BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT). Everybody needs encouragement in life. However, we live in a competitive world where most people care less about the progress of others. All they’re concerned about is their interest – how they can be better than the other person, and, if possible, take advantage of him to advance and surpass his attainment. Nevertheless, life should not be all about competition. You have a responsibility towards your neighbors, to encourage them – you need other’s encouragement too.
Paul writes, “For I long to visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will help you grow strong in the Lord. I’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other” (Romans 1:11-12 NLT).
In Acts 4:36, the Bible says one of the apostles, Joseph (Joses), was nicknamed Barnabas which means “Son of encouragement.” And indeed, his life showed he was a great encourager. Apostle Paul will testify to that (Acts 9:26-28; 11:25-26). Be an encourager too. Don’t be concerned only about your success or progress; seek to encourage others too.
9 Ways to Encourage others
1. By speaking encouraging words to them. Negative or discouraging words demotivate; it kills. “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked” (Proverbs 10:11 NKJV).
Speaking encouraging words to people include commending their efforts or performances. Such may not be outstanding but positive comments serve as reinforcement to do better. Don’t be judgmental. Be careful what you say to others. Don’t be a source of discouragement to them. Communicate life with your mouth, not death. “Those who love to talk will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or nourish life” (Proverbs 18:21 NLT).
2. By giving them good and timely advice. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14 NKJV). According to Proverbs 24:6, “For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety” (NKJV).
Nobody knows it all. Good and timely advice well-communicated can, on some occasions, serve as an encouragement to continue and not give up. Proverbs 25:11 says, “Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket” (NLT).
3. By standing with them when they’re facing challenges. This is empathy rather than sympathy. Knowing that one is not alone in a time of crisis serves as encouragement to face the situation. Desertion or loneliness can dampen someone’s spirit. Galatians 6:2 says, “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (NLT).
King Saul was after David’s life, chasing him to everywhere he got information that he was. At such a time, when the number one person in a country with all that was in his power is after one’s life, one needs all the encouragement one can get. Jonathan whose father, Saul, was after David’s life didn’t fail to give his covenant friend the much-needed encouragement.
1 Samuel 23:15-18 says, “One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jonathan reassured him. ‘My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father is well aware.’ So the two of them renewed their covenant of friendship before the LORD. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh” (NLT).
It was Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who stood by Paul when the church didn’t want to receive him or have anything to do with him, after his conversion. Barnabas actually made it possible for Paul to be admitted to their fold. “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out” (Acts 9:26-28 NKJV).
It was the same Barnabas who went to seek Paul in Tarsus, his hometown, where the church had sent him to for safety when the Grecian Jews wanted to kill him in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28-30), and brought him to Antioch. Paul had stayed in Tarsus for quite some years, but one can say that Barnabas’s commendable action of going to bring him to Antioch took Paul’s ministry to the next level.
Acts 11:25-26 says, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (NKJV). Though Tarsus was an important city (Acts 21:39), Barnabas must have been convinced that Paul’s grace would be more beneficial to the young church in Antioch at that time.
The same Barnabas had earlier sold his land, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37) to encourage the leadership to meet the challenge of meeting the needs of the multitude turning to Jesus upon the birth of the church. Don’t be self-centred; encourage others.
4. By believing in them and telling them. When you tell others you know they can do it, they can make it, they are up to the task, etc., they are motivated and challenged to excel especially so as not to disappoint your expectation of them. Paul expressed his faith in Timothy saying, “I know that you sincerely trust the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother, Eunice, and your grandmother, Lois. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you” (2 Timothy 1:5-6 NLT). The last thing you want to do is to let down such a person who believes in you. Do your words and actions encourage people or discourage them?
5. By assisting them to achieve their goals or assignments. Rather than unfairly criticizing others’ inadequacies, weaknesses, or flawed efforts that are not giving them a good result, you can encourage them by adding your efforts in any way you can for such people to succeed. They may be putting in their best already, doing all they know to do so undue criticism is not what they’re looking for – they need help and they’ll appreciate it.
