In a culture of soundbites and sarcasm, the power of an authentic encouraging word has never been greater.
Within our larger culture and sadly even within many church contexts, we have lost sight of the importance of being people of encouragement. We can tell the world what we think in 140 characters or less, post mocking memes, and spout self-righteous indignation, but how well are you doing in the area of encouragement?
Think about how a lack of encouragement undermines healthy relationships:
- Marriages grow sour when criticism and condemnation occur far more often than encouraging words.
- Young people grow weary and lack the grit to overcome their fears.
- Employees grow restless and apathetic when management fails to affirm the good word that is being done.
- Churches members feel insecure and belittled when leaders rely on rebuke to shame congregants into the results they desire.
Consider the power of appropriate words from Proverbs 25:11–13. A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters. (ESV)
These descriptive verses give us three main benefits of encouragement. When we embrace encouragement as a way of life, we impact those around us for good. Consider the following impacts:
Encouragement Produces Change (vs. 11)
Words that “fit” the occasion bring extreme value as opposed to words that are inflammatory, tone-deaf, or irrelevant.
One of the things I do most often in counseling is role-playing helpful responses to conversations in order to help parents, spouses, and church members begin to experience the power of appropriate words at the appropriate time. Many are surprised that encouraging words almost always fit the occasion, rarely backfire, and create results that are positive.
Some might wonder the danger of speaking too much encouragement when they feel like criticism might have been more warranted. However, we never lose when we give sincere encouragement, even though other types of conversations are needed as well in healthy relationships. If we aren’t in a pattern of regular and sincere encouragement, other types of hard conversations will have a lesser impact, because we do not have a consistent track record of being an encourager.
Encouragement is a more powerful motivator than criticism every day of the week.
Encouragement Produces Correction (vs. 12)
What strategy should you utilize if you want to help bring about change? A harsh and foolish reprover attacks the person, but a wise reprover seeks to address the problem.
If we do not have the heart of an encourager, we will blast others which results in damage and distance in our relationships. If our words are going to be valuable to others, we need to learn to be a wise reprover, one that reflects a balance of grace and truth with a combination of hope and help.
Relationships that are long on criticism and short on encouragement will ultimately not bring great value to our life. If you want to help others grow, practice encouragement ten times as often as you bring a word of correction.
Remember, we don’t lose by encouraging others, even if they aren’t ready to receive the word of correction yet. People return to those who speak the truth in love to them when they are finally ready.
Encouragement Produces Courage (vs. 13)
Information only goes so far before we must do something with it. It takes courage to change, and one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is confidence to believe that they can really do “All things through Christ who strengthens them.”
Those who master the art of encouragement, produce the refreshing feeling that verse 13 describes. They see a problem, but don’t beat people up about it, rather they bring a refreshing perspective and confident trust that following God’s plan will be worth it.
How different would our churches and families be if the majority of God’s people were committed to encourage more than we criticize? Throughout the New Testament, we see both Christ and Paul speaking words of courageous commitment to those whom he sought to influence. When you encourage, you capture the heart of Christ.
Two Challenges Regarding the Gift of Encouragement
We must pursue regular encouragement.
What difference would it make in your life if you had the regular gift of encouragement given to you? Too often, we may look at those around us in disappointment for the encouragement level they currently provide. However, keeping our eyes on those who disappoint us will too often cause us to be passive or angry. We can begin to blame others rather than seeking to find people of encouragement to walk with.
One of the greatest joys I have as a counselor is celebrating the daily and weekly victories of those who find peace, joy, and productivity in their Christian walk. Do you have those types of voices speaking into your life? You should, but too often we blame others rather than finding those voices. You need encouragement, but you will also likely need to seek it out.
We must see the need to be encouraging others.
As a pastor and counselor, I have often sat with families as they seek to deal with the destruction that comes from addiction, the damage of divorce, or even the devastation of suicide. My goal in these situations is to be a voice of encouragement. However, I often wonder what if someone had reached their loved one sooner?
I can’t help but wonder the difference it would make if a caring friend had stepped in when substances were just beginning to spiral, when distance in marriage hadn’t created irreversible damage, or when the despair hadn’t yet tempted one to die.
Encouragement has real-world impact. It truly does help addicts fight harder, marriages seek restoration again, and the despairing to come out of isolation into caring community. Learning how to be an encourager can be one of the greatest gifts you give your friends, church, and community. Wise encouragement, that prioritizes the need of the moment, will impact lives for eternity.
Can You Learn to Encourage Better?
One of the things we hear over and over from our students is that biblical counseling training has given them tools and understanding to more effectively encourage those who God brings their way.
Most of our students are not pastors or seminary-trained; they are just ordinary people that want to be used by God to impact others.
If you are interested in learning how to better encourage others with grace and truth, then our biblical counseling training is for you.