There is a great deal of the world around us that offers discouragement with ease. This should not surprise us because Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble. But even amongst Christians, we can discourage one another by gossiping, being judgmental, unfairly critiquing, speaking unkindly, or being unloving towards one another. We can withhold encouragement until it feels someone has earned it. We can pick and choose who we will lift up and who we will not. We can be stingy with our words of encouragement. But discouragement is the opposite of what Scripture calls Christians to offer one another. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen."
Paul presents a steady example of how we can speak and build up in a way that is contrary to that of the world. One thing that heavily characterizes Paul's letters is his encouragement to other believers. Many of his letters begin by Paul encouraging the churches in their commitment to the preaching and teaching of the gospel, specifically highlighting the ways he has seen their faith at work in their lives.
He encourages the church at Ephesus and the church of Colossae since hearing about their faith and love for the saints and writes that he continually gives thanks for them and prays for them (Ephesians 1:15–23, Colossians 1:9–11). He encourages the churches in Phillipi, thanking God for their partnership in the gospel (Philippians 1:3–11). He encourages the church at Thessalonica for the example of faith they have been to those around them and the visible love and care they have shown for one another (1 Thessalonians 1:3–4; 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12). He encourages Timothy in his sincere faith and challenges him to use his gifts to God's glory (2 Timothy 1:3). He encourages Philemon for refreshing the hearts of the saints in faith and love (Philemon 1:4–7). There are so many other examples of Paul's plenteous encouragement. What we see throughout Paul's New Testament letters is that he took numerous opportunities to encourage the saints because he knew how much it spurred them on.
Encouragement honors the Lord. When we take the time to encourage one another, we are honoring the Lord's work in their life. We are taking note of the ways God has gifted His people and taking every opportunity to praise Him for it! When we refrain from speaking negatively about one another and instead choose to speak of the good things at work among our communities, we represent unity instead of division. We honor the Lord, not by tearing His family down, but building it up.
Encouragement brings Christians together. Discouragement divides, but encouragement unites. How easily our own interests can cloud out the interests of another. When we are frustrated and offended, we might look to another person to blame for our troubles. We might retaliate by speaking unkindly to or about them. When we only point to faults and flaws, we are slowly tearing one another apart. Because of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we can be humbled to lay down our preferences. We can be slow to speak and slow to become angry. We can ask for grace to overlook an offense. We can search for ways to encourage differences. When we look to gain from another's perspective, noticing the ways God allows us to see and understand more through His people, we look to the interests of others over our own. Even more so, we should look for ways to encourage in such a way that unifies and truly builds up and strengthens the family of God.
Encouragement fuels our faith. There are countless ways encouragement helps us to continue in the work God has called us to. Emailing your pastor to share how you were encouraged by His sermon. Thanking childcare volunteers for serving so that families can sit under the teaching of God's Word each Sunday. Pointing out a gifting you see in a friend. Sending a kind text message to someone who has been struggling. Taking a friend out to coffee to share ways you have been strengthened in the faith through their life. Sharing Scripture with someone. Praying together regularly. Letting someone know if they have impacted or helpfully challenged you! When we take a moment to encourage, we are adding fuel to someone's faith. We are hydrating their thirst for the Lord. We are reminding them of what our lives are all about.
Why would we withhold such a help to one another? Christians should encourage generously! Remember a time you were deeply encouraged by someone's words and how it challenged you to press into God's work. Think of a time when someone took a moment to embolden you in the faith and to press on. If we are honest with ourselves, we know how much we need the support and care of others. We also know how much a discouraging word can derail our godly pursuits. The Christian life is not an easy road, but God does not ask us to walk it alone. He gives the gift of Himself and His family as a present help in times of need. Let us consider ways to serve and help one another to heaven by lavishing one another with encouraging words, thinking intentionally about those we can pray for and reach out to, and making every effort to spur one another on in the faith.