Have you ever wondered what kind of person God wants you to be? Although our talents, personalities, abilities, and backgrounds may differ, the Scriptures reveal some basic traits the Lord desires for all of us. Every one of us is called to develop a heart for encouraging others (1 Thessalonians 5:11). To encourage someone is simply to let them know they’re not alone, to go to their side and walk with them on their journey. The Christian life is not one of isolation and independence but of relationship and interconnection. Although some of us are more outgoing than others, we can each express encouragement in our own unique ways. We may have no idea what an impact our gracious words, sound advice, or acts of kindness may have on another person.
To encourage someone is simply to let them know they’re not alone.
When I was in first grade, I overheard my teacher comment to someone else, “I like Charles.” She probably never knew I heard her remark, let alone how much it meant to me, but I still remember the way I felt at that moment and the encouragement it gave me during a lonely period in my life. Another person who impacted me was my Sunday school teacher. Even after I’d begun attending a different church, whenever he saw me delivering newspapers, he’d pull his car over and talk with me for a while. Then he’d buy a paper from me for about twice the price even though he had one delivered to his home. We didn’t discuss anything important, but it made me feel significant that he cared enough to go out of his way to talk to me. We probably all have similar memories of people who either deliberately or unknowingly encouraged us.
One of the prime examples of an encourager in Scripture is Barnabas. His name means “son of encouragement,” and that’s exactly what he was. He’s first mentioned because of his eagerness to help the believers in Jerusalem. After selling a piece of property, he gave the money to the apostles so they could distribute it to whoever was in need (Acts 4:36-37). On another occasion, he brought Saul, a former persecutor of believers, into the church, assuring them that he was now a Christian (Acts 9:26-27). Barnabas could never have known the importance of this one act of kindness. Eventually, the infamous Saul would become the great apostle Paul who encouraged countless others as he traveled around the world planting churches.
God wants to use each of us at various times and in different ways to encourage others.
God wants to use each of us at various times and in different ways to encourage others. This means we must be alert to people the Lord brings across our path and make ourselves available, even when it’s inconvenient or we feel as if we have nothing to offer. If we ask the Lord, He’ll give us the wisdom to know what to say or do as we come alongside others.
To become an encourager, we must first give others our time and our undivided attention (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20). Face-to-face meetings are the most effective, but we can also reach out through phone calls, emails, letters, or even text messages. However, I’ve often seen people sitting together in silence at a restaurant with their heads bent over their phones. That’s not the time for texting. When we’re with people, we need to give them our full attention and listen mindfully. How else will we know what’s in their hearts and how to support them?
Second, we can encourage others by helping to meet their needs (2 Corinthians 1:5-7). This might come in the form of comforting those who hurt, affirming those who struggle with low self-esteem, spending time with the lonely, or simply meeting someone’s practical needs. For example, if I didn’t have a few staff members who come to my rescue every so often, my computer would be a disaster.
Third, Christians are called to build each other up spiritually (Romans 1:11-12). When people are struggling to trust the Lord in hard times, they need someone to remind them of God’s constant presence, unfailing promises, or unlimited power in their situation. Sometimes it’s helpful to point out an applicable verse of Scripture that gives God’s perspective, instructions, or comfort. Another aspect of spiritual encouragement is warning someone who’s headed down the wrong path and offering loving correction.
Finally, encouragement is a motivator (Hebrews 10:24-25). I remember a number of times when my mother supported me after I didn’t do very well in a particular subject at school. She never shamed or condemned me for a bad grade but simply encouraged me to do my best. Her advice has stayed with me all these years, motivating me to give my best effort in whatever I do.
If you, too, have been encouraged by your mother, why not let her know how much she has impacted your life and how thankful you are for her love and devotion? Then follow her example, much like Paul followed in Barnabas’ footsteps, and become a son or daughter of encouragement in your family, workplace, and church. The Lord will richly bless both you and those you encourage. You never know what a difference your gracious words or actions might make in someone’s life.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I would like to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the women who give of themselves daily in order to train up children in the Lord. My hope is that you will be encouraged on your special day, just as you have been an encouragement to others. May God bless you.