Posts Tagged ‘encouragement’

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Tomorrow has no real meaning in the world of encouragement while yesterday is too late. If I am to make a difference in a person’s demeanor or frustration, in his/her sorrow or disappointment, in a time of loss or unexpected change, it is now . . . today.

Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Encouragement is a cheap price to pay for the sake of another. It doesn’t have to be particularly articulate or well thought out. I can give comfort in words or actions, or I can be present — be there, as they say. It may require a little active listening and definitely without censure, but most of all, it must be authentic.

So often, I fail in the encouragement department because I mistakenly believe it requires “advice.” I get caught up in wanting to help the person get a better perspective or help solve the problem. Some people say this is a male trait, but I confess, I am notorious for this bad behavior. I count myself a problem solver when, in actuality, my problem solving might even add to the problem.

But let me get back to the idea of immediacy. Non-judgmental, authentic encouragement is powerful in the now. The hope would be that consolation and compassion would be spontaneous and timely. We should never withhold encouragement. No matter what has happened, there is room in the moment, to give a boost, even the tiniest fragment of hope, love, and camaraderie. The message is simple: “Today, you are not alone.”

Because, it could be in this day, the world will change for that “other person.” It could be.

I can only imagine what the potential power would be if I gave a word or touch of encouragement to each and every person with whom I came into contact in a single day.

Anyone want to take on that challenge with me? Today?

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Pray for encouragement and strength because it is these two elements that give what is needed to “stand firm and hold fast” [vs 2:15]. So simple: deep power comes from encouragement. I know this, but I don’t use it nearly enough . . . for myself.

II Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

I’m pretty good at encouraging others, particularly in a work environment. I believe in extolling the virtues of my staff and acknowledging a job well done. That’s important. And I mean it. I do appreciate the work, whether great or small, that each person contributes to the process.

I am not as good with myself. I hear the other voice instead, that internal condemnation voice. Even when everything goes well, if there is one flaw or one mistake, the experience can be ruined for me. I push hard. And the voice is good at pointing out my errors, flaws, and missteps.

Worse still, I don’t accept encouragement from others very well either, even though I need it. I crave it. But I don’t believe in its authenticity. I may cast off encouragement because I don’t trust the one who is offering it or I don’t trust the intentions or that person’s knowledge of the circumstances.

It’s a sad situation. People like me, people with a lot of natural confidence don’t appear to need encouragement, but that’s all a sham.

So, here are some things that need to happen, to change in me. First, I must use more energy to disregard the evil voice and allow the Holy Spirit to encourage me and thereby receive strength from within. This is the most important source. Secondly, I must open the doors of my heart to the words of others and look for the good in them. Lastly, although I do speak encouragement and strength and even pray for those in my care, I am not as good at encouraging those above me. It’s the same trap. I have assumed they don’t need it from me just as others have assumed it about me.

Praise and acknowledgment are easy. Prayers of encouragement for others even easier, but will gain even more power if followed by words and practices of good will.

If you are reading this post today, I thank you and want you to know that all will be well. There is hope today because God is sovereign. There is a moment still to come that will speak love to you. There is a person whose touch will remind you of your value. There is a breath. And from all of these things, gain courage to stand firm and hold fast to the truth of your worth.

Live loved.

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When Paul’s cohort (more than likely, all men) lived and worked in Thessalonica among the new believers, they had a dual role: mother and father. It’s no different for us, for me. And I don’t mean replicating what it was for us, but what it could be.

I Thessalonians 2:7, 11-12a
. . . but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. . . For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God . . .

Like so many of us, I grew up with a dysfunctional family life. I wouldn’t say my early season as a believer was much better. There were “teachers” aplenty and people who were sure they had all the answers, but not too many who role-modeled mother/father love.

One role meets those basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and above them all, unconditional love and holding (this is how I see the mother who cares for a small child). The second role expands on this one with encouragement, comfort, and advocacy. The first role builds up within the safety of a known environment and the second role sends out into the world.

Jesus did the same thing. He taught in the small circle and gave his disciples everything they needed to thrive and then sent them out to build on what they had learned. Build strength; use strength . . . to grow even stronger.

Have I done this as a parent? Only in fits and starts. Have I practiced these roles as a friend? Not as much as I could or should.

Sometimes I blame my abdication from one or both of these roles because I didn’t get the benefit of them, or at least, it doesn’t seem that way on first blush. It’s not true, of course. God provided everything I needed to move me forward in the world, but in less traditional ways. My God is creative in loving and sending me forth.

In my first year as a believer, it’s true that I didn’t have a caring core to carry me through my questions and disappointments. There were no clear mother/father faithful around me. But I also remember a specific night when I prayed to God, a time when an hour in prayer was nothing because I was on fire and so hungry for the Holy Spirit. And in those early weeks and months, many of my prayers were in Latvian, a language I grew up with as a child. My birth father never did learn English and so up to his death, this was the language we shared. And so, on this night, I talked to God in that child-like way, in a language I hadn’t really exercised much as an adult. The result? I distinctly heard, in Latvian, God speak to my heart and claim that father-place. He would be the father I lost. He would comfort, encourage, and send me forth.

” . . . for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!” [Hebrews 13:5, Amplified]

Selah! [Pause and think of that]

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When anything overflows, the implication is that there is more than enough. Although I can speak at great length about my pains and our troubles, I rarely discourse on the overwhelming comfort I’ve received. Why is that?

