged and disappointed with them, how much better it would be to become compassionate, strengthening even those who let us down! Surely it does make us happy to receive encouragement, but much more happiness is ours when we give it.
5. What are some of the ways to give encouragement?
5 There are so many ways that encouragement can be given. Sincere words of commendation can mean much to a worker. Simply a word of warm appreciation for a kindness shown or a service performed spurs one on to do more of the same and to do it better. Oftentimes an act of kindness speaks more eloquently than words and bolsters the morale of everyone involved. Your fellowship, too, will encourage those who may be downhearted or lonely, and sharing with them some good news will brighten their outlook. Yes, just a friendly smile warms the hearts of others. But better than all these are the imparting of hope from the Word of God and the exhortation that we can provide by both word and example to give others the strength and courage to do what is right. If we but think in terms of giving encouragement, we will find opportunities far exceeding our expectations.
WITHIN THE FAMILY
6. Where should we start in making a practice of encouraging others, and why?
6 A good place to start looking for opportunities is right at home. If we make a habit of it there, it will come naturally elsewhere. Of course, love is the basis for encouragement; it is also what holds the family together, and concerning it Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Col. 3:12-14) How mutually strengthening it is for persons who apply this godly counsel to be together!
7, 8. What opportunities are there for a man to encourage his wife, and why is it important?
7 It is only natural for a man to want to please his wife and for a woman to be anxious to please her husband. (1 Cor. 7:33, 34) Yet there are few things that can be more disheartening than repeated failure in something that means so much. When a woman works hard to keep the house clean, prepare food for the family and otherwise please her husband and it is simply taken for granted, she may get discouraged. But, you may ask, is there any need to tell her that she has done well, when that is what she is supposed to do? The Bible answers when it says: “Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her. There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all.”—Prov. 31:28, 29.
8 Even when there are shortcomings, the bond of family love is not going to be strengthened by magnifying them out of all proportion. If need be, give the matter attention, but particularly see and express appreciation for the good work that has been done. Commendation even for little things can give one the spirit and strength to push on and do more and better in the days to come. Likewise when accidents occur there is opportunity to give encouragement. A man who appreciates what it means “that they are no longer two, but one flesh,” is not going to stand back and chide his wife with remarks such as, “Why do you have to be so clumsy?” She probably already feels bad enough about it. Why make it worse? Why not make her feelings as important to you as your own? A kindly word and a little assistance will bring real encouragement. It is a little thing, but it shows love, and it is love that is the perfect bond of union.—Matt. 19:5, 6.
9. In what ways can a Christian wife upbuild her husband?
9 By her very diligence a good wife also upbuilds her husband. “In her the heart of her owner has put trust, and there is no gain lacking. She has rewarded him with good, and not bad, all the days of her life. She is watching over the goings on of her household, and the bread of laziness she does not eat.” (Prov. 31:11, 12, 27) Such a wife is not a competitor, one who seeks to evade his headship, but she cooperates and works willingly under his direction. She considers, not only their immediate good, but their lasting welfare. She is a “woman that fears Jehovah.” (Eph. 5:22, 23; Prov. 31:30) Being of such a disposition, she puts first the spiritual welfare of the family, and of material things she takes the viewpoint: “So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Thus she helps to ward off the snares of materialism and to avert anxiety due to excessive financial obligations that might crowd out service to God. (1 Tim. 6:6-8; Matt. 13:22) By keeping other interests in the background and by her own enthusiastic interest in spiritual matters she can encourage her husband to give these spiritual matters the attention they deserve.
10. To what should children be encouraged to devote their efforts, and why?
10 Even with one’s children, what could be a source of greater encouragement to them than to help them to learn the value of spiritual things? If they are not given thorough instruction in godly principles, the anxieties and frustrations that will beset them in life will cause constant irritation and grief. (Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4) It is not going to be a blessing to them if they have been taught to pursue material possessions, devoting all their energies to work in the commercial field. What a frustration for anyone to spend all his effort building in a world that God is going to destroy because of its wickedness! How much better, how much more rewarding, how much more encouraging, to devote one’s life to the service of God, if possible, as a full-time pioneer minister! As the psalmist said to God, “a day in your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere. I have chosen to stand at the threshold in the house of my God rather than to move around in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:10) It shows love of one’s children to encourage them to pursue such a life. Of course, children too should learn to give encouragement.
