A friend said recently that her elderly spiritual mentor still sends her frequent messages of encouragement, often at just the right time.

Have you ever received a word of encouragement when you needed it?  I have.

I read recently of a little girl with multiple handicaps who was teased unmercifully by her school mates.  Then, one day her teacher called her up to her desk and gently whispered: “I wish I had a little girl like you.”

That comment was life-changing for that girl.  Somebody valued her.

The apostle Paul lists encouragement as one of the spiritual gifts from God in Romans 12.  He says that if God has given you the gift of encouragement, you should encourage others.

Paul was very good at encouraging.  He could be tough on people for their shortcomings.  But his letters are littered with encouraging words.  He frequently told his readers that he thanked God for them for their love of God and their good deeds.

What is so great about encouragement?

For me, it is seeing something of worth in someone or in what they have done.  When the comment is genuine, people blossom.

Personally, I react better to encouragement than discipline.  I often need discipline – from God and other people.  But God leavens discipline with encouragement in my life – perhaps a word from scripture or from a friend.

Encouragement is most effective when you see something specific in someone that is praiseworthy.  That person realizes your words are not just empty flattery but real.

Encouragement is also important in keeping us on the path God has chosen for us.  In that sense, we build one another up so that we strive to please God even in the hard times.

The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 3:13: “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

God himself has shown us the way to encourage.

When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river, the Holy Spirit descended on him and the Father said from heaven: “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Just after that, Jesus went into a desert place and faced great temptation from Satan.  He went, knowing that the Father loved him and was pleased with him.

May we be ready to offer encouragement, especially to those facing trials.


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