There is a great need for encouragement. / affirmation. We question ourselves, question our self worth, search for meaning and purpose, compare ourselves to others… Why is it that we can have 100 people compliment us, but then one word of criticism, and that’s what we dwell on? …we spend our lives feeling bad, trying to please others, discouraged, feeling of apathy… what’s the point? why bother? Lot’s of coping methods… stoic, depression…
A wonderful spiritual gift we are emphasizing today is encouragement. READ Romans 12:6-8. Encouragement. Like so many of the gifts, if you are a person with the gift for encouragement, if encouraging others comes very naturally to you, part of your God given assignment is to encourage the rest of us to be encouragers, because encouragement is something all of us are called to do – but many people need to be reminded… you know what happens at my house a lot! I mow the lawn and it looks good. Sally comes home from work and wants to sit. I make her get up and look out the windows and I say, “did I do good.” I want to be encouraged so I will often ask people to compliment me! I need to be encouraged. So do you! A person with a natural spirit given gift of encouragement will help all of us be encouragers.
I chose one of the great prayers of the Apostle Paul as an example of encouragement, Eph. 3:14-21, because Paul is an encourager. He seems to bubble with enthusiasm for his friends. He’s the author of a dozen NT books/letters, and if you look at the first 3 or 4 verses of almost every letter he wrote you’ll be encouraged. He says, “I love you, I miss you, I want to be with you, I’m praying for God’s grace and mercy for you. A person with a gift of encouragement is always helping people have hope, the expectation and desire for things to get better, encouraging them to be thankful for and in all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Paul demonstrates in the difficulties, tribulations, trials and afflictions of life how you encourage people to be patient, to wait on the Lord and to persevere allowing God to work out His desire, design and direction in your life. Listen again to Eph. 4:14-21…
Tremendous Words of Encouragement.
When you are encouraged, you know that you are not alone. Paul notices the people. He let’s them know I know your needs. This is why we need encouragers. Not somebody to be constantly telling us everything that is wrong, but somebody to come alongside us and say, “you can do it.” Somebody to say, “God is good and wants the best for you. Somebody to say, “I have a vision for you.” Isn’t that what this prayer is: a vision of a blessed life, blessed by God.
Embedded in the middle of this wonderful prayer of encouragement is a single request, and part of one word can be underlined within the sentence expressing what Paul wants for his friends. READ Eph. 4:16…. And the one word? STRENGTH.
What’s the one reason to encourage others? To help give them STRENGTH. What is one of the greatest needs we have in this old world: STRENGTH. Our lives are plagued with emotional weakness, worries, doubts, feeling out of control, uncertainty.
What is the gift of encouragement: An encourager brings unity because you are instantly not alone, an encourager prays for God’s blessings, an encourager has a God given vision for you. I am convinced that as Paul prays this prayer he is seeing his discouraged friends the way God sees them: strong, confident, purposeful. If you have an encourager in your life, that encourager sees you as a strong person. You may not feel strong, you may argue, but listen to the encouragers God has put in your life, don’t listen to the inner demons, the inner voices, the evil people in your life, but rather listen to the encouragers, God’s vision, God’s blessing, the strength that comes through knowing somebody cares, knowing that God cares.
The person with the God given spirit given gift of encouragement is committed to the spiritual growth of the people around them. Not everyone can see through the eyes of others, but encouragers can. Encouragers know what I need, they are real, not the phony sort of encouragement that endorses everything I do like I can do no wrong…but real encouragement that affirms the present but dreams for the future. Encouragement is not simply a matter of affirming what people are, but also seeing them for what they will be in Christ Jesus. It’s a matter of strength from the inside out (READ Eph 3.16b, “in your inner being”) through Christ READ Eph. 3:17-19).
To focus on Christ and to understand even a smidgen more the depth and breadth of Christ is to grow spiritually. “rooted” is used, one of our great needs, so we aren’t floundering around. “established” is used, so we aren’t shooting arrows into the air hoping we hit something good. “power” which goes along with the need for an inner strength, through Christ.
An encourager can see through the eyes of others, sees what God wants for them, blesses them for who they are but envisions a greater future, dreams, is committed to helping others grow in Christ. One more amazing attitude of encouragers. I heard Bill Kamphouse tell this to one person in Sunday School last Sunday. An encouragers views the trials of life as an opportunity to grow in their faith. This entire prayer is based on the fact that God can and will use our weakness to strengthen us in our faith. The Lord will use the weakness of our bodies, the weakness of our lives, to demonstrate his glory, so that others will be able to see the strength of Christ in us. “he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being.” Your life is the stage for Christ to be glorified in the world. The transforming power of Christ put on display in your life. Talk about being in a front row seat for God!
There’s the vision, there’s the tremendous need for the spiritual gift of encouragement, encouragers: to bless others, look through their eyes, envision their life as God sees them, pray for strength, pray for spiritual growth as the trials of life are transformed into God’s glory revealed within ~ to be able to see the beauty of others as God sees them. I want SACC to be a place of encouragement where new people can come here just as they are and be accepted, but then discover God’s vision of strength, a vision of transformation. I want Sumas to be that same place. One of the great needs of our world is to encourage each other. Those of you who have the natural spirit filled gift of encouragement need to show the rest of us, keep encouraging the rest of us to be encouragers through your example, through your reminders. We need to be a community where those who are weak find the strength of Christ, a place “where never is heard, a discouraging word.” At least work towards that reality.
One more note. Do my words sound like a pipedream? Are you so discouraged with your own life, or the ugliness of the world we live in that you have doubts your world can change for the better? Look at Paul’s next word: READ Eph. 3:20-21. “to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” HE IS ABLE.
We who know Jesus Christ, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, do not have to live with crossed fingers, we do not need hollow words of encouragement. When I was a kid growing up the highest ideal was to think you can grow up to be President of the United States… (how the world is different). The truth is that I can’t do anything I set my heart on… I can only do that which God wills for my life. The quest is not to be convinced I can do anything, but rather, whatever God wants for me. When a person with a gift for encouragement encourages me, the encourager points to Christ, not an inner strength, not the power of your brain, not the situation of life, but simply pointing to Jesus Christ and his ability to do anything he wants: The KJV says it this way: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”
May the encouragers among us rise up and practice their gift liberally and keep the rest of us focused on affirming the good and beautiful people in our community. May lives be transformed as people hear what God thinks about them, a wonderful vision of a strengthened life. May nobody be overwhelmed by their own weakness, but hear a message of encouragement that God accepts them and loves them and has more in store for them. The unity, the strength, the blessing, the spiritual growth, the glory of Christ that comes through encouragement. God truly is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Amen.