My wife and I have been married for only two years and a couple of months. As I look back the different situations that we have been in, there is no doubt that I could be the greatest source of her encouragement or the greatest source of her discouragement. The sad part is that often than not, I have been a source of discouragement for her. The discouragement has occurred in various of ways; It is those moments we get into an argument and because of my own pride I insist on proving my point. Or those other moments she is trying to say something and I am not giving it the attention that it deserves, perhaps I am working on my laptop, scrolling through Facebook feeds, or just doing anything else other than paying attention and listening to her. Or those moments my passivity kicks in! For some reason, I often know when she needs help; at those moments I have two options, either I jump in and help, or seat back and act as though nothing is happening. Or when we are in public and she is making a comment, and maybe she is not as sophisticated as I think she should because of my big headed-ness and small heart-edness, and so I make the face or gesture that she knows so well. I could be very discouraging. I know I am not alone in this. There are many of us out here. It does not necessarily have to be in the context of marriage, we all do have an opportunity as believers to be of encouragement towards others, and we can also be a source of discouragement. So how do we learn to be encourage-rs?
The first thing is to be quick in confessing sin. All of the above instances have one thing in common; they are all as a result of sin, they are sinful tendencies of pride, passivity and partiality. Pride because I want to be right regardless. Passivity because serving requires sacrifice and at times it is very hard and so I want to save myself from the difficulty and enjoy temporary ease. Partiality because I think I am the one who knows what is best and therefore I disregard anyone who does not think as I think, say things as I think they should, or do things as I think they should be done. In other words, I am the standard of good, and everyone else should keep that standard and if they don’t, they’ll get the “face.” Confessing sin is good for us and good for others. It can become a source of encouragement for others especially when we have been a source of discouragement towards them. Confessing sin is an essential part of our sanctification, it is evidence that we are truly being sanctified, that indeed Grace is conquering the power of sin within us and preparing us for the triumphant return of Christ which shall destroy sin completely and we shall have no more sin in us. In confessing our sin, we not only get the encouragement ourselves by the ongoing work of grace within us, but also through the same grace we encourage others by the humility that grace produces in us.
Looking to Christ
Secondly, we also learn to be encourage-rs by looking to Christ. Christ is the perfect model of everything that we have been called to be. The Scriptures tell us that we are being conformed more and more into the image of Christ. Christ not only died on the cross to pay the full penalty for our sin, and save us from the guilt and power of sin, he also rose so that we could experience the resurrection life. Every believer has the power that brought Christ back to life at work in them. We have not been left helpless to wander around trying to figure things out, rather, in our union with Christ, we have everything that we need to lead a life that reflects Christ. How do we look to Christ? We look to Christ by studying the Scriptures, for therein we behold Christ in all his glory, and are conformed into his image as the Holy Spirit applies the Word in our hearts, and enables us to respond/walk in obedience.
What does it look like to be an Encourager?
Lastly and by way of application, we learn to be encourage-rs by looking at other examples of faithful Christ’s followers. A famous example from the Scriptures is Barnabas who after a sharp disagreement with Paul took John Mark with him (Acts 15:36-41). Like Christ with his disciples, Barnabas displayed great patience not to rule out the usefulness of John Mark on the basis of one instance, or a couple of them, but rather saw the potential usefulness and gave himself to serve Mark towards usefulness in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). Being an encourage-r primarily means being willing to serve others regardless of what it will cost you. Being an encourage-r means seeing others in light of the bigger picture, that is, what God is doing in their lives –conforming them into the image of his son. We are often distracted and blinded by the here and now, and we fail to see the glorious reality that our brothers and sisters are partakers of together with us. Being an encourage-r means teaming up with God in the work that He is doing in the lives of those who are around us.
It is a privilege and a delightful duty to be used of God in the lives of those around us for their good and the glory of God. Today, you can be intentional in seeking to use your gifts and talents and opportunities to be of an encouragement to a brother or a sister, that is, to serve them in meaningful and thoughtful ways. God has fully equipped us all for this task. May his grace abound towards you as you seek to be an encourage-r.
Grace and peace.