I ran a Spartan Race this last weekend and I was reminded about one of our deepest needs. In fact, you are surrounded by people who desperately need this one thing.
As my friends and I ran, crawled and climbed our way through five miles of mud and dozens of obstacles, we found something that we really needed…encouragement.
Throughout the course, fellow racers, fans and workers would offer simple words of encouragement and exhortation to keep going and finish well. Over and over…at the top of a hill…around a bend…at the foot of an obstacle…there they were…people offering encouragement.
Do you know what amazed me most about the experience?
Real life isn’t like that…at all.
Encouragement is uncommon.
Do you find people on the sidelines of your daily life offering encouragement?
Do you find people telling you that you are doing well?
Do you find people speaking to the possibilities and potential of life?
Me neither. We live in a world tilted toward criticism, sarcasm and ridicule.
What do you experience more…a tearing down or a building up?
What do you do more?
Sadly, the church is often no different. We diminish, find fault, and leak hope like a balloon with a hole in it. It should not be so. Our core mission is to make disciples. We could say it a different way. Our core mission is to build people up so that their life could better reflect Jesus Christ.
Sometimes that does require correction. The hard word has to be spoken and we need to learn to better receive those exhortations. We are not very good at receiving a rebuke. Yet it seems like most rebukes are not acts of love intended to help but beatings intended to hurt.
I have spent the majority of my life bent towards a critical spirit. Sometimes, when we deeply care about truth, we are quick to condemn whatever doesn’t align with our understanding of it. Sometimes, our personal insecurities lead us to knock down others so that we feel better about ourselves. I’ve been guilty of both.
The older I get, the more I don’t want to be that guy. I want to encourage and inspire and help. I want to recognize the good and applaud it. I want to spur people on to pursue the fullest of lives. I am called to that and so are you.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” -1 Thessalonians 5:11
“…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”‘ -Hebrews 3:13
The thing is…it’s not that hard to be an encourager and people desperately need it.
Here are my three parts to a good encouragement.
1. It is simple.
No need to make it complicated or elaborate. Make it simple so that you will do it often.
2. It is specific.
General compliments ring hollow to me. Specific encouragements are more helpful, more inspiring and have the ring of truth.
3. It is honest.
People usually know when an attempt to encourage isn’t grounded in truth. The attempt may be appreciated but it almost hurts more than helps because it feels like someone couldn’t find anything real to build you up on.
Encouragement is rare and it shouldn’t be. There is enough in this life to drag people down. Prop someone up. Encourage through a word, a call, a text, a note, a prayer, a gift, an act of service, a hug, or simply your friendship. We all need encouragement.
Emerson said “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Fill that want in someone. You could do that today.
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