What Drives Life-Giving Encouragement?
by Sharon Betters
Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Encouragement comes naturally to some people. Their personalities and gift mix uniquely equip them to walk into a broken person’s life and know just what to do. They instinctively know how to light up a teenager’s gloomy face or give hope to a struggling co-worker. I watch and wonder why I didn’t see the need that they saw. I feel “less than” inadequate and even guilty, concluding God skipped over me when He gave out encouragement gifts. Can you relate?
The beauty of every scriptural mandate or commandment is that when God calls us, He equips us. I am learning that equipping comes through intimacy with Jesus. When I am aware of pain in another person’s life or I see someone making bad choices, my natural inclination is to try to fix them, talk them into getting back on track (the track I’m on), to offer unasked for solutions, sometimes avoid them or even to go around that person and try to get someone else to fix them. These moments never end well. Yet, God still calls me to love others as He has loved me. What to do? Rather than charging in like a bull in a china shop, I am learning to believe that I really am God’s daughter and He really does want me to come confidently into His presence and pour out the needs of those in my life. He really will direct my interactions with them through His Word and prayer.
Proverbs 4:23 reveals the key to becoming a channel of God’s grace and compassion through the ministry of encouragement:
Therefore, guard your heart for out of it is the wellspring of life.
If you want to be a life-giver, one who offers life-giving encouragement, then guard your heart, because your heart is the place where your life-giving or life taking actions begin.
One way to guard my heart is to revel in my identity as God’s daughter. He loves me! He treasures me!
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
In an effort to impress on our adult children how much we love them, I sometimes say, “You see how much we adore your children, our grandchildren? See how we can’t hug and kiss them enough or squish their cheeks and smother them with love? That’s how we love you. That’s how we treated you when you were born.”
My mother-in-law often said, “My heart hurts with love for my grandchildren.” Now I understand what she meant! Multiply that kind of love by, well, there is no number big enough to define how much God loves each of His children. God’s Son, Jesus, demonstrated that love, when He gave His life on the cross for my sin, for your sin. The Apostle John couldn’t find words to describe God’s love.
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.
1 John 3:1 MSG
Imagine John declaring in wonder: WHAT!!! What kind of love is this? God puts His DNA into everyone who is His child, everyone who repents of sin and loves Jesus, His Son!
In Today’s Treasure verse Jesus instructs us to love one another the way that He loves us. Don’t miss that profound statement: If you belong to Jesus, this passage reminds you that you, too, are beloved by Him. The natural progression in the life of a child of God is, the better I understand my position of forgiveness and righteousness in Christ, the more I want to give to others what I am receiving from Christ. The more I spend time soaking in His Word, pleading through prayer for Him to show me how to reflect His DNA to those I love, the more specific His directions will be on how to become a life-giving encourager.
If we want to be life-giving encouragers, we start with our identity in Christ. As you prepare for this day, think about why you encourage others. Check your motives. Do you have an eternal agenda in keeping with the call of Jesus? How will embracing Jesus’ call to encourage others as a means of reflecting redemption help you “keep on keeping on” when the going gets tough? What practical way will you love your friend today? What is your motive? Will it require a sacrifice of your time, your money? When you’re running errands, ask her if she needs milk, eggs or bread, etc. How about her favorite candy or a bouquet of flowers? Ask the Lord to guide you specifically and then watch for His directions.
Oh Father, open our eyes to what kind of love you extend to us! Show us how to offer that same kind of love to the friend who thinks You have abandoned her. Sometimes our motives for encouraging are more about what we want rather than recognizing that the goal of biblical encouragement is to help turn another person’s heart toward You. Remind us of our identity as your children and may our encouragement to others flow from a growing understanding of Your love, forgiveness and compassion.
STORE UP MORE TREASURES
At some point in our lives, we or someone we know will go through great suffering. I encourage you to go to the MARKINC website and listen to the eating disorder audio resource titled “When Food is the Enemy” so that you can store up treasures of encouragement for the next rainy day in your life or someone else's. Here is a summary and teaser of this resource:
What gets inside the head of a young girl who almost starves herself to death because when she looks into a mirror she sees a fat, ugly, lonely girl? In this special interview, Rose (not her real name) takes us inside the heart of a girl who “cannot remember a time when I wasn’t overweight and looked different from my thin and pretty friends. I could never wear the same style of clothes as them….I couldn’t borrow PJ’s for an impromptu sleepover or a bathing suit for a spontaneous swim. I was hyper-aware of the space I took up in a car, and I was always too heavy for a piggyback ride. The small inconveniences turned into huge insecurities and I became consumed with how my weight made me different.” This story will offer help and hope to those whose battle with food has taken up prime residence in their everyday world. Rose does not sugar coat her battle and admits that even now, she must practice strong disciplines in order to fight old habits.