The Power of Encouragement: ReCreating Others Through Our Words

I can’t tell you how many times this year I was getting discouraged in ministry and someone, who had no idea I was down, spoke words of faith into my soul. Maybe it was a compliment about how God was using me, or maybe some grace they saw in my life, or maybe just something about the goodness and faithfulness of God.

That’s what encouragement literally is: break apart the word and it means “to speak strength/courage into someone’s life.”

I believe it is one of the most overlooked of spiritual gifts. I love being around people with it! They seem to know when and how to call out the grace in my life.

It is one of the things I most love about my dad. He was far from a silly, positive-thinking devotee, but he knew how to speak strength and hope into me. He still does. In fact, the thing that my most cherished mentors had in common was that they routinely spoke strength, not just criticism, into me. I get teary eyed thinking about how often these men told me they believed in me.

It is easy, you see, for us to “assume the strengths” in others and to “notice the weakness.” We can even write off our pointing out their faults as being “helpful” to them, or not pointing out their strengths as an attempt to guard their pride. Bull. Such an attitude shows little to no awareness of the human condition, or how God works. I believe we should reverse that. We should assume others’ weaknesses and notice their strengths.

One of my favorite theologians on this was Martin Luther. Luther said that God’s way was to redefine reality with WORDS. God looked into chaos and spoke the hopeful, power-infusing words of creation. He looked into the chaos of our sin and declared us righteous in His Son. By speaking those words (coupled with our belief in them), He reconstituted our realityYou see, if He had declared us lost He would have spoken truth, but He spoke an even greater truth by recreating us with His words.

As one article I read noted,

In other words, others might tell me I am a failure, an idiot, a clown, evil, incompetent, vicious, dangerous, pathetic etc., and these words are not just descriptive: they have a certain power to make me these things, in the eyes of others and even in my own eyes, as self-doubt creeps in and the Devil whispers in my ear. But the greatness of Luther’s Protestantism lies in this: God’s speaks louder, and his word is more powerful. You may call me a liar, and you speak truth, for I have lied; but if God declares me righteous, then my lies and your insult are not the final word, nor the most powerful word. I have peace in my soul because God’s word is real reality. That’s why I need to read the Bible each day, to hear the word preached each week, to come to God in prayer, and to hear words of grace from other brothers and sisters as I seek to speak the same to them. Only as God speaks his word to me, and as I hear that word in faith, is my reality transformed and do the insults of others, of my own sinful nature, and of the evil one himself, cease to constitute my reality. The words of my enemies, external and internal, might be powerful for a moment, like a firework exploding against the night sky; but the Word of the Lord is stronger, brighter, and lasts forever.

Of course we can abuse that. We are not to declare wicked things good. What we are to do is recognize God’s potential work in someone’s life and help them believe it.

Celebrate often the goodness of God you see in another person’s life. Fan the flames of His grace at work in them. Recognize the potential of what God wants to do in someone and affirm it. See the crown God has placed above their head and help them believe their way into it.

Do you do this with your kids? Your leaders? Your friends? Your spouse?

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  1. Max   •  

    If you treat someone as if they already were what they could be, that’s what they will become. God will send the gift of encouragement alongside us to move us forward into His purpose for our lives. However, occasionally we need to hear and heed the ministry of rebuke and correction … the piercing words of a prophet to stop us short. God will never affirm us when we are off track. It’s the balance sent our way by the hand of God which matures us spiritually. We need to be open to both voices.

  2. Bob Cleveland   •  

    Not speaking from any theological standpoint here, but I do think people need to be encouraged, in light of a natural tendency to fear the unknown. I know one of our dynamic youngish teachers in FBC was scheduled to go on a Russian mission trip about 15 years ago but was beset by fears. He expressed that, and a desire to withdraw, and I sat down with him and we explored why he might be fearful. With a little encouragement, and perspective, he went on the trip, and it was a life-changer. I now sit in his Sunday School class and he is an excellent teacher, and often mentions what that encouragement meant to him.

    I can cite other examples of simple encouragement in lives of people I know, who responded and did things that made a difference in the Kingdom work.

    I hasten to add that, as with all gifts, such deeds tell you nothing about recipient and user of the gift .. beyond a bit of obedience .. but everything about the Giver of the gift. And we all know Who that is.

    God promises to give us the desires of our hearts, if we’ll take delight in Him, but we’re not always up to believing we can actually do what He puts in our hearts to do. For that, we often need all the encouragement others can give.

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