How important is encouragement in the life of a Christian?
We are living in a world that can be very discouraging and depressing, and a word of encouragement can be very uplifting. We know that in our spiritual life, roadblocks will be put in front of us in order to deter us from achieving our goal, but we mustn’t let these deter us in any way! We can and will win if we keep the Way of God.
What is the definition of encouragement? In collinsdictionary.com we read that it is “the activity of encouraging someone, or something that is said or done in order to encourage them.” It then gives the following synonyms: “inspiration, help, support, aid, favour, comfort, comforting, cheer, cheering, consolation, reassurance, morale boosting, succour.”
Merriam Webster gives these definitions of encourage:
to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope: HEARTEN
to attempt to persuade: URGE
to spur on: STIMULATE
to give help or patronage to: FOSTER
We know that when we were called to God’s Way of Life, it was not an easy way that lay ahead of us but was the “narrow way” (compare Matthew 7:13-14) and while pursuing it, encouragement can greatly help us in our goal of making it into the Kingdom of God.
In the Old Testament we read of discouragement in Ezra 4:4-5: “Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” This resistance to rebuilding the Temple came from outsiders – the people of the land. As we know, the Temple was rebuilt years later.
We know that Elijah was extremely discouraged after his Mount Carmel victory over the prophets of Baal. In 1 Kings 19:1-10 we read that “he prayed that he might die” after he was threatened by Jezebel and said: “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” We read in the following verses that God encouraged him and he went on to do more things in the name of the LORD.
Today, many of us live in countries where we do not suffer any real persecution at all, but that does not detract from the fact that a true Christian lives a completely different Way of Life from those who have not had God’s great calling at this time. Even with the astounding and wonderful knowledge that God has made available to us, we can still feel down, and discouragement is not unknown to God’s people. Satan will, of course, want to throw us off track as we read in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We have been warned!
The following is an old story that is worth repeating in the context of discouragement.
“The devil was holding a yard sale one day and displayed his most useful tools, marked at different prices, on a table. Lying side by side were some of his most notable implements of destruction: hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, lust, lying and pride- all on sale. But over to the side of the yard on display was a worn-out tool that cost more than all the others combined. The tool was labeled DISCOURAGEMENT. When asked why it was more expensive than the other tools, the devil responded, ‘It’s more useful to me than any of the others. When I can’t bring down my victims with the rest of my tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize it belongs to me.’”
An internet writer observed: “Discouragement is a thief. It steals your vitality, your zeal, your joy, your peace, and your contentment. If discouragement dwells long with you, its friends will soon join. Their names are fatigue, hopelessness, despair, self-pity, depression, doubt, and bitterness. Sometimes, discouragement can be so strong that you even don’t want to go on living.”
If we find ourselves discouraged at any time, we should take this to God in prayer and ask for His help in turning this difficulty around.
It is interesting and helpful to review positive information about encouragement in the Bible. In Acts 4:36 we read that “Joses who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement)…” This is the first time in the Bible that he is mentioned and it shows his outstanding example of generosity when he sold a field that he owned and then took the money to the apostles to distribute to those in need (verse 37).
Barnabas was a nickname given to him: a product of his character. It seems that he played a vital role in the early church. Here we see that he had sold some land to help provide for fellow Christian believers. The Church members in Jerusalem were in severe economic need and what did he do – just give out sympathy? No, he encouraged everyone by providing for their needs.
In Acts 9:26-27, Barnabas is seen encouraging the apostle Paul. He even took him to the apostles in Jerusalem for an introduction. Two chapters later he encouraged new believers in Antioch (compare Acts 11:22-24).
We read the apostle Paul’s instruction in Hebrews 3:13: “… but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” The NIV uses the word encourage where the New King James Bible uses the word exhort, but exhort means to urge and to encourage.
The apostle Paul further instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing,” and the margin in the New King James Bible says that we are to “encourage” each other.
Do we encourage others? Is this part of our Christian Way of Life? It certainly should be! Hebrews 10:24 states, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” In a world of doom and gloom, a word of encouragement can work wonders. As the saying goes: “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticise me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
We know that in this life now, we will have tests, trials and tribulation, as our calling is tested, and Jesus told His followers nearly 2,000 years ago and, by extension today, to be of good cheer as He had overcome the world (compare John 16:33).
In 2 Timothy 2:3-4, we read about being strong in Jesus Christ: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” This clearly tells us that there is to be hardship – the Greek word can also be translated as to undergo hardship, be afflicted, endure afflictions, to suffer trouble. The true Christian Way is not easy, and we will be tested throughout the rest of our lives. God has got to see whether we are serious about our calling and His Way of Life. If it were easy, anyone could do it, but the reward is so glorious and wonderful – and will last for eternity – that God has to be sure of us. And that is why we will be tested.
When was the last time that we encouraged or sincerely complimented someone? Negative comments are easy to make but encouragement is a quality not normally exercised by too many.
Another internet writer put it this way: “Encouragement makes it easier to live in a fallen world in a holy way. Encouragement makes it easier to love as Jesus loved (see John 13:34-35). Encouragement gives hope (Romans 15:4). Encouragement helps us through times of discipline and testing (Hebrews 12:5). Encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 5:22-26). Encouragement makes it easier to sacrifice our own desires for the advancement of God’s kingdom. In short, encouragement makes it easier to live the Christian life.”
It has been said that encouragement is the greatest tool available to adults to boost children’s self-esteem. The psychologist Rudolph Dreikers once said, “Like a plant needs water children need encouragement.” It is through encouragement that we help others to achieve greater things than they thought possible.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”
This tells us that God is a God of mercy and comfort who comforts us, and that we may comfort others. There many verses in the Bible that can be helpful and encouraging and which can lift our spirits, and here are but a few of so many that are worth reviewing: Psalm 18:1-2; 27:1, 46:1; Isaiah 12:2; Acts 1:8; Romans 14:19; Philippians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” The New Living Translation uses the phrase “motivate one another” instead of “exhorting one another”, and this is another way of encouragement.
What a future God’s people have to look forward to in the Kingdom of God and a time when encouragement, not doom and gloom, will be the order of the day! The original question was “How Important is Encouragement in the life of a Christian?“ This answer has shown that it is vital. Encouragement is the expression of approval and support. We should, in the true Church of God, support each other and help in any way we can.
Don’t ever give up. Tough times will come and go. For a true Christian, everything happens for a purpose, and God is always with us. The future is wonderful, and at this time, we should acknowledge this and use encouragement as a vital part of our Christian life.
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)