Yesterday, I was with a friend. We drank coffee together and my friend really encouraged me. It was not a planned meeting. It was unexpected. I received it as a gift from God. The time together was encouraging.
Henri Nouwen tells the story of a sculptor whose studio was next door to the home of a little boy. One day a big flatbed truck pulled up to the studio and delivered an enormous block of marble. The big front doors to the studio opened and the marble was wheeled up to the studio. The little boy, playing in his front yard, followed the workers into the studio to see what would happen. A few days later, he watched as the sculptor took his hammer and chisel and began to chip away at the piece of stone. The boy eventually lost interest and went away. A number of weeks later, the boy went back into the studio. There, to his amazement, he no longer saw a big chunk of stone but, in its final phase, a beautiful carved lion. The boy was aghast and said, “How did you know there was a lion in that marble?”
Maybe you can think of one or two people who helped to carve the lion in you. For many of us, the critical factor has been someone’s encouragement. When men and women receive encouragement, they become and do what they might have never dreamed they could do.
In the body of Christ, this is critical. God always intended that the people of God be encouraging to one another. We need one another. We need one another’s encouragement. But, we have also been called to give encouragement as well.
Who Needs Encouragement?
• A fifth grader with braces whose mother stays on her about her weight Meanwhile everyone else constantly talks about her older sister’s beauty. She needs encouragement.
• The sixteen year old with a part-time job. She has made some serious mistakes morally. She wonders, at times, if there is any hope for someone who has already messed up like this. She needs encouragement.
• A thirty-three man who has been a Christian for years. People look at him and seem to think that everything is going his way – career, nice house. Yet, he doesn’t think he’s worth much to God. He needs encouragement.
• A forty year old woman married to a man who is negative, critical and shows no respect for her. She needs encouragement.
• A man who is discouraged by his church. Frustrated with the leaders. Frustrated with what should have been handled better. Frustrated with himself over not being who God has called him to be.
So how can you encourage?
Pay Attention to People. Use language that communicates dignity and respect (Proverbs 12:8; 16:24). Sometimes it is simply saying words that are kind and sensitive. Do you know how many people long to hear a “well done.”
Look for ways to compliment and affirm. Pay attention and catch others doing something right.
Take the opportunity to express high value. A good friend of mine once said about a man who we both admired, “He talks to you as if you were a very important person. He makes you want to come up to a higher standard.”