Becoming an Encourager
Small group, March 23, 2014, MBC
Thought for the week: Are you an encourager or a discourager?
Well, nobody likes for someone to rain on their parade! That’s why we need to learn to encourage, rather than discourage each other.
How many of you remember the song, “Home on the range”? “…where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” Wouldn’t it be great to live a life like that? Well, we can’t do much about the discouraging words that come to us, any more than we can do something about cloudy days. But we can work toward having a Christian community where words of encouragement are more frequent than the words of discouragement from the world.
discouraging sayings in our culture. Can you list some?
Nice guys finish last. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The only one who likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. You can’t fight city hall.
Fortunately, there ARE plenty of encouraging words to us in Scripture:
READ Matthew 5:5 – Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
READ Matthew 28:20 – surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
READ Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
READ 2 Timothy 1:6-2:3 – focal passages.
To really make a difference in this world we need to take the encouraging words of Scripture and fight off the plague of discouragement. Discouragement is like a disease. HOW DO YOU FIGHT OFF A DISEASE? Inoculate yourself! Take precautions!
Who needs to be an encourager? EVERYBODY!
What professions need to be encouragers?” Coaches, Teachers, Political leaders, etc.
Alan Loy McGinnis, in Bringing Out the Best in People, writes:
A proven motivator will make it to the top before a proven genius. When Andrew Carnegie hired Charles Schwab to administer his far-flung steel empire, Schwab became the first man in history to earn a million dollars a year while in someone else’s employ. Schwab was once asked what equipped him to earn $3,000 a day. Was it his knowledge of steel manufacturing? “Nonsense,” snorted Schwab. “I have lots of men working for me who know more about steel than I do.” Schwab was paid such a handsome amount largely because of his ability to inspire other people. “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among the men the greatest asset I possess,” he said, and any leader who can do that can go almost anywhere and name almost any price.
Well, it should not come as a surprise that then that church leaders also need this skill. But what about us in the pew? Do we encourage our staff? When one of our staff has a new idea, how do we respond? Do we say, “Oh, that will never work!” or “That’s great, how can I help?”
The need to encourage others in the church is nothing new. Paul needed encouragement while he was imprisoned for two years in a Roman jail. (By the way, do you think Paul would have written all those letters if he WASN’T in jail?) The encouragement he gave to Timothy is a good example of what he gave to others.
There are two kinds of encouragement:
1. helping others see that the challenge ahead is not so overwhelming as they think
2. helping the person see more clearly the power of the resources available to them
Let’s look at that first one.
What was the most intimidating challenge faced by the first century church?
PERSECUTION. Persecution had put Paul into prison. It had also almost got him killed.
READ 2 Corinthians 11:24-26
Paul could speak authoritatively about persecution. But did Paul whine about persecution? NO!!!!!!
READ 2 Timothy 1:8, 12
If other people threaten you with death, so what? Jesus Christ has “destroyed death” by taking away its power. That is why Paul could encourage Timothy and us to “endure hardship with us like a good soldier…”.(2:3) We should look for ways to encourage each other especially during the hard times.
Robert Schuller tells a story about a banker who always tossed a coin in the cup of a legless beggar who sat on the street outside the bank. But, unlike most people, the banker would always insist on getting one of the pencils the man had beside him. “You are a merchant,” the banker would say, “and I always expect to receive good value from merchants I do business with.” One day the legless man was not on the sidewalk. Time passed and the banker forgot about him, until he walked into a public building and there in the concessions stand sat the former beggar. He was obviously the owner of his own small business now. “I have always hoped you might come by someday,” the man said. “You are largely responsible for me being here. You kept telling me that I was a ‘merchant’. I started thinking of myself that way, instead of a beggar receiving gifts. I started selling pencils — lots of them. You gave me self-respect, caused me to look at myself differently.”
We should also remember that we have an abundance of resources to face the challenges ahead of us.
two kinds of resources. Simply, they are internal and external. Our internal resources are the gifts of God within us. Paul likened the presence of the Holy Spirit in Timothy to a fire – a fire that was already smoldering, but which could be fanned into flame. That flame could quench the spirit of fear often found in people who are discouraged.
As Paul told Timothy, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self discipline. God has given us triple power to overcome fear!
Secondly, we have access to external resources. One of these resources is the support of Christian friends.
DO YOU HAVE SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE WHO REGULARLY ENCOURAGES YOU? Paul did.
His name was Onesiphorus. He not only encouraged Paul, but he set the example for us, too.
Suffering comes to all of us, and no one can suffer for us. Even so, we can be supported in those difficult times by the prayers and understanding of loved ones and friends. It’s when we are too proud to admit our need to others that we are in the greatest danger.
The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone because high winds would quickly uproot it. That’s why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.
Support is what Jesus wanted from Peter, James, and John in Gethsemane as he faced Calvary. On the cross as the world’s sin-bearer He would experience His Father’s wrath and abandonment. That was the awful cup He prayed would be taken from Him. In that dark hour, He looked to His disciples for prayerful alertness and compassion. But oh, how they disappointed Him! Somehow the sight of His sleeping disciples must have made the isolation of Gethesemane that much more painful.
If Jesus looked to human support in His crisis hour, how much more do Christians need one another when they suffer! Let’s be willing to ask someone to pray for us and with us. And let’s be alert for opportunities to lend our support to others who are suffering.
Seeing where we are now is the first step to change. But it isn’t the only step. Once we see who we are, we can decide, “Is this how I want to be”?
Have you been raining on someone else’s parade?
Do people come to you for encouragement or run from you lest they be discouraged?
If you’re willing to become an encourager, let me suggest three steps to get there:
1. Tell each person in your family of one quality you see in him or her that gives you hope for that person’s future. That is the first step (Page 76). What needs to be fanned into flame in their life?
2. Pause long enough to choose a positive reaction when people tell you their plans or dreams. This may be a long breath for some, but practice making it a habit. See the good in the plan before you determine why it won’t work.
3. Find one person each week who seems discouraged and encourage them. Be an Onesiphorous!