The Power of Encouragement

6 08 2012

The Power of Encouragement

The Olympics have been quite remarkable from a British standpoint. As at the beginning of the second week, China leads the medals table with 61, followed by USA with 60, followed by UK with 37. If you want a fun exercise compare the populations of those the leadings nations and proportionally the UK is doing staggeringly better than the other two (it may change by the end).

It seems it hardly matters which event you watch, the crowd encouragement factor has been enormous. Again and again the competitors have commented how incredible they had found the roar of the crowd for them and how encouraging it had been. A dictionary definition of  ‘encourage’ is, “to give courage, hope, or confidence to; embolden; hearten,” and we’ve seen the fruits of that with our athletes and sports men and women.

In life generally this should not be surprising for any observer of the educational scene will tell you that children who are encouraged by their parents tend to do much, much better that those children whose parents care nothing about education and do nothing to encourage their children.

The church in Thessalonica had been started by Paul, who had had to flee that large city because of persecution, and the new converts were left a little bit hanging. Perhaps it is no wonder that when he writes to them Paul says, We sent Timothy…. to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,” (1 Thess 3:2). They needed support; they needed encouragement, so Paul sent Timothy to help them in this way.  Let’s insert our definitions words into that verse: We sent Timothy…. to strengthen and give courage, hope, and confidence to you, and to embolden and hearten you in your faith.”

Later he wrote, “Therefore encourage each other with these words,” (4:18) referring to the Lord’s return. They needed encouraging to hold on until the Lord came. Later he adds, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that….  we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (5:9-11) Living in a dark world, and experiencing persecution meant they needed encouraging to stand up to it all.

So whether it was simply to stand as Christians, to wait and remain faithful until the Lord’s return, or to resist the darkness that is all around us, these Christians needed input that would bring courage, hope, and confidence to them and embolden and hearten them in their faith.

The writer to the Hebrew had the same idea: “encourage one another daily,” (Heb 3:13) and “let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:25)

So here is a simple question, provoked by what we have been seeing in the Olympics: in our local churches, do we input to one another in such a way that brings courage, hope, and confidence to one another, and emboldens and heartens one another in our faith?  I have a feeling we could have a transformed church if we all made this a regular practice.

Homework: think about how you can do that in a practical way. How do you actually do it?