There are not many in this world who are at risk of drowning in an ocean of encouragement, of being swept away by a tsunami of cheer, of being pulled under by great waves of comfort. There are not many who receive so much encouragement that they never have reason to feel doubts, never have reason to grow weary, never have reason to be tempted toward despondency. There are certainly none at all who are at the least risk of too much truly biblical encouragement.
Yet there are many who suffer daily under the weight of discouragement. There are many whose circumstances are burdensome and who crave acts of kindness, many whose lives are difficult and who feel desperate for some balm for their weary souls, many who are burdened with grief and who long for a kind word to lift their drooping hands and strengthen their weakened knees. There are many who crave what is within the power of any of us to give.
For while some Christians appear to be specially gifted in this way, encouragement is a blessing any of us can give at any time. What comes naturally to some is a habit any of us can build, a discipline any of us can instill. Solomon warns we must never withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in our power to do it. And when isn’t it in our power to do the good of helping another person through a difficult time? When is it beyond our ability to offer a kind word, soft shoulder, or outstretched hand? When could it ever be the wrong time to bring a little joy to another heart?
There are some who seem to prefer to discourage more than to encourage, to be a bringer of grief rather than of joy. Certainly there are times we must speak forthrightly with those who have sinned, strayed, or offended. Certainly there are times when God calls us to be his servants in addressing another person’s shortcomings. But always we must remember the disproportionate nature of encouragement and discouragement. A well-timed word of praise will lighten a man’s step for a day, but a harsh rebuke will burden it for a week. Just as we have been taught to take 10 looks at the cross for every one look at ourselves, perhaps we ought to speak 10 words that will build up—or better yet, a hundred—for every word that might pull down. We should be hesitant with our rebukes but immediate with our praise, blurt out our words of commendation but sleep on our words of reprimand.
Encouragement may take the form of physical, spiritual, or emotional support. Sometimes life is simply too heavy, too burdensome, too sorrowful for any of us to handle on our own. As Aaron and Hur stood beside Moses to hold his aching arms and steady his weary hands, we can come alongside others and shore them up, keeping them going for another day, another hour, another moment. As the angel ministered to Christ in the garden, we can minister to those who are facing their greatest fears, their weakest moments, their sorest trials. As Jonathan strengthened David in God, we can strengthen those who have grown uncertain in their weariness. We can bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. We can be a strand in the three-fold cord that is not easily broken. There is no end of such opportunities, for, until Christ returns, there is no end of pain, grief, and brokenness. But neither is there any end of grace, comfort, and consolation, for God has promised he will never leave us nor forsake us, and so often his presence comes through the presence of his people, his words through the words of his people.
Perhaps the best kind of encouragement is using Bible words to describe Christian character. More than paying mere compliments, it is assuring another Christian that he is displaying clear evidences of God’s sanctifying grace. It speaks of distinctly Christian virtues and describes how they are operative in another person’s life, displayed in another person’s character, exhibited in another person’s deeds. “I see a growing humility in your life, my brother,” “You have become a model of patience and gentleness, my sister,” “You are enduring well and bringing glory to God, my friend.” What joy there is in the Christian heart when it hears of growth in Christlikeness, when it is told it is being conformed ever-more to the image of Jesus Christ. What a work we can do for others when we simply choose to look for evidences of divine grace and then to speak of what we see.
Life on this side of eternity is attended with many sorrows and losses, many sins and failures, many trials and temptations. There is no end of reasons to grow weary, despondent, and discouraged. Thankfully, there is no end of opportunities to bring assistance in the weariness, the despondency, the discouragement of others. It is the privilege of every Christian to bring well-timed encouragement that gives strength to face a trial, courage to endure a challenge, joy to suffer a sorrow. It falls to us to do the work of God himself in ministering to the needs of our brothers and sisters, in comforting them in their sorrows, in speaking divine truths to them in their disappointments. The sacred ministry of encouragement is a ministry for every Christian, a ministry that costs each us little but benefits others much. Who needs your encouragement today?