11, 12. Are there opportunities for young folks to encourage their parents? In what ways?
11 Yes, young folks too can learn to think in terms of giving. They should not adopt the view that everyone is supposed to wait on them. They need to learn to show appreciation for the hard work of their parents, to listen and obey when they are spoken to, and to be willing workers under the direction of their parents in helping with chores that need to be done; more than that, taking the initiative and offering to be of assistance when they see that there are jobs that need attention. By their conduct when away from home, too, they can be a blessing to themselves and others. The Scriptures wisely counsel: “Listen to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother just because she has grown old. . . . The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Prov. 23:22-25; 10:1; 15:20; 19:13.
12 When children apply this counsel they do not fail to show appreciation for the love of their parents even when they have grown old. In 1 Timothy 5:4, 8 the counsel is recorded: “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight. Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” How encouraging it is to parents to find that they have not been forgotten by their children just because they have grown old!
RESPONSIBILITY OF OVERSEERS
13. (a) Why do overseers have a special responsibility in the giving of encouragement? (b) In this connection, what are some of the points to which consideration can well be given?
13 Although everyone can be a source of encouragement to his fellowman, apart from one’s close companions and the members of one’s own family, those who are in positions of oversight have the greatest influence on others either to encourage or to discourage. This places upon them the obligation to be aware of the opportunities, yes, the responsibility that is theirs in this regard. In this they can learn much from the great overseers, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. By his Word of truth Jehovah gives us hope, he builds us up; he does not drive us beyond our capacity, but shows loving concern for his people. Do you as an overseer use your words to build up those with whom you work? Do you show consideration for their individual physical and mental limitations? Are they really glad to see you when you stop to speak to them about their work, or are they apprehensive, wondering what is wrong this time? Jesus’ disciples were grateful for his fellowship. Though they called him Lord and Master, he proved himself to be a fellow worker. He was their overseer, but one who set the example for them by sharing right along with them in the work that was to be done. (1 Pet. 2:25) He knew that his disciples must learn humility, and this lesson too he taught them, not by constantly humiliating them, but by demonstrating humility in his own life. (John 13:1-17) Those who worked with him found him to be, not harsh and cutting in his remarks or in too much of a hurry to listen to them, but “mild-tempered and lowly in heart,” and in their association with him they found ‘refreshment for their souls.’—Matt. 11:29.
14. (a) How does an overseer show himself to be a teacher, and with what effect on his brothers? (b) When efficiency is tempered with love, what effect does it have on one’s dealings with others?
14 So it is that the overseer who imitates Christ does not simply tell others what to do, but as a qualified teacher he shows them, sharing in the work right along with them. He is an example to the flock. (1 Tim. 3:2) Because he does not consider himself to be above his Christian brothers, they are drawn to him and have confidence that they can look to him for help. (Matt. 23:8) They know that he recognizes the importance of getting the work done and strives for efficiency, but they know too that love will make him patient and understanding in dealing with his fellow workers.
15. In case someone fails short in his work or actually does something wrong, how do the Scriptures admonish the overseer to handle the situation, and with what objective in mind?
15 It is true that at times people are going to fall short or do things that are wrong, and the overseer is the one who must see that the situation is given proper attention. Is this the time to call the transgressor to account and give him a tongue-lashing? Is that necessary? Perhaps the wrong was unintentional. Note how the Scriptures say to handle the situation: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1) The goal is to restore the one who has erred, not to whip him. This calls for a spirit of mildness. The result will be an upbuilding of the one who has erred.
