It doesn’t always take a lot to encourage someone. A text message, a pat on the back, a whisper of confidence, a public word of praise, a high five. That’s the secret power of the letters WTG—Way to Go! We can’t say them too often. The people around us, young and old, thrive on words of encouragement from someone who believes in them. Encouragement is a key component in strengthening others…and yourself.
Our Encouraging God
Someone has said, “All encouragement is from the Lord; all discouragement is from the devil.” There’s truth in that, for our God is a God of admonition, and His Word is a book of encouragement.
The apostle Paul told the Romans: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:4-5, NIV 1984).
The writer to the Hebrews suggested that his readers had grown weary and were in danger of giving up because they “have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons” (Hebrews 12:5, NIV 1984).
Those who want to encourage others must learn how to first encourage ourselves in the Lord—and to do so consistently in His Word.
Our Encouraging Mission
There are many great examples of this in the Bible, but one stands out when you trace the 27 times the word “encouragement” occurs in the New King James Version. In the New Testament, the example of encouragement was Barnabas. Acts 4:36 says, “And Joses . . . was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement).” He encouraged the Jerusalem church with his financial contributions. He encouraged the church in Antioch with his teachings (Acts 11:23). He encouraged Saul of Tarsus (Paul the apostle) to enter the ministry (Acts 11:25-26). He encouraged the Gentile church with sound doctrine in Acts 15:22-31. And he encouraged John Mark (who later wrote the second Gospel) when the young man had faltered and was by-passed for missionary service (Acts 15:36-41). That’s just the power of encouragement demonstrated by one individual. Multiply that by thousands and by millions and imagine how encouragement can change the world. As John Maxwell put it, “Man does not live by bread alone; sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”
Our Encouraging Words
Educator Jane Bluestein, in her book, The Win-Win Classroom, tells about a teacher who was grading an assignment turned in by her second-graders. Most of the papers were admirable and received positive comments and stickers at the top. But one student had turned in a paper that was little more than an angry black scribble. Instead of a story, there was a sentence fragment with no capital letters, no punctuation, and no correctly-spelled words. The paper gave evidence of having been crumpled up in frustration. There were also holes in the paper caused by the vigorous use of an eraser.
The teacher was tempted to mark-up the paper with a red pen, but she hesitated. Making a mental note to work with this student on his capitals and spelling, she decided to make a positive comment and give him a sticker as she had done to the other children. But what could she say that was positive?
She finally saw something on the paper that the student hadn’t messed up. She returned the paper to him bearing the words: “Magnificent Margins!”
The boy was delighted with his sticker and proud of his magnificent margins. He grew more concerned about his work, and as his teacher patiently worked with him he showed steady progress.
It takes a little thought and sometimes a slight change in our perspective, but we can learn to touch the lives of others through encouragement. We can learn to say “Way to Go!” Or at least we can say “Magnificent Margins!”
Who have you encouraged today?
Do you remember the story of the rich fool in our Lord’s parable in Luke 12? According to verse 13 of that chapter, a man approached Jesus one day saying, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus responded with a warning, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
To illustrate the point, Jesus told the story of a certain rich man whose farms yielded abundantly for several years. The successful farmer kept building more barns to hoard his wealth, and he thought he was set for life. He said to himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”
But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be?” Jesus concluded His story by saying: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:19-20).Love’s List—Let Me Count the Ways
The greatest love poem ever written is 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s love hymn:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
This poem counts the ways in which we love others. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said, “This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience; it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails” (Phillips).
If you want to commit this chapter to memory and begin practicing it, it helps to break it down into its three main sections.Hope for the Future
While many look to the government, material possessions, drugs, or pleasure, they quickly find that these only lead to temporary distractions on a lifelong quest for happiness.
Never have so many people been so unhappy as they are today. Perhaps the true source of despair and hopelessness among many people today is simply the recognition that life isn’t what it ought to be. Some of the things that promised them satisfaction and joy have not delivered on the promise.
One thing I can tell you for certain is you can’t live very long without hope. Hope is a main ingredient in life. It is the very core of who you are and your existence as a person.
Psalm 146 is called one of the hallelujah psalms, meaning they “praise the Lord.” And the hallelujah psalm in Psalm 146 portrays a wonderful picture of hope. It is an invitation to those who know despair all too well. It presents and opportunity to take another look at the hope that can only be found in God.
Let’s work through this psalm together on three key points, all of them leading to the One who can and will provide.