How many times have you felt the need to encourage someone else, but you just couldn’t think of the right way to do it? Is there a right way or wrong way to encourage others? Perhaps looking at the definition would help. In the New Testament, the Greek word for encourage is parakaleo. It can mean “to call near, invite, comfort, and exhort.” (Strong’s) This word implies a sense of urgency in the call, as well as a loud voice in the call. As I thought about the meaning of this word, I got a mental picture of a parent saying to a child, “Come here right now!” In that circumstance, the parent is ready for some face to face exhortation and encouragement with the child. The noun form of this same verb is used to describe the Holy Spirit as our Comforter (John 16:7) and to describe Jesus as our Advocate (1 John 2:1). This word is rich with meaning and is used in a variety of ways in the Bible. So when we think about how to encourage others, it would include a variety of ideas. I want to share with you four ideas for giving encouragement to others.
This first idea is a motivation. Encourage others as obedience to God. Our theme verse for this encouragement series has been Hebrews 10:25 (NIV). “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Remember that this instruction was written to a congregation that was suffering persecution because of their faith. As a result, some of those in the congregation decided not to attend worship. They became afraid to be seen with or identified with other Christians. Therefore, the instruction was given to stop the cowardly behavior of not attending worship and to encourage one another. In this situation, we can see how the different meanings of the word encourage could be applied. On the one hand, there is a group of people in the congregation acting like cowards. They needed to have someone get in their face and exhort them to stop acting like cowards. On the other hand, this same group was struggling with fear. They needed to have someone come along side of them to help calm their fear. It is easy to see here how the idea of encouragement is expressed with a variety of methods. Whatever method of encouragement you use, remember that your motivation for encouraging others is obedience to God.
Secondly, encourage others every day. Hebrews 3:13 (GW) states, “Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity.” This verse was written in that same context of a congregation facing persecution. In chapter 3, the instruction was to encourage Jewish people not to harden their hearts against Jesus, but instead to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The Christians were to give this encouragement every day while they had the opportunity. In this circumstance, we can see the sense of urgency in the meaning of encouragement. Encourage each other now, every day, while you have the opportunity. Tomorrow may be too late to tell someone about Jesus. Tomorrow, their heart may turn hard. So do it now. Encourage them now.
The third idea is about the resources we have to encourage. Encourage others by using your spiritual gifts and God’s Word. Romans 12:8 (NLT) states, “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.” You may or may not have the spiritual gift of encouragement, but the idea here is to use your gift. One of my spiritual gifts is preaching, so I use that to encourage others.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 (CEV) states, “Encourage each other with these words.” This scripture was written by Paul to encourage Christians who were worried about the end times. The teaching Paul provided about the future coming of Jesus and the rapture of all Christians was to encourage them and give them hope of a future resurrection. He told the Christians to “Encourage each other with these words.” At funerals, I often will use 1 Thessalonians 4 as well as other scriptures to encourage people. So we have spiritual gifts and God’s Word as great resources to use as we encourage others.
The fourth idea is our goal. Encourage others to build them up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) states, “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” We must remember that the reason others need encouragement is because they are already destroyed, beat up, torn apart, and discouraged. So our goal is to build them up.
So the right way to encourage others is to do it out of obedience to God, do it every day, do it using your spiritual gifts and God’s Word, and do it with the goal of building others up. Be encouraged and encourage others.
Next week, we will look at, “How To Deal With Discouragement.”