How careful are we in HOW we speak to each other? I notice that my conversations are peppered with zingers and one-liners. True, most of them are said in jest, just trying to have some fun and laughs…but they can leave a sting.
Why Is Encouragment A Discipline?
First of all, let’s define Encouragement as an affirmation of God working inside someone else. Sometimes this is going to be cheerleading. Sometimes this is going to be a ‘kick in the pants.’
This was a key tool of Jesus. He spent most of his time after the resurrection with the folks who hurt him the most by their betrayal. It was expected that the religious leaders would throw Jesus to the wolves. Those folks who followed Jesus around but never fully accepted his message were not expected to stand by him either.
But his disciples â€“ thatâ€™s another story. They ALL had promised Jesus that they would never betray him. They ALL claimed they could be counted on to the bitter end.Yet, every one of them ran. Not one kept their promise.
When stories surfaced about Jesus rising from the dead, Thomas couldn’t bring himself to believe it. Can you blame him? Do you think the disciples really wanted to see Jesus after their failures in Gethsemane? Do you think they had just a hint of nervous anxiety as well as excitement about seeing him? I’m guessing they had mixed feelings about it at first. That is why Jesus sought after them.
He seals the deal with words of encouragement. He knows that the tasks that lay ahead of these men were like no other in history. They needed to be affirmed and encouraged. So when Jesus walks through the door (literally) to show Thomas his scars, he doesn’t lecture him. He says peace to you and blessed are those who don’t see and still believe. He gives Peter another 3 chances. He seeks out confused believers on their way home to Emmaus to clarify some things. He seals the deal with words of encouragement.
Encouragement refills the tank, blows the wind back in our sails, and puts steel in our bones to continue on the journey of faith. It is an affirmation of God working in them.
Why Is This So Hard?
Part of the reason is that most of us grew up in homes where encouraging words were sparse. A few of us might have been lucky enough to have someone – a pastor, coach, teacher – to model it for us. As a result, we don’t have that as a part of our history.
Another reason why this is difficult is because it takes some degree of spiritual maturity to see God at work in someone else’s life. When we see someone risk or reach out, do we see a transformational fruit OR do we communicate an “it’s about time” attitude? It’s easier to have the ‘attitude’ than it is to see the fruit. Especially when there is a lot of failure to deal with.
Speaking of failure, it is in these times when God does His best work. It’s our job to affirm that work.
For spiritual formation to take place, we must have verbal encouragement.
What are some creative ways we could do this?