Encouragement

This session was recently presented to the pastors’ wives at the National Church Planters’ Conference in Mentor Ohio, sponsored by ARCH Ministries.  These sessions were adapted from my ladies’ Sunday School series on Biblical Womanhood created for Meadowlands Baptist Church of Edmonton.

Encouragement

What is encouragement? 

The definition of encourage from wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn is:  the expression of approval and support; boost: the act of giving hope or support to someone; the feeling of being encouraged

Biblical encouragement is modeled in the person of the Holy Ghost.  The Greek word translated encourage (parakaleo) means to come along side of as a helper and is sometimes translated in the KJV as comfort, exhort or encourage. For our purposes we will define it:   to receive consolation, be comforted; to encourage, strengthen

How do we find encouragement when we are discouraged?

Through God’s character – God is sovereign and cares for His own

  • God is always with us
    • Joshua 1:9 ~ for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
    • 2 Chronicles 20:17 ~ for the LORD will be with you
    • Deuteronomy 31:8 ~ And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee:
  • God is almighty and is the source of all help and encouragement
    • Psalm 42:5, 11; Psalm 43:5 ~ hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is my God.
    • Isaiah 41:10 ~ Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
  • God acts on behalf of His children
    • 2 Corinthians 7:6 ~ God…comforteth those that are cast down
    • Psalm 107:6 ~ he delivered them
    • Psalm 107:13, 19 ~ he saved them
    • Psalm 118:5 ~ the LORD answered me
    • Psalm 120:1 ~ he heard me.

Through Prayer – God delights to hear the prayers of His own

  • God will hear and answer the prayers of His children
    • Psalm 4:3 ~ the LORD will hear when I call unto him
    • Jeremiah 33:3 ~ Call unto me, and I will answer thee
    • Psalm 138:3 ~ In the day when I cried (prayed) thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

Through spiritual instruction – God provides help for hungry souls

  • God gives pastor and teachers
    • Jeremiah 3:15 ~ And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
    • Ephesians 4:11-12 ~ And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
  • God provides local churches
    • Hebrews 10:2 5 ~ Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting (encouraging) one another
    • 1 Corinthians  4:17 ~ For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
  • God brings other believers into our lives to encourage us
    • Believers are to encourage one another spiritually ~ Isaiah 35:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:14
    • Believers are to encourage one another in the truths of the faith ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
    • Older women teach the younger women ~ Titus 2:3 -4
    • Take care what voices you listen to!
    • Understand that you are not the only one who has ever been in this situation. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
    • Bear one another’s burdens

Through Christian fellowship – fellowship highlights, strengthens and helps build our family ties in Christ

  • “Communication is essential for encouragement to occur.  We have to talk about God’s hand in our lives and our experiences.”[1]
    • Paul was encouraged to hear of the Corinthians’ experiences ~ 2 Corinthians 7:7
    • The encouraged can let the encourager know his ministry was a blessing ~ 1 Corinthians 16:18
    • “Your testimony of God’s faithfulness may be all a person needs to give them the determination to persevere through the trials they are facing right now.” [2]
      • Paul sent Tychicus to encourage the Colossians
      • Paul sent Timothy to encourage the Thessalonians

Through Spiritual Input – right responses are the result of biblically sound input

  • Spiritual Thoughts
    • Songs, hymns, spiritual songs read or sing the words to encouraging, biblically sound spiritual music
    • Read God-honoring literature
    • Listen to doctrinally sound preaching
    • Study and meditate on God’s Word, especially the Psalms

Which Biblical figures encouraged others?

Spiritually

  • Priscilla by her spiritual service ~ 1 Corinthians 16:19
  • Rebecca by her obedience to God’s leading ~ Genesis 24
  • God Himself encourages us ~ Philippians 2:1; Romans 15:5
  • The Word of God encourages us ~ Acts 15:31
  • Scriptures give hope ~ Romans 15:4
  • Barnabas encouraged the believers ~ Acts 4:36; 11:23
  • Paul and Silas encouraged the believers ~ Acts 16:40
  • Believers are to encourage one another by faithful church attendance ~ Hebrews 10:25