II Corinthians 1:3b-5
. . . the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

What travels faster, good news or bad news? There’s nothing like a juicy story at someone else’s expense. Or, it might be a tragedy that is played and replayed on the television. So often, even in sports, it’s the mistakes or the “cheating” that gets the most press. During these weeks the 2010 World Cup is big news and yet, the biggest news seems to be the bad referee calls, faked injuries, and intentional errors.

During the course of a day, don’t we tend to remember the person who was unpleasant and rude more than the polite or sympathetic one? Somehow, the gentle hand never seems to be enough.

Pain has a reputation of being stronger than comfort. Sorrow lays across our heart like a heavy blanket. Disappointment can be a wound that will not heal. Betrayal is the repeated slashes of a knife.

I remember one horrible emotional breakdown I had some time ago. I don’t really remember the source of my cataclysm, but it definitely took me over the edge. I was in full tilt: shouting, crying, and door slamming. My daughter tried to come into my room to “comfort” me and I sent her away. What was I really saying when I rejected her, “You are not able to comfort me!” or “I don’t want to be comforted; I want to feel like this a little longer because I deserve it!”

Despite saying we don’t like to swim in misery, I think we do it more than we care to admit. In fact, swimming in misery can become the norm. Swimming in comfort means feeling better, even good, despite our circumstances.

For comfort to work, it has to be accepted.

Here are some other words for “comforter” in the New Testament: Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby [Amplified]. The comforter is the Holy Spirit and, as we all know and the Holy Spirit is within. True comfort comes from within: the voice of counsel, the voice of solution, the voice of encouragement, the voice of support, the voice of strength, and the voice in the background.

The Comforter has my back . . . if I let that one do his/her job. The comforter picks me up when I fall.

But the Comforter, like Jesus, is polite. Comfort cannot be pressed upon a person. One can always send comfort away.

I am reminded of Matthew 20:32, “Jesus stopped and called them [two blind men]. ‘What do you want me to do for you?'”

The Comforter does not presume. It is sometimes up to me to figure out exactly what is the true problem, what is the issue, what is causing me to feel so much pain, anxiety, fear, etc. This is the first step toward comfort. The second step toward comfort is breath.

That may sound simplistic, but taking a deep breath will often start the healing particularly if it is the breath of God.

My prayer: Open my mind and heart and soul to your Comfort, to your breath, to your spirit. Forgive me for shutting out the Comforter. Forgive me for shutting out the people who come to me in the name of Comfort.

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We have “faculties, talents and qualities” that contribute to our uniqueness. They are gifts. Some of these gifts travel through our family lines, some appear supernaturally, some are discovered after years of disuse, but all are from God and given in grace. Exercising those gifts is a choice.

Romans 12:6-8
Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy . . . practical service . . . teaching . . . encouraging . . . contributing to the needs of others . . . leadership . . . showing mercy . . . .
Amplified and NIV combined

Out of this list, I can manifest some of these attributes by sheer will. I can serve others or encourage, I can even contribute to the needs of others and I am working on showing mercy. These are all good things to have and employ. We would all do well to work on these areas of our lives.

Some people are simply gifted with these attributes and the expression of these gifts is instinctive. And yet, lots of the same folks don’t seem to realize they have the gifts and as a result, the gifts are under-used and the community suffers. Maybe it’s because people don’t even realize how important they are to the body of Christ . . . to the koinonia.

Paul specifically noted these gifts and although I’m sure the list is not necessarily exclusive, clearly these attributes are essential to any team or group (Christian or not, I’d say). There is always a need for visionaries (prophesying) while others handle the practicalities. Some must teach while those who struggle need to be encouraged by those who can see future success in anyone. There are those who understand and multiply resources for the good of all and there are those who can see the big picture and put the puzzle pieces together. And in a thriving group, there will be those whose mercy weaves compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness throughout.

What are your gifts? Do you have one or many? What is the gift of the one beside you? What is mine?

Remember, these gifts are given by grace. Whenever grace is involved, it means there is no “worthiness” involved. The gifts are undeserved and cannot be bought or earned. And yet, all are needed for a fully functioning koinonia.

If you are an encourager, then I exhort you to draw forth the natural gifts of those around you. It may be this role that is most essential to building a truly viable community.

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What do I want to consider about Abraham today? Faith in the face of overwhelming challenges. Faith in the face of boredom and the mundane. Faith in the face of sin and stupidity.

Romans 4:11a
And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe . . .

Abraham gives me courage to have faith outside the box. I can be wrong. I can go astray. I can lose it. But also, I can count on God because, above all else, I do have faith.

I can be fallible. That doesn’t sound like much except that I constantly struggle with my perfectionism. God is gentler with me than I am with myself.

Abraham screwed up big time . . . with Sara, with with Hagar, with Lot, with Isaac. He did damage. And yet, he was covered. He confessed. He talked to God. And God responded with promise.

That’s all, just hope in face of my mistakes, especially with family. I know I have discouraged when I could have encouraged. I have disappointed when I could have applauded. I have talked when I should have listened.

Still I hope that love will grow stronger than fear, mercy will trump judging, and faith will wipe out doubt. that’s the legacy I believe Abraham is giving me.

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