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 reality. You 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,
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?