I’m back again after a crazily busy 2 weeks of teaching, warehouse painting, weekends away, general 61 social life… and a load of other stuff that seems to have filled every waking moment of the last few days!
Then we got to the break and the same person came up again. We were just chatting and, for no other reason than they felt they should, just encouraged me right there. Again, really kind but I wasn’t sure I believed them.
And then this morning I turned up at the office to start the day with staff prayers and someone got up to share a few words for the day and surprise, surprise it was on encouragement. She read this passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15;
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up… acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work… encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone… always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (NIV)
We chatted a bit about what it means to encourage and how we should be encouraging each other.
And I realised I’d got it a bit wrong yesterday.
Someone I respected had encouraged me; someone who I wouldn’t expect to lie or twist the truth. Yet when they were talking to me these things began to shoot round my head… ‘oh they’re just being nice’, or ‘well that’s very kind but a bit over the top’.
And that was a silly place to be; if the Bible is telling us to encourage one another then we need to be able to accept that encouragement when people give it to us. Not in a way that boosts our ego, but rather in a way we can simply accept what people have said and let that build us up in what we’re doing.
Similarly I think it’s so important to be giving encouragement to others where encouragement is due. So often I find myself holding back from giving encouragement because I don’t want to make someone feel awkward receiving it, or unhelpfully boost their ego.
But once again, this is silly.
The Bible passage clearly says we should encourage each other and build each other up. This is something we need to be doing as a natural part of our lives; not as a chore, but as a way of building the kingdom by building up each other. I’ve mentioned before- it’s not that encouraging my roommate is going to change the world, but by encouraging her, I’m building up another part of the family of the Church, someone else who can do far more than I can and together, far more than either of us could do on our own.
And when this multiplies across our homes, our families, our churches, our communities we will see real change- a change among a generation not living in constant need of approval but achieving so much together, confident in the knowledge that they are valued, needed, accepted and loved.