16. How did Elihu manifest the right viewpoint in counseling Job?
16 In this connection, note how Elihu introduced his counsel to Job: “O Job, please hear my words, and to all my speaking do give ear. Look, Please! I have to open my mouth; my tongue with my palate has to speak. My sayings are the uprightness of my heart, and knowledge is what my lips do utter sincerely. . . . If you are able, make reply to me, array words before me; do take your station. Look! I am to the true God just what you are; from the clay I was shaped, I too. Look! No frightfulness in me will terrify you, and no pressure by me will be heavy upon you.” And then he went on to reason on the situation with Job. But note how Elihu approached the problem. He entreated Job. He made it clear that before God he did not feel at all superior to Job and that there was no cause for Job to be terrified at what he was going to say. What a fine way to handle the situation!—Job 33:1-7.
17. What advice did the apostle Paul give Timothy on admonishing others, and how was the situation to be handled when a person was found to make a deliberate practice of sin?
17 It is just such a manner that Paul recommended to Timothy when he said: “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.” (1 Tim. 5:1, 2) Yet when wrongdoers make a practice of sin and show no sincere repentance, what needs to be encouraged is right conduct, not the wrongdoer. When such willful transgression has been thoroughly proved, it is time to apply the counsel found later on in the same chapter, at 1 Timothy 5:20: “Reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear.”—Heb. 12:7-11.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
18. (a) How many people actually influence the lives of others, so how should that influence be used? (b) When speaking about Christian overseers or to those who are desirous of enlarging their privileges of service, how can we be upbuilding, and what examples show the importance of this?
18 Whether in the home or elsewhere, whether one is a congregation overseer or not, there are opportunities for all to upbuild and encourage one another. Everyone influences those around him. He can build up or he can tear down; he can stimulate or he can create indifference. Whether he wants to or not, he has influence. Let that influence be for good. Such will be the case with our speech if we follow the fine counsel recorded at Colossians 3:8, 9: “Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, injuriousness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another.” If we have taken good things into our minds, if our hearts are filled with wholesome desires, what we speak will be upbuilding; for out of the heart’s abundance the mouth speaks. (Matt. 12:34, 35) If our hearts are good, we will not speak disrespectfully or slightingly of Christian overseers or of counsel received through Jehovah’s organization, as did Diotrephes, but we will reckon to be “of double honor” those who are faithfully presiding over God’s congregation. (3 John 9; 1 Tim. 5:17) Nor will we speak discouragingly to those who are desirous of enlarging their privileges of service, perhaps taking up full-time pioneer service or moving out to some locality where the need for Kingdom ministers is great. We will not be like the faithless spies who discouraged the Israelites with defeatist reports so that they wanted to turn back to Egypt and not go on to the Promised Land. Rather, like faithful Joshua and Caleb, we will urge them to show courage by taking hold of the service privileges that are open to them.—Num. 13:27–14:9.
19. What are some other ways in which we can encourage one another?
19 By our very zeal and faithfulness in the service of God we can be a source of strength to one another. By our example of zealous participation in the ministry we help others to do the same. As we relate to others the fine experiences we enjoy in the ministry, as we share with them the gems of knowledge that we glean from our Bible study, we encourage one another, just as the apostles did when they visited with their Christian brothers. (Acts 15:3, 30, 31) By our concern for those who are sick and afflicted, and for those imprisoned for righteousness’ sake, by our keeping in touch with them and visiting them where this is possible, we strengthen their hearts. (2 Cor. 7:6, 7; Acts 28:15) By our refusal to compromise with Satan’s world we help others to stand firm. And by our willingness, not merely to inconvenience ourselves, but even to risk our life and freedom where necessary in order to upbuild one another, we give one another courage to speak God’s Word without fear. May all of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses continue to make full use of such opportunities to encourage one another.
20. As to “building one another up,” what advice is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15?
20 So let us consider the needs of those around us, let us copy the example of our Father in heaven and his Son by encouraging others. “Therefore keep comforting one other and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” In speaking about and working with your Christian overseers, upbuild them and the viewpoint of others toward them. “We request you, brothers, to have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and to give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work. Be peaceable with one another.” On the other hand, you who are overseers, do not dishearten, but rather encourage your brothers. “Admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.” No matter who we are or who it is with whom we have contact, whether at home, in the Christian congregation or in our secular work, “see that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else, but always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.” (1 Thess. 5:11-15) Yes, let us encourage one another.