Webster defines encouragement in part as, “The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive.” Encouragement is something that everyone needs, especially within the body of Christ. The focus of this article will be to look at some ways in which this can be accomplished along with examples. This is a needed topic and one which will hopefully be beneficial to each reader.
Encourage by being there for one another. Israel, the descendents of Jacob, fought against the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau (Ex. 17:8; cf. Ge. 36:8-16). During the battle, Moses was encouraged by Aaron and Hur to uphold his arms because he couldn’t do it alone (v. 12). It’s the same way today. One can’t do everything alone. That’s why we need to make a conscious effort to be there for one another in times of need. The words of Solomon come to mind. “Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Pr. 27:10, ESV). When Christians realize the blessing of encouraging and being encouraged by one another, this is something that will become much easier to practice.
Please be there to fulfill the needs of brethren. I have been on the receiving end of encouragement during times of great need. The brethren stepped up and encouraged me and from their comfort I can hopefully pass on similar encouragement to others who need it.
Encourage by speech. Hezekiah is a good example of one who could encourage. When he restored the system of worship as given to Moses, the following words are recorded: “And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Ch. 30:22).
In another instance during his reign Judah was invaded by Assyria (2 Ch. 32:1). During this time of crisis, Hezekiah spoke to the commanders of the army: “And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah’” (2 Ch. 32:6-8).
Brethren can do a great work by simply speaking encouraging words. Christians are instructed to speak in a truthful and gracious manner (Ep. 4:25, 29; Co. 4:6). Words are indeed a powerful thing and great caution must be practiced before speaking (Ja. 1:19). The example of Hezekiah should be followed in that our words should encourage those who need it and inspire confidence in those who listen.
Encourage by helping new converts. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Barnabas, who is introduced in Acts 4:36. Notice how he was known as “the son of encouragement” because of his ability to encourage the brethren. Also consider the way he assisted Paul after his conversion. The brethren were experiencing a great deal of trepidation because of his previous conduct (Ac 9:26). Notice what Luke says next: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Ac. 9:27, emphasis mine). It must be realized that one who is new to the faith is need of encouragement often times due to their background. Some may face opposition from their families, others may face other struggles. They need to know they have people who love them and will do all they can to encourage them in their new walk.
Let us examine another episode in the life of Barnabas. Luke writes, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Ac. 11:23-24, emphasis mine). The church needs people of the character of Barnabas who will practice encouragement on a regular basis. Physically speaking, children – especially infants – are assisted in their growth and development. It’s no wonder Paul talks of this in a spiritual sense (1 Co. 3:1). He uses this same analogy in describing their approach to new converts in Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7). The writer of Hebrews speaks of his readers’ child-like state in spiritual growth (He. 5:12-13). Peter also uses similar language to describe this growth process (1 Pe. 2:2). There are none who would neglect to make sure infants are physically growing. It shouldn’t be any different with a new brother or sister in their spiritual growth. This is accomplished by continual teaching and encouragement as they grow.
Encourage by being present. Encouragement can be as simple as being physically present and assisting the brethren with a task. The descendants of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan River rather than accompany Israel to fight for the rest of the Promised Land, but Moses told them, “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them?” (Num. 32:7). We later read that they did what they were supposed to do and went into battle, thus encouraging rather than discouraging (v. 18).
People can be encouraged by our presence. It was for this reason that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus and Colossae (Ep. 6:21-22; Co. 4:7-9). Remember the words of David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1). By being present when the church gathers Christians encourage and are encouraged by each other.
These are a few practical ways and examples of how individual Christians can encourage each other. We all need encouragement, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Encouraging someone doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as sending a note to someone who’s struggling with something in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one, finances, job security, or whatever other problem of life which comes their way. Encourage those who are laboring in a worthy manner to continue on in that good work.
It would be good to remember that there may be a time when you may be the one in need of encouragement. Therefore, help those who need it so you can first practice it in your own life. Remember the words of Paul when he spoke to the elders of Ephesus: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Ac. 20:35, emphasis mine).