Yesterday I looked at receiving encouragement from others; today I’ll talk about giving it. Giving encouragement appears as though it would be easy, but I’ve found that it isn’t always. Why?
I sometimes don’t feel qualified to give encouragement. I suppose we all know people that we think don’t need encouragement, or who intimidate us. We can all point to someone else who is more socially competent, who knows the Bible better, who knows people better, who should be doing the encouraging. As the relatively new person in our church, I’m tempted to let the people who have been at our church longer to do the job. Some whom I know need encouraging are much older than I, so I’ll let the older members call them. But the Bible is clear that in the body of Christ, every member has a responsibility to fulfill. In first Corinthians 12 through 14, Paul compares a local church to a physical body. Just like all the parts of a body work together, so must all of us work together. Paul says this: Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church (14:12). I need to be giving.
I sometimes don’t know how to give encouragement, or I don’t know people well enough to give encouragement. Often this is a result of my own laziness and self-centeredness. At church, I’m not real great at talking to people. I sit down before church and tend to leave as soon as my dear husband is ready. I get “peopled out” easily, especially when I haven’t been getting much sleep. Plain and simple, this is wrong. It would be easy to ask a few people, “How can I pray for you this week?” I need to do that more.
What else should I be doing?
- Pray for others. I should also let people know that I am praying for them, if I am doing so. Asking them about prayer requests they’ve shared is especially good. I know that I have much more confidence in someone’s “I’ll be praying for you” when a week later, they ask about what I needed prayer for.
- Be willing to fumble. Sometimes I talk too soon; sometimes I say dumb things. Sometimes I give advice that isn’t of eternal value; sometimes I give Scripture when all that is needed is a hug. Just like all spiritual disciplines, encouraging one another takes practice. If I refuse to encourage others because I’m spiritually awkward, I’m revealing I’m not willing to obey Scripture and trust in God to sort out the results. I’m still putting all my trust in myself and my sufficiency.
- Use the phone, computer, or note cards. It’s not about how I communicate best; it’s how our fellow believers communicate best. Sigh. I think God must have a sense of humor because I’m starting to realize I must use the phone to be a part of the body of our church. Of all of my oddities, my aversion to using the phone is the most irrational and incapacitating. It can easily become a sin issue for me, and yet, I am finding it is an essential tool. I’m trying to keep note cards handy. I’ve been writing in a small notebook people who come to mind on Sundays at church, and then trying to follow up on those people during the week. This isn’t something I’m great at, but I’m learning. Romans 12 gives some more ways that we can edify, or build up others in our church.
- Incorporate some sort of plan to learn more about individuals in the local body of Christ. We’ve been in small,, but not tiny, churches for our last few moves. I’ve found writing prayer requests beside the names in a church directory gives me a good idea of who I know and who I don’t. It’s been a good starting place for me as I am learning of my responsibility to give to others. I know others who take pictures of people in their local church whom they pray for. Some have coffee nights where they invite others over. I’m a mom of three very young children. Many would exempt me from the task of encouraging, but God doesn’t give me that excuse. It doesn’t take long to encourage one or two people in my church throughout the week.
I’m praying that the Lord will help me to be a doer of His Word this week and not a forgetful hearer (James 2:22-25). I’m going to start working on my small checklist of how I’m going to give and receive encouragement the rest of this week. Pray for me. You’ll be an encouragement to me if you do.
P.S. I don’t often link to other blogs, but this article at Pyromaniacs discusses the same topic a little more in-depth from a guy’s point of view. It’s well done.