Let’s build our faith by looking at and exercising the next “faith lever” in our 60-Day Spiritual Growth Challenge: Encouragement. The definition of encouragement is “to give support, confidence, or hope to someone.” Dr. Eric Scalise, past VP of the 50,000-member American Assoc. of Christian Counselors says this: “What is encouragement and why is it so essential for maintaining healthy marriages and families? Encouragement represents positive influence, to literally give courage to someone – not waiting until it’s deserved or asked for, but taking initiative when things are difficult and uncertain.”
In many ways, you have the power to breathe life into or take joy from those around you. You choose whether to be an encourager or discourager. By leveraging encouragement, we can rise above petty, small-minded, joyless relationships. Push back against self-preoccupation by leading strong with encouragement. Make it your life goal to be an encourager!
We can grow in becoming an encourager by practicing these strategies:
1: BELIEVE – Everyone around you is dying for affirmation and encouragement (Philippians 2:19).
- Joy tanks are running low. Life can be a beast. It can be discouraging, demoralizing, and people need to know that you are in their corner. Parents, your kids need you. Husbands, your wives need you. Wives, your husbands need you. Kids, your parents need you.
- Do you want to add a powerful dynamism to your marriage and family? Lead strong with encouragement!
- Verse 19 says: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.”
- Notice here that Paul wants to send Timothy to encourage them. He also wants Timothy to return to tell him about the Philippians – so he can be encouraged.
- The impressive thing about these verses is the mutual encouragement that floats between several people and parties. These people are focused on each other and building one another up.
- So ask yourself: are you a joy-giving encourager or a joy-sapping discourager? It starts with your belief system. You either believe folks are running on empty and need their tanks filled… or you take them for granted and absolve yourself from any responsibility to do what God has called you to do – ENCOURAGE.
2: CARE – Show that you truly care by giving others your best (Philippians 2:20-21).
- Verses 20-21 say, “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ”
- I am impressed by Paul here. He is giving his BEST to Philippi. He is not sending some 3rd stringer… he is sending his MVP. Timothy was his protégé, his pride and joy.
- Giving your best will always cost you but it shows you truly care. For Paul to send Timothy and for Timothy to give his best by going was not simple. Travel was treacherous and sickness was common. Not to mention anyone associated with Paul was less than an arm’s length away from being imprisoned and executed.
- Our #1 enemy is selfishness: “For everyone looks out for their own interests…”. Sometimes you are your own biggest problem. Selfishness will kill your ability to be an encourager, grow in Christ, and will messing with your marriage, relationships, and family.
- In order to give your best, you need to be full of God. So let’s get practical:
- If you CARE, you will be AWARE. Be aware of what’s going on in the heart and mind of your spouse, your kids, your friends etc.
- Employ the 5 L’s:
- Listen – focus on what is being said.
- Look – body language, mannerisms, sagging shoulders and spirit.
- Learn – ask questions to show you care and learn what is going on in other’s lives.
- Love – look for ways to express your love in practical, kind, compassionate ways; lighten the load, offer a loving word, encourage your family with a warm hug.
- Lift – our goal must be to lift hearts and encourage spirits, build confidence, provide opportunities, create hope.
3: AFFIRM – Speak words that build and don’t bruise (Philippians 2:22).
- We’ve all heart the expression “Sticks and stones may break my bones…but words will never hurt me.” It should be, “Sticks and stones may break my bones…but words can break my heart.”
- A poorly spoken word, an angry explosion, a mean spirited expression, a condemning and minimizing statement…can cut deep and create wounds that last for a lifetime. Pay attention and minimize hurtful words while maximizing helpful words.
- Verse 22 states, “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” A few things here:
- Timothy had proved himself. That speaks to me of a life lived well, a faith fleshed out fully. We learned in verse 21 that he had genuine concern for others. Friends, that is the combination required to know how to use words that build people and not bruise them.
- Notice how Paul speaks about Timothy, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians. Loving words from a loving father. In the same way that God speaks to us… Affirming, building, encouraging.
- The question is, how would your spouse and kids and friends say you speak to them? Are we about affirmation or domination? Do we build them up? Some of you have been raised in families where yelling, put downs, and condemnation was crippling. I have good news for you: Jesus wants to heal your broken heart and then help you break that curse.
- Words are powerful and you wield them like a sword. What words are you choosing on a regular basis? Here are 10 verses on the power of our words:
- Proverbs 11:9 “Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.”
- Proverbs 11:12 “It is foolish to belittle a neighbor; a person with good sense remains silent.”
- Proverbs 11:17 “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.”
- Proverbs 15: 1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.”
- Proverbs 15:4 “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
- Proverbs 16:24 “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
- Proverbs 18:4 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”
- Proverbs 18:20 “Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”
- Proverbs 20:15 “Wise speech is rarer and more valuable than gold and rubies.”
- Proverbs 25:18 “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.”
4: ENRICH – Show deep personal interest in others (Philippians 2:23-24).
- Verses 23-24 say, “I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.”
- Throughout this passage I am constantly moved by Paul’s deep, personal interest in others. He desperately wants to be set free so he can go and minister to them. In the meantime, he is sending the next best thing… Timothy.
- What I really want you to grasp here is the empathy behind the words and journeys and the story. Paul is deeply interested in Philippi. He cares about their struggles, he is moved by their concerns, and is motivated to help them. He didn’t just talk about it, he showed it. He believed and practiced these scriptural commands:
- I Thess. 4:18 “Therefore encourage one another…”
- I Thess. 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
- Heb. 3:13 “But encourage one another daily…”
- Heb. 10:25 “…but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
- Rom. 12:8 “…if it is to encourage, then give encouragement…”
5: COMMIT – Love with actions, not just words (Philippians 2:25-30).
- Verses 25-30 give us a powerful example of incredible commitment. Paul is in prison, facing execution because of his ministry to the likes of Philippi, and now here comes Epaphroditus. He had almost died and again is risking his life. He faced great danger being associated with Paul. Any crime trumped up against Paul could be applied to Epaphroditus. He didn’t allow it to stop him though, he loved too much and was too committed.
- Herein lies the challenge for us. How committed are we and how willing are we to risk everything to encourage others? How can we show that practically?
- Great marriages and parenting are not created by 50-50 commitment. Great marriages and great parenting requires 100-100 commitment – each giving 100%.
- When Cortez landed in the New World, he burned his ships. It signified there was one direction and that was forward. Some of you need to make this commitment today – That you will be an encourager and give 100% of yourself to the cause.
- Please find a way to encourage your spouse and children. Make it clear to them that you are ALL IN and that you are striving to become an encourager.
Start today by making a deposit in the encouragement account of those nearest and dearest to you. Start with your family and move outward from there. Watch how being an encourager will change the culture of your marriage, family, and friendships.