ENCOURAGER OR DISCOURAGER?
LET US DECIDE WHO WE ARE GOING TO BE IN THIS NEW YEAR OF 2021
AS WE ENTER A NEW YEAR LET OUR DECISION BE TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER – TO SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON TO GREATER HEIGHTS TO DEEPER SERVICE TO WIDER IMPACT; LET US ENSURE THAT WE DO NOT DISCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER – FOR WE MUST NOT DO THIS!
THE SIMPLE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THIS: WHEN YOU SMILE AT ME AND SAY “WELL DONE” YOU ENCOURAGE ME AND SPUR ME ON TO BE A BETTER PERSON; BUT WHEN YOU SCOWL AT ME AND CALL ME A “FOOL” YOU DISCOURAGE ME AND BREAK ME. GOD WANTS US TO ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER AS HE ENCOURAGES US ALL THE TIME. LET US MAKE THIS OUR GOAL – OUR “NEW BEGINNING”
“let us consider how we may spur one another on towards 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
(Hebrews 10: 24-25)
Bottom line is that there are two effects we can have on each other this year – we can break each other down (we call this “discouragement”) or we can build each other up (we call this “encouragement”). I know which one you will want to bring to others – but let’s consider what they look like – starting with the one that we DON’T want to be accused of…
The UCB “Word for Today” of 29th December 2020 was a very useful message on this subject – focusing on the 12 spies sent into Canaan when the Israelites entered the Promised Land who brought back a report which discouraged the people from doing what God had told them to do. It will be useful to read it in full…
DON’T SPREAD DISCOURAGEMENT
‘So they spread this bad report.’
Numbers 13:32 NLT
Discouragement caused the Israelites to doubt God’s promise, give up their dream, and die in the wilderness. Ironically, they were only several days’ journey from the Promised Land! How did it happen? After spending forty days in Canaan, a land of such fruitfulness that it took two men to carry one cluster of grapes, ten out of twelve spies came back saying, ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are! So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites’ (vv. 31-32 NLT). Now, would you like to know how God feels about people who spread such discouragement? ‘The ten men…who incited rebellion against the Lord with their bad report – were struck dead with a plague…only Joshua and Caleb remained alive’ (Numbers 14:36-38 NLT). So how about you? When you see others facing negative circumstances, do you express doubt about their ability to succeed? Can you listen to someone’s plans without making disheartening remarks? Even if you can’t quite envision their dreams, at least agree to stand in faith with them for God’s perfect will to be done concerning the proposed endeavour. Think of all the people who have encouraged you during your lifetime! In a world plagued with negativity and bad news, everyone needs a little encouragement from time to time. So make a conscious effort to speak sincere words of affirmation, support, and inspiration to those within your circle of influence. And when you encounter a discourager, don’t let them derail you. Remind yourself and them that God is ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). Because He can!
How many children have suffered because of discouragement from their parents! I have worked with so many broken teenagers who were told that they were not wanted, not good enough, would never make anything of themselves, were not valued. Their lives had never reached their full potential. Discouragement not only held them back, but discouragement had destroyed them!
The LORD does NOT want us to live in discouragement:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”
Let us take our cue from Barnabas – the “son of encouragement”.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4: 36-37)
“Son of encouragement”! Sounds like the kind of person that I want to be!
Maybe I should start by understanding what this word actually means:
Well, each time it is used in the New Testament it effectively is the Greek word “Parakaleo” which itself comes from two words – “para” = to the side of; and “kaleo” = to call. So, it literally means being called to stand by the side of another.
It is translated to mean that an “encourager” is one who comforts, consoles, animates, persuades, maybe even admonishes (though “in love” of course).
Many of you might recognise the similarity of this word to “Paraclete” – a name for the Holy Spirit – who is the One who comes alongside us, comforts us and counsels us. The suggestion is, of course, that we become encouragers most effectively when the Holy Spirit is within us.
Let’s see how this works out in the life of the Son of Encouragement
An encourager doesn’t moan about what he hasn’t got but takes what he has got and uses it for God’s work.
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9: 26-28)
An encourager doesn’t focus on the things of others that can be criticised and say “I’m not sure that they are the right person for this job”; they are ones who see the potential of what a person CAN be and stands by them and stands up for them and pushes them forward.
they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11: 22-24)
An encourager is the one who builds the church up.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11: 25-26)
An encourager seeks to release others into the ministry to which God has called them rather than hold on to it all themselves.
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, (Acts 15: 36-39)
An encourager is not a “doormat”; they are not someone who seeks always to please others. Barnabas was willing to stand his ground on an issue he believed in – and so must we.
CONCLUSION – I KNOW THAT THIS IS TRUE!
As I declared last week, 2020 was my “annus horibilis”. And what kept me “going”? Well…yes…it was my faith in God (and I declare once more that I do not know how a man without God can ever cope with the tragedies of life). But it was also the immense and constant encouragement that so many of you gave to me over the days, weeks and months that I have been going through the most testing of times. Encouragement through your words, encouragement through your kind deeds, encouragement through your close relationship with me. It was as if you were saying “come on! We will walk through this terrible time with you. Don’t give up. Keep doing what you do best. We are with you. We are holding you up”.
As you have been an encouragement to me, so, in 2021, let us be an encouragement to one another.
Encouraging one another strengthens us all in a wonderful way – as clearly told us in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-11 –
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labour:
10 if either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)