William Arthur Ward wrote “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. ” Ward, one of the most quotable speakers of our day makes a great point and one that we should not let slide away like the morning dew. Encouragement should be the “wind” beneath the wings of every person living the Christian life. But we are lacking in God-breathed encouragement at almost every level of life and our world suffers because of it. Keep in mind, that encouragement is not agreeing with everything someone does, or just giving flowery words to a situation that is lacking help. Encouragement is a result of a deeper appreciation for what God is doing in your life. If you don’t appreciate what God is doing in your life then you will probably not be a vehicle of encouragement. In the movie, The Jazz Singer Neil Diamond’s character was a man who had great talent, but he could never get beyond the discouragement of those around him. They were a constant discouragement to him because they could not see what he could see for his life and in some ways, were jealous of him. It wasn’t until he had someone enter his life that saw what was truly going on that he began to soar into the person he was intended to be. Sadly, this person wasn’t his wife and his wife left him because she no longer wanted to be a part of this journey he was on. Had he not gotten the encouragement from Mary Dale, he would never have fulfilled his destiny in life and been miserable.
God has a great plan for our lives and we call that God’s will. His perfect will is something that will cause us to do many strange things when searching for it. We go down one path and that path doesn’t pan out, then we try another path and that one is a dead end and we become frustrated. The worst thing that can happen is to be constantly discouraged because that will cause us to quit searching for the right path and begin to die inside. Encouragement keeps that path alive and “just on the horizon” and give new life to the one seeking it. Barnabas was known as the “son of encouragement” and God put him in the Apostle Paul’s life at just the right time to keep him following God’s great plan for his life. It seems Paul could get discouraged from time to time as seen in Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. Paul just needed someone to say “Paul, God’s hand is on your life so keep on keeping on. You can do it!” The man God used to say that was Barnabas and it worked. Paul needed that encouragement because he was going to be put through the mill in the many days of his service to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-26 he shares some of the perils he had to face. 2 Corinthians 11: 23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; The last thing Paul needed was discouragement from someone who was envious of him and Barnabas was totally at ease with setting back and letting God use Paul in an extraordinary way as he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Barnabas knew how important his encouragement was and realized it was God’s plan for him. Barnabas was a welcomed wind beneath the wings of Paul, the servant of God.
There is a very common way of looking at wind in Christian society now where we try to justify and actually accept the bad winds that come our way and we call them storms or the storms of life. We use quotes that say “let the winds of the storm push you to higher heights and SOAR!!” There is some truth to all of that, but problems, and the winds of a storm can defeat you if you are not strong enough to handle them and God’s provision can help you navigate through those storms successfully. But, what about the good winds of encouragement? That wind is very important to our being able to fly to new heights as well and God will use encouragement to position us to go to those heights. But where is that encouragement? Perhaps it is chained to the insecurities and jealousies of people who don’t know how important their encouragement is to others.
Maybe you are a person who finds the wrong in everything you look at when it comes to other people. Maybe you are the person who thinks you are right about most everything, even though you would never admit it. Why are you that way? I don’t know why, but I do know that a person who positions themselves in that kind of lifestyle will surely thwart God’s plans for the people they influence. All of us influence others and we have decided “Will I be a positive influence or a negative influence?” It is a tough decision to make and it has to put our own interests on hold when making the right choice. Look at what Paul, who was constantly encouraged by Barnabas, said in Philippians 2: Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard, one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wow! Strong words about selfless encouragement, but vital to Paul and to all who read them.
I think of it like this; if a person used as many words to encourage as they did to criticize, what would be the end result? EXPLOSION…MIND BLOWN… TOTAL CAPACITY ACHIEVED!! All it takes is a little of the attitude in the above scripture and people’s lives will begin to light up all over the place and they will begin to believe again in what Christ is doing in their lives and the gospel will come alive in them again. We are lights who need to be encouraged to shine brighter and brighter and yes, it will mean that some seem to get to shine brighter than others at times, but that is the will of God and who are we to keep them from shining by discouraging them.
The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, then replied. “I’d give more praise,” he said.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Be an encourager and you will not be a discourager. Be a discourager and you will not be an encourager. That quote is from this author and you can write it down as such.
The Pilgrimage continues….