Encouragement – It’s a Command and a Gift

The overlook at Colton State Park, Pennsylvania
The overlook at Colton State Park, Pennsylvania

Have you ever invited friends over to your home?  And when they left, did you see them to their car with your heart singing, because, somehow, they have encouraged not just your mind, but your spirit, as well?  There are a few friends in my life that do just that – you get done talking with them and you feel like you’ve been lifted up and blessings have been given to you – “a good measure, pressed own, shaken together, and running over, poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38).

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

You didn’t even have to be feeling down – these people, through words and simply being there, brought refreshment and encouragement.  Whether intentional or as an overflow of their own encouragement, they’re the type of people you just want to be around.

Exploring The Joint in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Exploring The Joint in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Paul expressed this type of reaction in 1 Corinthians 16: “I rejoice because… [these people] have refreshed my spirit as well as yours.  So fully acknowledge such men and deeply appreciate them” (vv. 17-80).  Another translation says, “They have been a wonderful encouragement to me… you must show your appreciation to all who serve so well.”

Views from the Sahale Arm Trail, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Views from the Sahale Arm Trail, North Cascades National Park, Washington

Encouragement isn’t just a nice thing that people can do.  It’s a gift of the Spirit (usually included under the gift of Exhortation).  Like most of the gifts of God, everyone can walk in the gift (and likely should, to some extent) but some people have the gift – and for them to use it is 1) as natural as breathing once they have learned to use it, 2) much stronger and more powerful than others who only walk in it, and 3) brings incredible fulfillment to the person with the gift when they use it.

Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

For example, I’ve heard of many believers who spoke in tongues during and after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:4, Acts 19:6, etc.).  Yet there are people who have the gift of speaking in tongues – for these individuals, they find incredible power and fulfillment in praying in the Spirit – not to mention some pretty spectacular answers to their prayers.

But back to the topic of encouragement: We are all called to encourage one another and to build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  Paul didn’t seem worried that this would make other people proud – instead, he seemed to think that it would help people to work hard for the good of all of the other believers.

Viewpoint along the Big Bend Road, Letchworth State Park, New York
Viewpoint along the Big Bend Road, Letchworth State Park, New York

We all are called to encourage – but some people carry a gift for encouragement.  If you’re that person – the kind that can encourage with something as simple as a smile or an unrelated word; a person who can help others overcome their doubts with almost no logic; someone who can lift up the weary to keep on trusting and running the race – don’t be afraid to do it!  Let it flow through you.  No, you’re not helping people sin or become proud.  No, you’re not contributing to someone’s downfall.  You’re encouraging them to run toward Christ and His perfect plan for their life.

Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah
Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah

Paul asks the church to “acknowledge such men” (1 Corinthians 16:18) who have a gift to be able to encourage others.  If you are encouraged, appreciate it – thank them, help them out in some way, or just be a friend.  (Encouragers often give and give because people love to be around them; being a friend can be an incredible encouragement to an encourager.)  I recall sending thank-you notes as a child to various people who had in some way encouraged my family.  Whatever way you choose to do it, appreciate and recognize the encouragement that comes to those who refresh you – and give God thanks for them.