Proverbs 25:11 contains this wise statement, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” If this is true, then I have received some rare and highly valued fruit recently.
Since leaving my previous church, I have received several cards, emails, and phone calls from people around the world. A small few have taken the opportunity to get in a personal dig or criticism, but the vast majority has encouraged us greatly.
Generic statements like “Thanks for your service” were ok, but the ones I found the most encouraging were the ones that were specific in what they said.
- One gentleman thanked me for my ministry to him following his father’s death. He said my words helped him during a dark time. He thanked me for my advice and counsel that helped him relate to and encourage his mother.
- One woman said her late husband always commented on what he learned from my sermons on their drive home from church.
- Another woman pointed to a specific message I preached early in my tenure at the church that gave her a healthier perspective on her marriage. It transformed how she viewed her husband.
- A couple took Carol and me out to lunch and encouraged both of us about the contributions we made to the church. They thanked me for encouraging them to go on a short-term ministry trip. They said the advice I gave them right before their departure—look for ways to serve and be flexible—made all the difference in the world as to what they did on that trip.
- One couple wrote to say I contributed to their spiritual growth.
- Another couple pointed to specific things Carol did in administrating and leading the children’s ministry and specific things I taught that challenged and encouraged them. They also pointed out that the way I prayed and the things I prayed for prior to my sermons both encouraged them and modeled how to pray and how to lead through prayer.
- During a lunch meeting two days ago, a gentleman said I dragged him kicking and screaming with me to Russia several years ago and it transformed his life. Since then, he has been on two other ministry trips to Kyrgyzstan and is planning two more to India and possibly Ethiopia. Through my encouragement, he caught the bug for missions and has not been the same since.
These specific words of encouragement remind me that God called me to ministry and has used me to make a difference.
Several people said they are praying for us. A few of them asked, “How can we pray for you?” A smaller number said, “Can I pray for you right now?” The ones who asked how to pray and took the time to pray were the most encouraging.
These folks challenged me to be an encouragement to others. They reminded me of two principles regarding encouragement:
- Being specific in my praise and encouragement is more profitable than being general and vague.
- Asking how to pray for the individual and taking the time to pray then and there is more encouraging than promising to pray, especially if I forget to follow through.
What encourages me most likely encourages others as well.
Thanks for the encouragement!