I was thinking about the role of “being an encourager” and went for a stroll through Scripture to gather insight and principles.
My discovery? A mere 13 references for the verb form of the word “encourage” from Genesis to Revelation (New American Standard version). There are 9 uses of the noun form of “encouragement,” all but one found in the New Testament. 15 results for “encouraged,” found throughout both Old and New Testaments.
Paul teaches the Thessalonians, “encourage one another and build up one another…” and “…encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (I Thess 5:11, 14, NASB)
Who are the “faint hearted”? Those who “lack courage or resolution”*; “someone who is not confident or brave and dislikes taking unnecessary risks” **; “lacking conviction or boldness or courage”***.
This wording is interesting to me. First, because it appears that those whose hearts “may be encouraged” have already been “knit together in love”; and, those walking as knit together in love, are – as a group – in the process of attaining “a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
Is it possible that the potential impact of “encouragement” falls short, if either of these two conditions aren’t actively at work?
Perhaps the true impact of God extending Himself to encourage one another through each of us is rendered somewhat ineffective because we are not accepting that we are knit together in love, first. God is our Great Knitter, and as He wove our individual bodies in our mothers’ wombs, (Psa. 139:13) so He has woven us together as one through the unity of His Spirit. Secondly, if we are not seeing ourselves as part of a great process, as one to whom Christ, Himself, is being revealed – perhaps all the “encouragement” that can be offered by anyone, simply has no relevance.
As we encourage one another, we are confirming someone’s divine destiny and worth, standing with them for a full manifestation of the blessed Work alive and actively transforming, reworking, reorganizing intangible components of that person’s soul and life. And just as Jesus said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you,” (John 14:27) I suspect that Holy Spirit-powered encouragement might read the same way – “not as the world gives do I give to you.”
This leads me to believe that true encouragement is selfless. In fact, if it is not given selflessly, it is reduced to a form of mere flattery. While encouragement focuses on Him and His Love, His Hopes, His Outcome in someone’s life, flattery may have a similar sound and appearance, but is focused on getting, and not giving. It is like a brass substitute for gold…all shine, but little worth.
I am captured by the designation given to the apostles’ close friend, Barnabas. Named “Joseph” at birth, a Levite from Cypress, the apostles called him “Barnabas,” translated ‘Son of Encouragement.’ (Acts 4:36) Using a commonplace idiom, I picture Barnabas as viewing life with a glass-half-full point of view.
This topic was reflected in a conversation I recently had with a family member: in every decision, every choice, every perspective, our immediate first-lens is either with a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty point of view. Applying a spiritual parallel, perhaps it could be said that our immediate first-lens is either “God is for me” or “God couldn’t care less about me.” And that latter viewpoint is where the enemy hangs his hat.
My encouragement – yes, encouragement – would be to let that hat sit right there. The enemy works hard to custom-fit it to our circumstances, our lives, even our companions. And while none of us can control exactly where the enemy will hang that hat, we can certainly control whether or not to put it on….and whether or not we acknowledge that we are “knit together in love” with our brothers and sisters, pursuing together the true knowledge of God’s mystery.