Last week I received one of the most encouraging notes I have ever received. It came from someone whom I’ve never met, but who apparently has been aware of my ministry for some time. The writer mentioned an article I wrote and published in the late 90’s that they found helpful and were going to share with some folks in their network. The person talked about some work I had done twenty years that was still bearing fruit. The individual thanked me for my ministry and said my labor was not in vain. It was so encouraging.
It prompted me to think of the instruction in Hebrews to “encourage one another.”
Hebrews 3:13—But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:24–25—And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Since I was invited to speak to our senior saints monthly luncheon, I decided to share my experience and encourage them to take on the role being encouragers. I gave them a copy of the chart below that is adapted from Walk Thru the Bible’s 7 Laws of the Learner: The Law of Expectation.
Consider—We need to be students of each other, intently analyzing and paying attention to each other’s needs. Since the goal or end result of encouragement is to either challenge the individual to greater service or to prevent them from being deceived and disillusioned, we need to know which direction they need to go in. This process of considering or examining another person takes place internally. It is private and the other person should not know that you are doing it. In addition, it should be done constantly.
Encourage/Exhort—After we consider the group or individual, we can then begin to encourage them. It is important that we form an accurate appraisal of their need so that we can tailor our encouragement/exhortation to best fit their circumstance. Perhaps they merely need comfort and consolation, or a listening ear, a hug, or perhaps a soft, gentle voice telling them we understand and hurt with them or encouraging them to go on. Maybe they need someone to exhort, challenge, and contend with them until they come to repentance. This needs to be done on a daily basis. It is to be the habitual practice of our lives. Rather than being private and internal like examination, encouragement is to be spoken publicly and done externally. It can take the form of a one-on-one conversation or meeting, or a card or letter sent in the mail.
Stir Up—Like a jockey going to the whip to encourage his mount on to victory in the Kentucky Derby, this part of the process takes place privately or internally in the other person as they become excited, stirred up, or spurred on. Rather than assume that “one size fits all,” I need to tailor my encouragement to the individual’s needs, personality, and circumstance. Once again, that entails doing an accurate job of considering the person, of being a student of them and their needs.
Goal—The positive goal suggested in Hebrews 10:24 is the growth of love and good deeds. The negative goal listed in Hebrews 3:13 is the prevention of a callused heart.
In a world of negative, cynical, complaining people, become an encourager. In light of the fact that Jesus Christ is coming back soon, encourage one another. Let it become your daily habit.