Are You an Encouraging Christian?
FEW joys in life produce the clean, genuine satisfaction that doing something helpful for others brings. Now, you may not have much of this world’s goods to bestow upon those in need. Your time and your energies may likewise be quite limited. But there is one thing that you can certainly do to show love to fellow servants of God. You can be encouraging.
To be encouraging means to speak or act so as to increase the confidence and hope of another. In fact, the English word “courage” is drawn from the French coeur meaning “heart.” To be encouraging therefore means to strengthen the heart.
By encouragement you can help others to endure, to persevere, to keep from being ‘dropouts’ from God’s service. You thereby help them to be better Christians. As has well been observed, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower.”
Examples of those who were encouraging are abundant in the Bible. Thus one night, after the apostle Paul had been rescued by Roman soldiers from being pulled to pieces by contending Pharisees and Sadducees, the Lord Jesus appeared to him and said: “Be of good courage! For as you have been giving a thorough witness on the things about me in Jerusalem, you must also bear witness in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) How strengthening that must have been to Paul in that trialsome time!
Paul himself encouraged the Christians in Macedonia “with many a word.” And entire books of the Bible, such as the book of Hebrews and Peter’s first letter, were written largely as an “encouragement” to fellow Christians.—Acts 20:2; Heb. 13:22; 1 Pet. 5:12.
Repeatedly God’s servants are counseled to be encouraging: “Strengthen the weak hands, you people, and make the knees that are wobbling firm. Say to those who are anxious at heart: ‘Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your own God will come . . . and save you people.’” (Isa. 35:3, 4) One major reason why Christians are admonished to ‘gather themselves together’ is so that they might be “encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:25.
ENCOURAGEMENT SUPPLIES A VITAL NEED
Yes, few things are as needed—and as welcome—to God’s servants as encouragement. Not being part of the world, they are faced with opposition and often with bitter persecution. (John 15:18-21) At times such treatment tends to discourage them, even as it did the prophet Jeremiah. (Jer. 20:9) Encouragement may give them the extra strength they need to persevere in spite of such opposition. For that reason Paul and Barnabas were earnestly encouraging their Christian brothers at Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch “to remain in the faith and saying: ‘We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.’”—Acts 14:22.
Then there are personal problems that engulf some—financial difficulties, misunderstandings or perhaps frictions due to incompatibility of personalities. Physical illness or simply a lack of vitality may also cause a Christian to be in need of encouragement. The apostle Paul had a troublesome “thorn in the flesh.” But the Lord’s encouragement enabled Paul to feel powerful in spite of his weakness.—2 Cor. 12:7-10.
Still others may need encouragement because circumstances beyond their control limit their share in the Christian ministry, such as in proclaiming the Kingdom message to the public. But if they are doing all they can, are they not to be encouraged? Did not Jesus commend the widow who was able to give only two small coins of little value?—Luke 21:1-4.
HOW TO BE ENCOURAGING
How can you be encouraging? First of all, by setting a fine example. Actions carry far more weight than mere words. By manifesting such fruits of the spirit as love, joy and peace you can be so very encouraging to others. And what about opportunities to be encouraging by visiting a sick fellow Christian? Is that not what the “sheep” of Jesus’ parable did?—Matt. 25:35-40.
The same is true as to manifesting zeal in other aspects of the Christian ministry. For example, by being active in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom in spite of such obstacles as bad weather, you may well encourage others to imitate your good example.
Also by your very presence at meetings of God’s people you can be encouraging. At the very sight of brothers who had come from Rome to meet him the apostle Paul “thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) A mere friendly smile or a cheery greeting can mean far more than you may imagine to a depressed soul. And still more effective are upbuilding words based on faith in God’s Word. Paul longed to see his brothers in Rome, “that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”—Rom. 1:11, 12.
This is something to keep in mind when Christians associate with one another in social gatherings. Here is where all might be encouraged simply by seeing that the conversation includes a good share of upbuilding things of God’s Word. Why not tell interesting field-ministry experiences or relate how one came to be a witness of Jehovah, or discuss fine doctrinal points that have been newly learned? By contributing something in this direction you can help make the evening an enriching one.
Another way for you to be encouraging is by being an attentive listener. Often a person feels the need of someone just to talk to, and he feels much better if he has been able to unburden himself. Similarly, you can be encouraging to a minister delivering a public Bible lecture by giving him an attentive ear; the less talented he is, the more encouraging your undivided attention will be.
In particular do all with headship privileges have opportunities to be encouraging to those in subjection to them. It is not always easy to submit; at times it can be quite frustrating. Because of this, employees, wives and children may at times be overcome with negative feelings. What an opportunity here to be alert to such feelings and to counteract them by frequent and sincere expressions of appreciation for what these are able to do, as well as for what they are in themselves!
AIDS IN BEING ENCOURAGING
To be truly encouraging is a matter of both the mind and the heart. Empathy will help you to understand how others think and feel and just how you can be encouraging to them. It will enable you to put yourself ‘in their shoes,’ as it were.
Unselfish love will motivate that empathy. It will make you alert to opportunities to give a helping hand, to say the encouraging word. Christian love will cause you to heed the counsel: “Keep comforting one another and building one another up.”—1 Thess. 5:11.
And your reward for being encouraging? You yourself will be encouraged, for true is the proverb: “The one freely watering others [as with encouragement] will himself also be freely watered [therewith].”—Prov. 11:25.