Why Christians Need To Encourage Others
Joshua was facing a daunting task. He had just replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelites and had to lead his people across the Jordan River into the promised land. Spies had checked out the land beforehand and had a discouraging report: the inhabitants were so tall they felt like grasshoppers in comparison and the land had fortified cities like Jericho. God kept telling Joshua to live His way, and to be strong and courageous throughout his journey. So Joshua and the Israelites did it with God’s help. They conquered the promised land and you know what happened to the city of Jericho. The walls came a tumblin’ down.
In the same way, God expects us to encourage each other and spur each other on to good works. In church, we Christians often hear that we should not gossip, condemn others, or put them down. People seem really good at judging and criticizing others, however, and are not so good at saying the right words to lift other people up.
Encouragement does not come naturally
We do not often hear about the need for us to encourage each other in church. It does not come naturally to us to build others up. We need to be mindful and look for opportunities to encourage others. Some people have a gift for encouraging others which God says they should use (Romans 12:8) but most of us have to work at it. The act of exhortation (strong encouragement) is a way of showing love to others and looking out for their best interests (Hebrews 10-19-25).
Our words have more power than we may think – the power of life and death (James 3:2-6). Our tongues can be wholesome and healing or as destructive as a fire. We need to be mindful of how the things we say impact others. A small spark can start a raging blaze that is hard to put out. On the other hand, our words can help people be glad (Proverbs 12:25) and restore their hope. The words of the righteous are like a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11).
Understanding our human nature
As Christians, we understand that we are frail, weak, and prone to make mistakes. Sometimes we just need reassurance that we are doing the right thing. Even the most confident among us need to be encouraged now and then.
I have especially noticed in working in various ministries that after a while, church leaders and members stop giving positive feedback. Leaders just assume that their teams know that they are doing a fine job. Unfortunately, people then feel insecure in their roles, and may even resent their leader for not acknowledging their good work.
Why people are reluctant to encourage
Why are some people so reticent about building up other people? Here are some common reasons:
- They do not recognize when people need encouragement
- They take for granted that the person who needs building up somehow magically knows that they are doing a good job without being told
- They are concerned that uplifting words will make the person vain or proud
- They are jealous of the person and do not want to give them anything more than they have to
How to be encouraging
We are supposed to encourage each other and build each other up (1Thessalonians 5: 10-12) but It is not natural for most of us to exhort others. We are naturally selfish and clueless about how the people around us are feeling.
Sometimes the need for a positive word is not obvious, but is under the surface of what people are saying. We have to dig a little to see what they need. We need to reprogram our minds to focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, admirable, praiseworthy, or excellent and pass it on. Effort is needed to say words that lead to peace and mutual edification (Romans 14:9).
The Holy Spirit needs to retrain our brains to detect signs of discouragement that should be addressed. We must be able to recognize when someone requires exhortation that benefits them and meets their needs (Ephesians 4:29).
Sometimes, stirring up another person to love and good works requires careful thought and planning (Hebrews 10:24). When we say the right thing, our words are apples of gold in a silver setting (Proverbs 25:11). Our words could also keep someone from sinning when they are tempted to do something wrong.
Reasons to encourage other
People ocassionally need assurance that they are doing a good job in order to renew their motivation. They need to know how they are doing from time to time in order to have the confidence to continue what they are doing.
People alos face difficult choices at times and are unsure what to do. Lifting them up instead of giving advice reassure them that they can make the right decision and go in the right direction. Sharing our personal experiences and telling positive stories can also help them make the right decision.
There are times when people need comfort and to have someone recognize their abilities and affirm them. People can become fainthearted and discouraged. They may feel alone and overwhelmed by their circumstances. We should patiently exhort them (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Encouragement restores their hope and optimism for the future.
People, especially new Christians, needs reassurance in their faith now and then. They may need to be assured that God understands their situation and hears their prayers (Psalm 10:17, Romans 15:4). We may be tempted to use clichés, but this is not helpful. It is good to quote scripture in some situations and motivate discouraged people to seek consolation in the Bible. Christians gatherings and attending church can also help restore someone who is struggling.
Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, including church leaders and pastors. They crave a word fitly spoken to exhort them. We should not not withhold praise from people who deserve it because doing so could breed discouragement and resentment in them.
Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Exhorting others comes out of a place of love for them and helps to nurture our relationships. When we love and serve one another, we are good stewards of God's grace (1 Peter 4:8-10). We should do this without grumbling and pick our words carefully. What we say should only build other people up and strengthen them (Ephesian 4:29). If we practice encouragement, we will also feel encouraged ourselves.