A number of years ago I was in the midst of a difficult month of ministry and during a brief conversation with a staff member he sensed my struggles and he said something in that moment that was very powerful and it has stuck with me for 10+ years. He said, "Be encouraged".
One thing I have come to learn about life is that everyone needs encouragement because everyone faces challenges and difficulties. As I have considered the topic of encouragement I have pondered what are the most prevalent ways that the Lord encourages us. The conclusion I drew out of my pondering is that the Lord uses 2 primary ways to encourage us.
The first area I would like us to consider is the Word. If you have been a follower of Jesus for any length of time, reflect back over the number of times God has used His Word during you morning reading; or the number of times He has used His Word in a sermon; or the number of times He has used His Word on the radio; or the number of times He has used His Word as it was quoted by a friend or mentor. Luke 11:28 says, "Blessed are those who hear the Word and obey it". I agree with Luke, it is an absolute blessing to hear the Word. Hebrews 4 talks about how the Word is active in our lives and cuts deep to the issues at hand. Just this morning I found God's Word to be encouraging. Even though I was reading about the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, it was those very words that God used to encourage my heart in Him.
The second area I would like us to consider is how the Lord uses other people in our lives to bring encouragement to us. So often I watch the Lord use people in my life to bring me His encouragement. I often think the phrase, "the hands and feet of Jesus" can be a little overused, but when it comes to encouragement I can see His hands, His feet and His heart shining through others. There have been so many people in my life that have played the role of encourager. Some have been there in the big moments of need and others in the small moments of need. Some have been in my life for a certain season and many have been in my life for countless seasons. God has used people from all different age groups, backgrounds, life experiences and economic sub-groups - you name it and God has use them to bring the healing balm to be applied to my heart and soul at just the right time.
Just to give you a living illustration, Denise and I were riding down the road a little less than two weeks ago and I asked her if it would be ok for me to contact some of the biggest encouragers in our lives and see if they could meet us for lunch on short notice. I asked our dear friends, Ed and Bonnie Gibson, if they could meet us in about 90 minutes for lunch - they jumped at the chance. The thing was they didn't know it but that day we were carrying a heavy burden and found ourselves in a trying situation. When we met for lunch a short time later, we never mentioned the current weight - we didn't have to. Ed and Bonnie seem to know how to love, care, listen, understand and encourage without even needing to know all the details. Isn't that the life of an encourager - bringing life to your heart without knowing all the details.
I had planned on typing this post for several days. Then today as I was viewing my Facebook account the following photo popped up in the 1 year ago memory frame.
In this moment I am reminded of Barnabas, the one whom Scripture calls the son of encouragement. I want to be like Ed, Bonnie and Barnabas.