In one of his books, the well-known Scottish scholar William Barclay wrote, “One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. . . . It is easy to laugh at [human] ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a [person] on his feet. Blessed is the one who speaks such a word.”
One of the key Biblical encouragers was Barnabas. Originally his name was Joseph, but he was nicknamed ‘son of encouragement’. He left a trail of encouraged people behind him wherever he went. Just about every time he appears in the New Testament he’s ‘barnabizing’ people (By the way, if your friends gave you a nickname, would you be likely to get one like ‘Encourager’?).The Greek word parakaleo basically describes whatever it takes to help others to be built up in Christ, or to help them to build up one another in Christ:
Hebrews 10:24,25 –“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Isaiah 1:17-“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Hebrews 3:13-“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
These are just a few of the scriptures that command us to constantly encourage one another so that we as a church can keep our minds focused on what is truly important. Even modern psychological studies emphasize the importance of positive words to the well balanced human psyche. In the Smithsonian Museum there is a relatively small exhibit that contains the personal items found on Abraham Lincoln the night he was shot. The following items were found: a Confederate five-dollar bill, a small penknife, a broken spectacle case held together with cotton string, and a worn-out newspaper clipping written about the President. The article begins with the words, “Abe Lincoln is one of the greatest statesmen of all time…” Even President Lincoln needed affirmation that he was capable of being the leader he wanted to be. Your congregation contains those unique people who want to lead, but they need to be affirmed and equipped by you to do the work of ministry.
The people we feature in our Missionary of the Month section are diligently working in the field to bring the word of God to others and serve in ways and places that most of us cannot imagine. They give up the comfort of a “normal life” that most of us hold dear to live the lives of true servants. Many times we feel that the only way we can support them is monetarily; this is simply not true! In fact some of the greatest support for them can come in the form of prayers and written encouragement.
I would like to challenge each of you reading this to commit to a couple of things with regard to our missionaries. First, I will be posting specific prayer requests each week for the Missionary of the Month and I am asking each of you to spend a few minutes each day in prayer for them. The second thing I am asking is that each reader writes one personal letter or postcard to them. We often underestimate the value of written correspondence; however written encouragement has extreme value: it is deliberate, purposeful and can be saved forever by the recipient. If you are worried about how to send a letter overseas, don’t be. I will post each month specific directions to get mail to the countries where our missionaries are located. As we begin this year please consider challenging yourself with this proposition. Encouraging these Godly workers can show amazing dividends in their lives and in yours!