Physically

  • Dorcas encouraged poor women by making them clothes ~ Acts 9:36-43
  • Lydia by her hospitality ~ Philippians 1:1-10
  • Martha by her hospitality ~ Luke 10:38-41
  • Abigail encouraged (and appeased) by her courage and wisdom ~ 1 Samuel 25:1-42
  • Joanna by her financial support of God’s work ~ Luke 8:1-3
  • Susanna by ministering to spiritual leaders ~ Luke 8:2-3
  • Shunammite woman by providing for Elisha ~ 2 Kings 4 

Emotionally

  • Sarah encouraged by her submission to her husband ~ 1 Peter 3:6
  • Ruth encouraged by her deference to Naomi ~ book of Ruth
  • Esther encouraged by speaking on behalf of her condemned people ~ book of Esther
  • Children of Israel encouraged Joshua ~ Deuteronomy 1:38; 2:28
  • David encouraged himself in the Lord his God ~ 1 Samuel 30:6
  • God comforts (encourages) us so that we can encourage others ~ 2 Corinthians 1:4
  • God encourages (comforts) the afflicted ~ Psalm 10:17
  • Believers are to build each other up with encouraging speech ~ Ephesians 4:29

What are some practical ways we can encourage our spouse, children, church family, friends, leaders, co-workers, and those God brings across our path?

Line our thinking up with Scripture.

  • Are we Eeyore Christians?
    • Think on things that are true ~ Philippians 4:8
    • Encourage one another daily ~ Hebrews 3:13 
    • Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another ~ Romans 14:19

Think about being an encouragement.

  • If God uses something in your life to encourage you, it’s likely it will encourage others also.
  • Ask God to bring someone to your attention and look for ways to encourage that person.
  • Place your focus on others.  Observe those around you.  Notice what they do that is positive and thank them for it.

Practice encouraging behavior.

  • In the church
    • Acknowledge faithful ministries (pastor, SS teacher, deacon, janitor, choir director, events planner, meal coordinator, etc.) with a verbal thanks or note of appreciation.
    • Encourage others by your faithful attendance to as many services as you are able to attend. ~ Hebrews 10:25
    • Participate in some ministry (choir, cleaning, meals, class helper, office volunteer, etc.)
    • Make an effort to develop relationships in the church – don’t complain that others are not reaching out to you when you are not reaching out to others.
    • Take questions and problems to the correct authority.
  • In the Christian community
    • When someone has illness, has experienced a death, or is in an emergency situation, be specific about your offer to help.  (Not, “Is there anything I can do,” but, I’d like to make you a meal, or drive you to the funeral home, or sit with you after surgery.)
    • For a sick friend, a new mother, someone who has just moved – make a meal.
    • For a tired young mother or a new mom or a young couple who may not have much money to hire help, offer babysitting.
    • Foster Christian fellowship (get to know your family in Christ) by inviting someone over or inviting someone out.  It does not have to be fancy!
    • Share a skill / gift with another believer – cleaning, yard work, repairs, baking, sewing, painting, etc.
    • Write notes of commendation or appreciation when someone has blessed you
    • Send a Card, e-mail, note, e-card to someone who is sick, sad, burdened, or going through a trial
    • Phone to check on those you know are suffering
    • Pray for others when you learn of their burden / situation
    • Rejoice with those who rejoice / weep with those who weep.  Sometimes the most encouraging thing you can do is sit with someone who is suffering and cry with them.
    • Give a small gift to someone as an encouragement
  • In the home or in the extended family
    • Express appreciation for the work of your spouse or co-workers or team members
    • Be available when needed. ~ Colossians 4:8
    • Give a word of praise or share a verse that has blessed you
    • Be a good listener – patient, eye contact, nod head, ask questions, don’t jump in with your experiences unless asked
    • Pay a genuine compliment
    • Be genuinely kind
    • Ladies ask other ladies if they need a hug.

Look around you in this room, in this church, in your family, in your neighborhood, at your work.  All around you are people who have needs, struggles, discouragements of which we are unaware.  Even the most “together” person may be dealing with issues that could be helped with a kind word, encouraging smile or offer of help.  May God grant us the spiritual wisdom and maturity to a church family that is continually growing in our ability to practice the ministry of encouragement toward each other.

Bibliography

Lockyer, Herbert.  All the Women of the Bible.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Books, no date.

Encouraging One Another, Women of Faith Study Guide Series.  Nashville, TN:  Nelson Impact, 2004.

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[1] Encouraging One Another; Women of Faith Study Guide Series,  (Nashville, TN:  Nelson Impact, 2004) p. 44

[2] Ibid, p. 45

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