Millions of dollars are spent every year by businesses in an effort to pump up their sales forces in order to add to the bottom line. Pat Summit of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers and Pat Riley of the Miami Heat both know that winning requires well-motivated players as much as it does talented players. Whether we’re talking sports or industry, peak performance is not achieved by de-motivated, discouraged team members.
This is true in all aspects of life. Everyone needs encouragement. Our family members need our encouragement. Those with whom we walk in the steps of Jesus need it. Spiritual leaders in our faith community need it. I need encouragement. You need encouragement. In fact, my sense is that everywhere we turn we will find people who are struggling under life’s load who could be greatly benefited if someone would speak a few kind words to them.
Few people articulate the need for encouragement quite as clearly as the little boy who said to his father, “Daddy, let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say ‘Wonderful!’” (Bits & Pieces, December, 1993)
It is so easy to become discouraged, even when thinking about what we are called to be and do as Christ’s disciples, isn’t it? Passages like Galatians 6:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 seem to reinforce this idea.
– Galatians 6:9 reads, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:58 states, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Dante Bartiel Rossetti, the famous 19th-century poet and artist, was once approached by an elderly man. The old fellow had some sketches and drawings that he wanted Rossetti to look at and tell him if they were any good, or if they, at least, showed potential talent.
Rossetti looked them over carefully. After the first few he knew that they were worthless, showing not the least sign of artistic talent. But Rossetti was a kind man and he told the elderly man as gently as possible that the pictures were without much value and showed little talent. He was sorry, but he could not lie to the man.
The visitor was disappointed, but seemed to expect Rossetti's judgment. He then apologized for taking up Rossetti's time, but would he just look at a few more drawings—these done by a young art student?
Rossetti looked over the second batch of sketches and immediately enthused over the talent they revealed. "These," he said, "Ah, these are good. This young man, whoever he is, has great talent. He should be given every help and encouragement in his career as an artist. He has a great future, if he will work hard and stick with it."
Rossetti could see that the old fellow was deeply moved. "Who is this fine young artist?" he asked, "Your son?"
"No," said the old fellow sadly. "It is me—40 years ago. If only I had heard your praise then. For you see, I got discouraged and gave up—too soon." (Bits & Pieces, March, 1995)
That's one reason God places the children He has adopted in spiritual families, the faith communities where we both give and receive encouragement. The world we live in is tough, at times. The talent God has given us needs to be nurtured. The challenges we face for day-to-day require both hope for a better future and help in making that become a reality. To be sure, God is at work in us both to will and to act, according to His good pleasure (cf. Philippians 1:12-13). And, a number of passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is helping to shape our lives into conformity to the will of God and way of Christ. This is precisely what the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians. As we read in Ephesians 4:14-19, “1415 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” For this reason I kneel before the Father,
Still, those of us who follow in the steps of Jesus are called to build one another up. The following verses bring this home in a big way for me today:
– 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, “9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
– Hebrews 3:12-13, “12See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”
– Hebrews 10:23-25, “23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
So, as we go about our tasks this day, let us commit our lives—our words and our deeds—to the noble task of lifting others up and bringing out the best in them. A poem that I read years ago helps me understand what my role should be. I’ve not always lived into the high ideals that God has for my life in this regard, but with God’s help and your encouragement perhaps I’ll reach my goal some day. Perhaps we can help each other down this pathway.
I watched them tear a building down;
A band of men in a busy town.
With a `HO-HEAVE-HO' and a lusty yell;
They swung a beam and a sidewalk fell.
I asked the foreman, `Are these men skilled?
And the men you'd hire if you had to build?'
He gave a laugh and said, `No indeed!
Common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken a year to do.'
And I thought to myself as I went on my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care?
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?