In Acts 8:26-38, the Ethiopian eunuch was already doing his best to understand the scripture he was reading. He was making a serious effort but his effort wasn’t enough! The least he would expect was criticism – he needed help not discouraging criticisms. And, thank God, Philip didn’t criticize him; he only asked him if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian eunuch said he could not understand when there was no one to instruct him, and he begged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. After the explanation, the man was converted to Christianity and was baptized in water. He must have taken the gospel back to his country.
Assist others to succeed and you’ll be encouraging them. “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT). But someone with a spirit of competitive jealousy will not help others to succeed because the only person he wants to succeed is himself. “Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (Philippians 2:4 NLT).
6. By avoiding unhealthy rivalry or competition. There is healthy competition that provokes and energizes others to succeed. And there is another type, which is unhealthy and destructive – avoid this. Be interested in the success of others. The truth is that others’ success doesn’t stop you from succeeding. Don’t engage in vicious rivalry. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3 NKJV). Psalm 133:1 says, “How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony!” (NLT).
You should not destroy others because you want to succeed; you don’t need to pull anyone down so that you can rise. You can’t pull anyone down without going down first! “Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NKJV).
7. By being a godly example. Example is better than precept. We can influence others’ lives by the example of our lives. Paul told the Corinthians to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16). But not a blind imitation because he has said earlier, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV).
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14), many are easily discouraged. Prophet Elijah had thought he was the only prophet left and yet the Israelites wanted to slay him. He was discouraged to the point of asking God to kill him (1 Kings 19:10, 15) not knowing that God had seven thousand left in Israel whose knees had not bowed unto Baal and mouths had not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18).
People, especially young believers, protégés, and followers, can be encouraged to live according to the Word of God if they see that they’re not alone; they draw strength and support from the knowledge that they have a company in the right example they’re following.
Paul wrote to Titus: “In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely in all they do. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good deeds of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Let your teaching be so correct that it can’t be criticized. Then those who want to argue will be ashamed because they won’t have anything bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8 NLT).
Similarly, Paul also wrote to Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV).
The Bible tells Christians to, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24 NLT). There is the need to encourage others concerning their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2). But there is also the need for mutual encouragement of each other’s faith so as to become a blessing to each other (Romans 1:12). The timid should be encouraged (1 Thessalonians 5:14) while believers should encourage one another as the return of the Lord is approaching (Hebrews 10:25).
8. By praying for them. Everybody needs the prayer of others. The great Apostle Paul even asked for brethren’s prayer. “Pray for us,” he pleaded three times (1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Hebrews 13:18).
Prayer can turn a situation around; it can change a negative perspective to a positive one. Prayer can release encouragement upon another person even without talking to the person.
James 5:16 says we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed. Pray for the healing of someone who has confessed his sin – healing of emotions and conscience, relationships, etc. Pray to God for encouragement for people; pray against discouragement in every form.
9. By correcting them lovingly. Constructive criticism helps you to see your weaknesses or errors so that you can do what is right or do better. People always appreciate corrections or criticisms given with a view to making them better rather than destroying them. “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray” (Proverbs 10:17 NKJV). Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (NKJV).
According to Proverbs 15:5, “Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; whoever learns from correction is wise” (NLT). Verses 31-32 of the same chapter 15 say, “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding” (NLT).
From these scriptures, we could see the importance of listening to correction. People you correct in love often feel you’re interested in their progress and will consider applying your suggestions. If it works, they’ll keep thanking you.
Conclusion: As I’ve said before, everybody needs encouragement. Don’t encourage anyone to do evil like those Psalm 64:5 talks about – “They encourage each other to do evil” (NLT). Encourage others to do good not evil. Be an encourager. Remember that whatever you sow you shall reap (Galatians 6:7). Don’t be responsible for discouraging anyone to quit his destiny, calling, marriage, family, ministry, etc.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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